Though used as a burial ground earlier, Chalmette was established as a National Cemetery in 1864 as a place to inter the Civil War battle dead, of both the Confederate and the Union militaries. After the war, makeshift battlefield burial plots around the state had their interments moved to the more permanent National Cemeteries. Nearly 12,000 of which were brought to Chalmette.
The cemetery suffered considerable damage due to Hurricane Katrina, toppling headstones and much of the perimeter wall. The days and hours the cemetery and battleground are open to the public are still limited as of 2008.