Honoring the Dead: Military Burials

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Our expert Amy Johnson Crow talks about honoring the military members in your family tree by doing a little bit of digging into military burials and headstones.

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Honoring the Dead: Military Burials

  1. 1. DNA Honoring the Dead: Military Burials by Amy Johnson Crow
  2. 2. Background: National Cemeteries • The first national cemeteries were created in the summer of 1861 • It was common for soldiers to be buried near the battlefield, then later re-buried in a national cemetery 2
  3. 3. Example: Stones River National Cemetery • Created in 1864 • In 1865 and 1866, the 111th U.S. Colored Troops disinterred bodies at Stones River, Murfreesboro, Franklin, Shelbyville, Tullahoma, and Cowan and re- interred them at Stones River National Cemetery 3
  4. 4. Large Number of Unknowns • Due to battlefield conditions, many soldiers were never identified; others lost their identities due to poor record- keeping. • Approximately ½ of Union soldiers buried in national cemeteries are unidentified. 4
  5. 5. Government-Issued Headstones 5
  6. 6. Government-Issued Tombstones • 1861 – Federal government begins to mark the graves of those who died in service. Original markers were wooden boards. • 1873 – Federal government begins issuing marble tombstones. 6
  7. 7. Government-Issued Tombstones • Earliest government- issued tombstones were for Union soldiers. • Rounded top • Inscribed shield; letters in relief • Listed: – Name – State – Grave number 7 Stones River National Cemetery, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
  8. 8. Replacement Tombstones Are a Bit Different • The shield is only outlined. • Letters are inscribed, not in relief. • Includes regiment and date of death. 8 Knoxville National Cemetery, Knoxville, Tennessee
  9. 9. Confederate Tombstones • Pointed top • “C.S.A.” regiment (Confederate States of America) 9 Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio
  10. 10. Spanish-American War • Has the same inscribed shield as for Union veterans • Adds “Sp. Am. War” – Note: sometimes that phrase is missing. 10 Maple Grove Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio
  11. 11. World War I and Later • Name • Rank • State • Division • Date of Death – Sometimes date of birth • Emblem of Religious Belief 11 Maple Grove Cemetery, Georgetown, Scott County, Kentucky
  12. 12. Pre-Civil War Veterans • Depending on when it was placed, it is styled either like a Civil War/Spanish-American War stone (with a shield) or like a WWI and later stone • The marker for this War of 1812 veteran is styled like a modern tombstone 12 Loudonville Cemetery, Ashland County, Ohio
  13. 13. Modern Tombstones • Same general style since WWI • Modern ones have more choices for the religious beliefs emblem • Can have a personalized message 13 Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery, Seville, Medina County, Ohio
  14. 14. “In Memory Of” • The Veterans Administration uses “In Memory Of” on tombstones when the body was: – Not buried at this location – Not recovered – Buried at sea – Donated to science – Cremated, ashes scattered 14 Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana
  15. 15. Clues From Non-Government Tombstones 15
  16. 16. Clues About Service • Tombstones sometime spell out the service. • This one notes that Thomas Griffith was in the 310th Squadron of the 9th Army Air Force. 16 Union Grove Cemetery, Canal Winchester, Franklin County, Ohio
  17. 17. Clues for Service • Sometimes the service is implied • Note the death on this stone: “Died at Memphis, Tenn., Oct. 16, 1862” • Question: Why would a young man buried in Fort Wayne, Indiana have died in Memphis, Tennessee in 1862? 17 Lindenwood Cemetery, Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana
  18. 18. Look for Military Symbols 18 Crossed swords & tassels Flags, shield, rifles & cannon
  19. 19. Be Cautious About Anchors • Anchors often used as a symbol of hope • Should not be taken as a sign of naval service 19
  20. 20. Military Organizations Shown on Tombstones 20 Grand Army of the Republic (Union veterans) American Legion
  21. 21. Be Careful With Flag Holders and Metal Markers • They can be a good clue, but they are also movable. • Sometimes end up in front of the wrong grave. 21 Southern Cross of Honor
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