Prologue Magazine

Honoring Our War Dead: Confederate Headstones

Spring 2003, Vol. 35, No. 1

By Mark C. Mollan


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The headstone for Thomas J. Wilkerson of the 47th Virginia Infantry, Confederate. His headstone application reveals his original burial location as the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. He was moved to Arlington Cemetery in February 1930, after the application for a government-provided headstone was accepted. (15-CEM-11-44)

More than forty years after the end of the Civil War, permanent, uniform markers were authorized for the graves of Confederate soldiers buried in national cemeteries. In accordance with an act of March 9, 1906, Congress adopted the same size and material for Confederate headstones as for Union deceased but altered the design to omit the shield and give the stones a pointed rather than rounded top. In 1929 the authorization was extended to graves in private cemeteries. On May 26, 1930, the War Department implemented regulations for Confederate headstones that also authorized the inscription of the Confederate Cross of Honor in a small circle on the front face of the stone above the standard inscription of the soldier's name, rank, company, and regiment.

Researchers looking for burial locations of Confederate ancestors should check the Register of Confederate Soldiers, Sailors, and Citizens Who Died in Federal Prisons and Military Hospitals in the North, 1861–1865 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M918, 1 roll). Completed in 1912, the register shows the location and number of the known grave of each deceased Confederate soldier and sailor and was compiled to assist the effort to mark Confederate graves. Arranged alphabetically by the name of the prison camp or other location where the death occurred, the burial lists generally offer an individual's name, rank, company, regiment or vessel, date of death, and number and location of grave. Some entries do not provide complete information, and many others show other idiosyncrasies. Researchers may consult the microfilmed records in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., and several of NARA's regional archives.

For additional information, see Department of Veterans Affairs, "History of Government-Furnished Headstones and Markers," at


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