The Record - March 1998

Family History

Connie Potter and Claire Prechtel-Kluskens, Editors

Headstones of Union Civil War Veterans

by Claire Prechtel-Kluskens

Finding the graves of 166,000 Union soldiers of the Civil War has become easier thanks to NARA microfilm publication M1845, Card Records of Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, ca. 1879-ca. 1903 (22 rolls).


The Act of Congress of February 3, 1879 (20 Stat. 281) extended the privilege of government-provided gravestones to soldiers buried in private cemeteries. This act provided:

... That the Secretary of War is hereby authorized to erect headstones over the graves of soldiers who served in the Regular or Volunteer Army of the United States during the war for the Union, and who have been buried in private village or city cemeteries....

The Secretary of War shall cause to be preserved in the records of his Department the names and places of burial of all soldiers for whom such headstones shall have been erected by authority of this or any former acts....

As a result of this act, the Cemetery Branch of the Office of the Quartermaster General—an office within the War Department—began keeping a card record of all headstones (gravestones) provided for Union Civil War soldiers.

Records Description

These records consist of 3- by 4-inch cards arranged alphabetically by surname, then by first name. The cards include some or all of the following information about each soldier: rank, company, and regiment; place of burial, including the cemetery's name, and the community, county, and state in which it is located; grave number, if any; date of death; name of contractor who supplied the headstone; and the date of the contract under which the stone was provided. Most of the burials occurred in private cemeteries, probably in the county of the soldier's last residence. Some burials were made at National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.

The soldiers for whom these gravestones were provided were Union Civil War soldiers who died between ca. 1861 and ca. 1903; however, a few War of 1812 veterans and at least one Revolutionary War soldier are also included. The gravestones were provided by the Federal Government between ca. 1879 and ca. 1903 under contracts entered into with private companies, including: S.G. Bridges; Gross Brothers (also given as W.H. Gross or W.H. & F.S. Gross), Lee, MA; Lee Marble Works, Lee, MA; William Mansen; Sheldon & Sons, West Rutland, VT; Stockbridge Marble Co., MA; Vermont Marble Co., Proctor, VT; and D.W. Whitney.

At some point after information had been recorded on the cards, a paper cutter was used to cut off approximately the top one-eighth inch of each card. This resulted in the upper parts of some names being cut off; these names may be difficult to read. In some cases, the names have been rewritten below the original.

Microfilm Availability

M1845 is available for public viewing at the National Archives Building, Washington, DC, and at the 13 NARA regional records services facilities in Anchorage, AK; Atlanta, GA: Boston (Waltham), MA; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Fort Worth, TX; Kansas City, MO; Laguna Niguel, CA; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsfield, MA; San Francisco, CA; and Seattle, WA.

NARA microfilm publications are also available for sale for $34 per roll ordered. To order, call 1-866-272-6272. Roll breaks for the 22 rolls of M1845 are as follows: Roll 1, Aab-Barwis; roll 2, Baschensky-Brand; roll 3, Brandan-Carlisle; roll 4, Carlle-Coop; roll 5, Cooper-Dery; roll 6, DeSantos-Erxleben; roll 7, Esbin-Gardipe; roll 8, Gardner-Haisley; roll 9, Hake-Higgins; roll 10, Higgs-Jaynes; roll 11, Jeamrings-Knittle; roll 12, Knobbe-Lowyles; roll 13, Loy-McFurlow; roll 14, McGaffee-Morford; roll 15, Morgan-Osom; roll 16, Ossinger-Pugh; roll 17, Pugsley-Rohrscheib; roll 18, Roice-Sheldon; roll 19, Sheley-Starkes; roll 20, Starkey-Truax; roll 21, Trubee-Wertz; roll 22, Wesbrooks-Zylerwiez.

Thank you!

Funding for microfilm publication M1845 was provided by genealogists' contributions to the Malcolm H. Stern-NARA Gift Fund (formerly known as the Genealogical Coordinating Committee). The Stern Fund is administered by the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), P.O. Box 830220, Richardson, TX 75083-0220. Donations and requests for information about the fund should be sent to FGS. The Stern Fund is used to finance microfilm publications of interest to the genealogical community.

Ten volunteers also helped make M1845 possible by counting the cards and verifying and correcting the alphabetical order. The cards had to be counted to determine where to begin and end each roll of microfilm. The alphabetization had to be verified and corrected since the alphabetical arrangement had become imperfect during the ninety years since the cards' creation.

The volunteers included team leaders William Stewart and Claire Bettag; and team members Else Froberg, Norma Clark Gransee, Sherman Landau, Fred Matthies, Marie Varrelman Melchiori, Cindy L. Norton, James Edwin Ray, and Shirley Langdon Wilcox.

Claire Prechtel-Kluskens is an archivist with NARA's User Services Branch at Archives I.