Thursday, August 23, 2012

Civil War Vet headstones now harder to replace

Civil War News for September 2012 offers the reader a sad note on the future of Civil War veteran headstones and their replacement. At first blush it appears to ignore the replacement of Confederate headstones, and it will be sure to cause a stir in some circles. But upon reading the article it is clear that the new interpretation of long standing policy and preexisting law does not bode well for veteran graves of either Yank or Reb.

As it stands now, to get a replacement stone for a veteran, through the Department of Veterans Affairs, one needs to provide a signature from the veterans next of kin (NOK) or a descendant. There in lies the rub. As the article points out, many decedents are unaware of a need or just do not care, and will not go through the effort to obtain a replacement stone. The next of kin (or descendant) rule applies to Union and Confederate stones. OK, fair is fair, right? As far as this point is concerned, yes it is quite fair. But it gets confusing as it goes along.

It seems that if a grave is unmarked, it is eligible for a stone, but the NOK still applies. Fair deal for both vets, unless they happen to be unknowns. The article does not address this circumstance, but a logical conclusion would be … no stone.

Another thing that is troubling is that if a Confederate grave is marked, it is not eligible for a replacement. Period. No matter if you can or can not read it or if it is broken, there is no new VA stone in this veterans future unless the original was provided by the federal government.

Since most Confederate stones were provided using money provided by the Southern states or private donations, this leaves the bulk of the Confederate vets out. Badly damaged Union vets graves can be replaced, provided the NOK signature is on the paperwork.

Please visit the Civil War News site for a better discussion of the changes now in place.

In the midst of the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, this just does not seem right. Anyone who has read this blog for very long knows about the 14 Confederate unknowns in a church cemetery in Southern Indiana. There are no known descendants of these men. There are several Union veterans also buried there and at least three have no marker. At a nearby cemetery, two stones lay flat on the ground, broken at the base. Descendants are long gone from the area so it is not likely these men will ever have a new stone. There are small cemeteries all across this land that are the final resting places of civil war vets and what once was normal upkeep has been rendered almost futile with the added stipulation. Everyone would agree that government spending needs to be curtailed and I sincerely hope that Confederate descendants do not feel slighted by this ruling but it does seem to be more burdensome to Confederate decedents or groups involved in restoring Confederate graves. It is sure to spark heated protest and debate. And it should be remembered that the rules apply to all veterans of all American wars.

There is an old saying: “A hundred years from now, who is gonna care?”.
150 years from then, we may be about to find out.
Grave of John Stanton. 100 yards north of here are the Confederate Unknowns

Grave of Thomas Baker

Although these stones are in reasonably good shape for their age, vandals have visited this cemetery in the past. Fortunately these men have very distant kin in the area, so a replacement to a damaged stone may be no problem. Others found in the cemetery have no known descendants in the area.  Application for Standard Government Gravestone or Marker can be seen here.

The Picket


  1. Very interesting article! I was unaware of the policies and laws behind replacing headstones. If there is something I can’t stand, its graveyard vandals! Thank you for sharing!!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Zim! I agree with you, cemetery vandals are the worst sort of vandal in my estimation. Rural cemeteries are very prone to destruction as they are out of sight and out of mind. It may be a long time before damage is discovered so they make easy targets. It is sad.

  2. William C. StarkJune 26, 2013 at 5:50 PM

    Go to and sign the petition to be sent to the V.A. and leave a comment.