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National Cemetery Administration

Pre-World War I Era Headstones and Markers

There are specific styles of upright marble headstones to mark the graves of Civil War Union soldiers and Spanish-American War dead. These historical styles were reintroduced recently and are inscribed in raised lettering inside a recessed shield. These recessed-shield headstones are available in three marble (X) sizes or one granite (Y) size. “A” is 12” wide, 3” thick, and 42” high, ”B” is 13” wide, 3” thick and 42” high, and “C” is 10” wide, 3” thick and 39” high. To request a historical upright marble headstone, check the Upright Marble in block 11 and write “XA”, “XB”, or “XC” above it or to request the granite recessed-shield headstone, check the Upright Granite in block 11 and write “YA” above it.

Civil War Union and Spanish American War headstone exampleThe inscription on the recessed-shield headstone is limited. For Civil War Union and Spanish American War, a shield is inscribed which encompasses the arched name and abbreviated military organization. Because of the special design and historical uniform significance, no emblem of belief or additional inscription may be inscribed. The dates of birth and death are inscribed below the shield.

A special style is also available to mark the graves of Confederate war dead. These special styles are available in upright marble or granite. To request this special style select the appropriate box in block 11 for upright marble (U) or upright granite (V) and write the words “special style - confederate” in block 11.

Headstone with the Southern Cross of Honor The inscription on the special style for Civil War Confederate is also limited. The Southern Cross of Honor is automatically inscribed at the top. The name is arched, followed by abbreviated military organization and dates of birth and death. No additional items can be inscribed. If a flat marker is desired for a Confederate soldier, the Southern Cross of Honor can be inscribed if requested, or any of the other approved emblems may be inscribed if requested.

For periods of war other than the Civil War or Spanish American War, traditional styles of headstones and markers can also be requested. Traditional styles include upright marble or granite headstones and flat bronze, granite, or marble markers.

Proof of military service prior to World War I requires detailed primary documentation, such as Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR), extracts from official State files, Federal pension documents or land warrants, to be considered for a Government-furnished headstone or marker.  Copies of CMSRs and Federal pension records are available through National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C. If the applicant is unable to visit NARA, copies of these documents can be ordered via telephone, mail and Internet. CMSRs can be ordered from NARA by the applicant for a fee of $25; the documentation usually ships in 60-90 days. Pension records can be ordered from NARA for a fee of $25 or $75 (depending on whether the applicant requests a partial or complete file) and usually ships in 60-90 days.(The papers provided in a partial pension file will generally contain appropriate information to document military service.) Fees and time periods are subject to change. For further up-to-date information, refer to NARA's web page on Pre-World War I military service records.