Friday, May 22, 2009

Frock Coat and Flag: Union Soldier Markers in Central Maine


Arlington National Cemetery Image Number: 708887 by MrPyro. stock.xchng® vi

In my earliest independent wanderings through cemeteries in central Maine, around 2001, I came across the first of a fascinating style of Civil War headstone that still has me searching the landscape for contemporaries. In this preliminary paper, I will discuss features of the stones’ design elements in the hope of receiving feedback from readers regarding similar stones they have encountered so that I may compile a larger pool of samples for analytical purposes.

Introduction
Growing up in the 1970s, when American Bicentennial fervor encouraged the wholesale bleaching of marble gravestones and monuments as a worthy and patriotic past time for school children, I first learned that the U.S. government issued standardized grave markers for members of the military dating back to the Civil War. Having this idea ingrained early, the headstone I stumbled across in a secluded cemetery in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, on August 22, 2001, came as a bit of a surprise.

The finely carved and polished, white marble stone depicted a bearded Union soldier in bas relief. In profile, a left-facing soldier, standing on a grassy plain, was wearing a Union wool cap and frock coat and was holding an American flag incised with 33 stars and 13 stripes carved in alternating relief (Figures 1 and 4).

Figure 1: A bearded Union soldier, dressed in uniform, stands in profile in a grassy plain holding the staff of an American flag in his right hand. The carving is realistic in style and appears to be historically accurate, down to the number of stars and stripes on the flag. (Photo: Kimberly J. Sawtelle).

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Even more startling was the personal detail recorded in the inscription and epitaph:

I died for my country.
Daniel W. Hayes
A member of Co. H.
1st Me. Heavy Artillery
Died at Baltimore Md.
June 18, 1864
Æ. 50 yrs. 1 mo.

The morning came but the angel of death
Had passed over the compound and they found him
Asleep like a Christian warrior at rest
With the emblems of warfare around him.

In a world of rank and file uniformity, where personal concerns are second to duty, honor and country, in a quiet country cemetery, surrounded by the chirr of crickets and buzz of cicada, stood a tribute that memorialized the nation's Civil War, an individual who died and the tinge of a mourning widow’s bitterness.

The message of mourning was reinforced on Mrs. Hayes adjacent marble marker, which recorded:

Nancy A.
Wife of
Daniel W. Hayes
DIED
Nov. 14, 1905
Æ. 86 yrs. & 10 mos.

Beloved, at last with thee will I rest
And with thee in Christ I will rise.

Accustomed to seeing simple marble markers bearing only the most rudimentary information about the individual honored, the complexity of the detailed relief carving and the expansive, emotional nature of the inscription immediately made me question the origin of the Daniel W. Hayes headstone and wonder whether I could find more like it, if I searched.

History
Although the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines they mark now lay at rest, more than 3,000,000 government-issued headstones currently stand at attention in private and national cemeteries across the United States.1 The simplicity and uniformity of design of the typical stone tablets famously portrayed in annual Memorial Day landscapes of Arlington National Cemetery, was established in the days prior to the Civil War and the creation of the country’s first national cemetery in 1861.2

In the earliest days of cavalry units assigned to duty on the western frontier, responsibility for the burial of soldiers who died in service fell to garrison commanders by default. Over time, a standardized tradition of grave markers emerged. 3 According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, these markers were traditionally a wooden board with a rounded top and minimal identifying inscription. This responsibility-by-default was codified on September 11, 1861, when the U.S. War Department issued General Orders number 75 which made it the official duty of commanders to bury and mark the graves of their dead.4

The use of wooden grave markers, modeled on those used in frontier territory, continued until the close of the Civil War. In 1865, the enormity of maintaining some 100,000 burials in the national cemeteries began to make its impact felt. At the cost of $1.23 a piece with an average lifespan of less than five years, it became obvious that a more permanent solution for marking the graves of fallen soldiers was necessary.5

As with all things related to government, there was strong and enduring debate over the materials to be used for U.S. military headstones. White zinc and durable stone were the top contenders with the options of marble or granite receiving approval after seven long years of discussion.6 Given the impact of acid rain on both zinc and marble markers in the modern era—an issue not remotely imagined between 1865 and 1872—the decision yielded the most economical results in terms of longevity, particularly in cases where granite was the stone of choice.

Duty, honor, pride and—most importantly—unity are concepts promoted by all branches of the United States military. The simplicity of these concepts is reinforced in the regimented standard defining government-issued slab headstones and strict guidelines controlling the size, silhouette and inscriptions of the stones. In 1873, William W. Belknap, secretary of war, issued the first slab headstone design, referred to as the “Civil War” type—10-inches wide, 12-inches in height above the ground and 4-inches thick (Figure 2). These dimensions were changed in 1903 to 39-inches in height above the ground, while the 12-inch width and 4-inch thickness remained unchanged (Figure 3).7

Belknap’s original Civil War-type stone was polished above ground with a sunken shield within which the soldier’s name, rank, state and unit were inscribed in bas relief. The stone was initially issued to members of the Union Army, the unmarked graves of eligible Revolutionary War veterans, veterans of the War of 1812, the Mexican War and Indian Campaigns.8 At the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, the stone was chosen to mark the graves of the American dead of that campaign.9

It was not until the mid-to-late 20th century that regulations were adapted to allow for greater personalization of military headstones and markers to include indicators of military service (e.g. “Vietnam,” “Lebanon,” “Persian Gulf”) to be inscribed on stones for soldiers killed in action10 and approved emblems of belief and terms of endearment.11

Figure 2. This lichen-encrusted example of Belknap’s original Civil War type headstone is located in Corinna, Maine. The brief bas relief inscription within a sunken shield reads: Lieut. Sam’l Gould Jr., Co. E, 8 ME. INF. The inscription provides no death date or additional personal information. (Photo: Kimberly J. Sawtelle)

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Figure 3: The gray granite stone of Stephen Magoon, located in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, is an example of Belknap’s Civil War type headstone modified after 1903 to increase the height to 39-inches above the ground. The bas relief inscription within a sunken shield reads: Stephen Magoon, Co. D, 24 ME. INF. Similar to the earlier style of stone, the newer design provided no options for greater personalization. (Photo: Kimberly J. Sawtelle)

Investigation
Following the initial discovery of the Hayes stone, I began searching other cemeteries in the central Maine region (now referred to as the “Maine Highlands” by the Maine Office of Tourism) for similar markers. Focusing on another research objective at the time, finding Union soldier stones was a secondary consideration during my excursions. As a result, the initial search was not particularly systematic and by no means complete.

To date, a total of 11 stones have been identified, predominantly in small (100 or fewer marked burials) to medium-sized (100-1000 marked burials) rural cemeteries. The largest concentration of these stones is located between Palmyra, Hartland and St. Albans, near the boundaries of the Penobscot-Piscataquis-Somerset tri-county region (Map 1). A total of 10 stones occur within a 30-mile radius of each other in this geographic area: two stones in Dover-Foxcroft, one stone in Garland, one stone in Bradley, one stone in East Corinth, one in West Corinth, one in Palmyra, two in Hartland and one in St. Albans. A single stone was also identified in Whiting, Maine, approximately 120 miles to the east.

Map 1: To date a total of 11 Union soldier stones have been identified, 10 of which fall within a 30-mile radius of each other in the Penobscot-Piscataquis-Somerset region. The eleventh stone is located in the Whiting Village Cemetery, Whiting, Maine. (Map is not to scale and intended only to indicate estimated proximity.)
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Figure 4: The finely carved and polished, white marble of the Hayes stone shows little evidence of erosion. Left-facing in profile and somewhat barrel-chested, a bearded soldier stands on a grassy plain wearing a Union wool cap and frock coat. His right knee is slightly cocked and he supports the staff of an American flag, incised with 33 stars and 13 stripes carved in alternating relief. See above for inscription. (Photo: Kimberly Sawtelle)

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Figure 5: Within five miles of the Hayes stone (Figure 4), William Bates’ white marble marker shows considerable surface erosion of the relief-carved Union soldier. The left-facing, somewhat barrel-chested, beardless soldier stands with his right knee slightly cocked. He wears a wool Union cap and frock coat and braces the staff of a flag in his right hand. At his feet is a drum standing on its side. (Photo: Kimberly Sawtelle)

In memory of
Wm. H. H. Bates,
musician of Co. H. 31st
Regt. Me. Vols. killed in
action near Cold Harbor Va.
June 3, 1864,
and buried on the field.
Æ. 17 years.
Son of John B. &
Rachel P. Bates.

The nation called for soldiers;
One of that quota I supplied;
Dear mother for his country,
Your son has bled and died.

____________________


Figure 6: This highly veined, thin white marble slab with a floral boarder lacks significant surface erosion. Union soldier is carved in shallow relief standing atop a brick wall. He wears a wool Union cap and frock coat. The figure is rigid and stylized, and somewhat disproportionate with a jutting chin, short legs, shallow chest and bell-shaped frock. The oversized flag displays 16 stars and 13 stripes. (Photo: Kimberly Sawtelle)

Joseph H
Son of Ephraim &
Temperance Bachelder.
DIED
At Camp Nelson, Ky.
Nov. 16, 1863.
Æt. 26

Warrior rest, thy toils are ended
Life’s last fearful strife is o’re;
Clarion calls with death notes blended
Shall disturb thine ear no more.
____________________


Figure 7: Details of the Joseph Bachelder portrait reveals a squat-faced gentleman with somewhat curly hair and sideburns. Executed with considerably less skill than the carvers of the portraits pictured in Figure 1 or Figure 12, the static form is disproportionate with long arms, short legs and long, jutting chin. (Photo: Kimberly Sawtelle)














Figure 8: A second, thin white marble slab marker identical in form to the Bachelder stone (Figure 6) stands a few feet away in the same Palmyra cemetery. The rigid Union soldier is carved in shallow relief, standing atop a brick wall. He supports a flag in his right hand displaying 13 stars carved in a circle and 13 stripes. The stone exhibits a laterally bisecting break and poor repairs, possibly using some form of marine cement. (Photo: Kimberly Sawtelle)

Herbert S.
Son of E. H. &
Sarah F. Judkins.
DIED
Aug. 17, 1863.
Æt. 19 yrs. 6 mos.

We had no cowards in our band,
Who did our colours fly:
Here sleeps a gallant soldier
Who was not afraid to die.
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Figure 9: Carved on an identical slab marker with floral border as the Bachelder stone (Figure 6), the portrait for Herbert Judkins was executed by a different hand. The soldier is rendered in better proportion than the Bachelder figure, though still more stylized and “folk like” in form. This soldier is clearly clean-shaved and younger in appearance with short, curly hair and prominent nose. (Photo: Kimberly Sawtelle)
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Figure 10: This white marble slab stone located in Whiting, Maine is most similar in style to the Bates stones (Figure 5). The soldier portrait shares elements of the Bates and Hayes stones. Though the figure is more slender and stiff in execution, it stands with the right knee slightly cocked. (Photo: Kimberly Sawtelle)

Albert L. Crane
A member of Co. E.
31st Regt. Me. Vols.
Died at Brattleboro, Vt.
Aug. 22, 1864.
Æ 24 yrs. 2 mos.
Son of Wm. P. &
Elizabeth Crane

In the nations hour of peril
He was found among the brave,
Home, life, and friends he sacrified
His country’s life to save.
____________________


Figure 11: One of 11 stones located to date, the Israel Hodsdon stone in West Corinth, Maine is the only marker to feature a right-facing, somewhat barrel-chested soldier. Personalized details of the carved figure include the insignia of a First Sergeant on the soldier’s sleeve and a moustache. (Photo: Kimberly Sawtelle)

Israel Hodson
First Sergent [sic] of Co. H.
6th Reg’t. Maine Vol’s.
Mortally wounded at the
Battle of Rappahannock
Station, Va. Nov. 7th
DIED
Nov. 9, 1863
Aged 24 yrs. 9 mos. 15 ds.
Son of Nathan & Dorothy Hodson.

____________________




Figure 12: Detail of the Israel Hodsdon portrait shows a realistically carved gentleman in his prime executed by a skilled hand. The sleeve of his uniform depicts the rank of a First Sergeant and the portrait itself includes straight, neatly trimmed hair to the collar, no sideburn and a moustache. The flag features a circle of 23 stars in the field and 13 stripes carved in alternating relief. Note how movement is depicted at the hem of the frock coat, adding to the realism of the portrait. (Photo: Kimberly Sawtelle)











Figure 13: The Whittier stone in East Corinth, Maine, lists the names of Austin and his older brother Andrew, who pre-deceased him in the war by 15 months. The stone’s inscription notes that Andrew’s body is interred in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kimberly Sawtelle)

Austin W. Whittier
A member of Co. H. 1st Me. Heavy Artillery
Died at Philadelphia Pa.
Aug. 20, 1864,
of wounds received in the battle

at Petersburg Va.
Æ. 18 yrs. 10 ms. 20 days

Andrew J. Whittier
A member of Co. H. 6th Regt. Me. Vols.
Died at Mt. Pleasant Hospital Washington
May 31, 1863
Æ. 30 yrs. 5 mos. 13 days
His grave is at Mt. Hope Cemetery, Washington

____________________


Figure 14: Though stylistically quite different than the Whittier headstone, this thin slab headstone notes the loss of two brothers only two months apart. In this instance, the older brother is listed most prominently on the stone, which was broken and in disrepair when photographed. (Photo: Kimberly Sawtelle)

Like Patriots they toiled and died for their country.

James R.
Son of William M. &
Ann Palmer,
Died at Lexington, Ma.
Sept. 20, 1861,
Æt. 27

Leroy M. Palmer
Died at City Point, Va.
July 1, 1861, Æt. 17
____________________


Figure 15: In Bradley, Maine, the Union soldier profile is carved in the tapered die of a white marble cottage-style stone marking the Strout family plot. The epitaph makes clear that location of Andrew Strout’s grave site was unknown to the family. (Photo: Kimberly Sawtelle)

Andrew W. Strout,
A member of Co. D. 30th
Regt. Me. Vols. Killed in

Pleasant Hill battle at

Mansfield La.

April 9, 1864,

Æ. 22 yrs 5 mo.

& 21 days


Died for his country, the union to save
Far, far away is his unknown grave
Peace to his ashes hallowed the stop
God knows the place, we know not.

____________________


Discussion
Dates of death carved on each of the 11 stones cited in this paper (though not all pictured) range throughout the duration of the Civil War, from July 1, 1861 (Leroy Palmer) to February 8, 1865 (George H. Moulton). All were likely carved and erected during the Civil War or shortly after peace was declared since, during that period, the government did not issue stone markers. In some cases, the portrait markers serve to indicate a fallen soldier’s grave, while in others it is a memorial only, with the bodies of the fallen men buried far from home and family or lost in the chaos of the post-mortem battlefield.

Easily two to four times the size of Belknap’s Civil War-type marker, adopted in 1878, it is most likely the stones originated from local monument suppliers using blanks supplied by quarries in Vermont, a primary source of marble headstones to the central Maine region in the mid-19th Century. A 1907 Vermont Marble Co. trade book illustrates marble slab stones similar or identical to those used for the portrait markers (Figures 14-17). What is currently unknown to the author is if the portrait stones were provided as a pre-carved stock item during the war years and sold as blanks that were personalized locally, as was the case of many standard headstone designs (Figure 18).

It is possible the Union soldier portrait design was created by stone carvers, or others in the mortuary industry, and shared through word-of-mouth or trade publications. The final possibility is that the design is unique to central to Downeast Maine, created by one or more local carvers and shared through word-of-mouth or some other means of communication. This is a question that can be answered only through more comprehensive research.

Figure 14: Page 54 of the 1907 Vermont Marble Company Trade Price Book illustrates one of the styles of slab headstone favored for Union soldier portrait markers. Style numbers 2092, 2095, 2098 and 2104 are nearly identical to the 11 stones discussed here. The checkmark on line 1 of the price list was made by the original owner of Rogan’s Memorials; potentially indicating that the blank was a popular stock piece for the Bangor, Maine dealer.


Illustration provided courtesy of Dick Coffin, current owner of Rogan’s Memorials, established in 1881, to whom the 1907 trade book belonged.









Figure 15: Monument design number 2098 is comparable in style to the marble slabs used for the Bates, Crane and Whittier headstones (Figures 5, 10 and 13)

Illustration provided courtesy of Dick Coffin, current owner of Rogan’s Memorials, established in 1881, to whom the 1907 trade book belonged.







Figure 16: Monument design number 2104 is comparable in style to slabs used for the Hayes headstone (Figure 4).

Illustration provided courtesy of Dick Coffin, current owner of Rogan’s Memorials, established in 1881, to whom the 1907 trade book belonged.















Figure 17: Monument design number 2092 appears to be the most popular style to slab stone in the Palmyra-Hartland region, used for the Bachelder, Judkins and Palmer headstones, among others (Figures 6, 8 and 14).

Illustration provided courtesy of Dick Coffin, current owner of Rogan’s Memorials, established in 1881, to whom the 1907 trade book belonged.






Figure 18: The 1907 Vermont Marble Company Dealer Price List includes model No. 2102, a white marble slab headstone featuring the standard heaven-pointing hand. This tablet blank, as well as other popular designs, were provided to dealers from the Vermont quarry, requiring only personalization through carving the deceased personal information and epitaph.

Illustration provided courtesy of Dick Coffin, current owner of Rogan’s Memorials, established in 1881, to whom the 1907 trade book belonged.




Summary

So where does that leave us, in terms of the origins of the Union soldier portrait stones?

The similarity to marble slab markers included in mortuary stone price lists points to Vermont as the most likely source of the headstone blanks. Personalized inscriptions and portraits—including symbols of individuals’ roles during the Civil War—support a hypothesis of the markers being carved locally and erected by the fallen soldiers’ families between 1861 and 1865. Details of death on the battlefield or in camp, a sense of familial mourning and patriotic pride intermingle in portraits, inscriptions and epitaphs, a feature markedly differing from the minimal inscriptions recorded on government-issued gravestones.

Stylistically, stones within close geographic proximity show decidedly characteristic styles of carving that suggest limited source origins of the stones. A quick visual comparison of the 11 stones discussed here, exhibit the workmanship of several stone carvers. It is possible that several carvers in a single shop created the stones from a basic example within a specific community. While stones in the Dover-Foxcroft to Corinth area display a realistically rendered soldier within a classical arch, stones from the Palmyra-Hartland region place a disproportionate, stylized portrait inside a circular medallion. The question then becomes, how was the design communicated from carver to carver between communities? The origin of the design and geographic occurrence can be determined only through greater research.

Citations
1 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (Reviewed/Updated Date: March 12, 2009). Burial and Memorials: General History, retrieved May 16, 2009 from http://www.cem.va.gov/hist/history.asp
2 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (Reviewed/Updated Date: March 12, 2009). History of Government Furnished Headstones and Markers, retrieved May 16, 2009 from http://www.cem.va.gov/hist/hmhist.asp
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Sammartino, Therese T. (n.d.). A Promise Made—A Commitment Kept: The Story of America’s Civil War Era National Cemeteries. Washington, D.C.: Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration.
7 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (Reviewed/Updated Date: March 12, 2009). History of Government Furnished Headstones and Markers, retrieved May 16, 2009 from http://www.cem.va.gov/hist/hmhist.asp
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid.
11 Department of Veterans Affairs Communications & Outreach Support Division. (2009). Government-Furnished Heastones and Markers. Washington, D.C.: Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration.

Bibliography
Department of Veterans Affairs Communications & Outreach Support Division. (2009). Government-Furnished Heastones and Markers. Washington, D.C.: Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration.

Sammartino, Therese T. (n.d.). A Promise Made—A Commitment Kept: The Story of America’s Civil War Era National Cemeteries. Washington, D.C.: Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration.

Steere, Edward. (1954). Shrines of the Honored Dead: A Study of the National Cemetery System. Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army Office of the Quartermaster General.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (Reviewed/Updated Date: March 12, 2009). Burial and Memorials: General History, retrieved May 16, 2009 from http://www.cem.va.gov/hist/history.asp

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (Reviewed/Updated Date: March 12, 2009). History of Government Furnished Headstones and Markers, retrieved May 16, 2009 from http://www.cem.va.gov/hist/hmhist.asp

Vermont Marble Co. (1907). Price List of Rutland White, Rutland Blue, Sutherland Falls, Esperanza Blue, Pittsford Valley. St. Albans, VT: St. Albans Messenger Company Print.

© Copyright May 2009 by Kimberly J. Sawtelle. All rights reserved.

To protect the safety of the above cited headstones, locations and cemetery names were deliberately omitted from this publication. For additional information or to contact the author, kimberjs@gmail.com.

Please excuse the utter crap HTML coding of Blogger. Must be a Microsoft product.

5 comments:

  1. A very informative paper, Kimberly. I enjoyed learning about these beautiful and unusual memorials. It has encouraged me to look for other styles of veteran memorials besides the usual ones. Maine and Vermont are beautiful states and I'm not at all surprised that these were made in Vermont and reside in Maine.

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  2. Absolutely fascinating. I have been researching the Brackley Civil War vets from Freeman, Strong, and Salem, Maine, but have yet to find any of these. Great research and a valuable resource.

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  3. A "scholarly" paper, Kim. Thanks for the info and all your hard work. Makes me regret that I don't know more about my family who were stone carvers during the first half of the 20th century.

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  4. Very interesting! I will keep an eye open for these types of headstones.
    Thanks,
    John

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