Government Issue

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13615.

CAPT. DAN’L M.

KEYS

INDEPENDENT

WEST VA.

RANGERS.

In national military cemeteries across the United States standing tall and straight are rows of “Government Issue” white marble gravestones. Those gravestones are a third iteration. Not long after the start of the Civil War, Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs was charged with burying the soldiers being lost in each successive battle of the war. The soldiers close to the front in Washington D.C. were being buried in military cemeteries around Arlington. By May of 1864, soldiers were buried on the grounds of Arlington House—the Ancestral home of Robert E. Lee.

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The first markers constructed for the fallen soldiers were made of wood but decayed at a very fast rate. It was clear very quickly that wood would not be a permanent solution. The second solution was to make the markers out of cast iron. To prevent rusting the outside of the marker was to be coated in a veneer of zinc. Only one of these markers remain in the Arlington national Cemetery, that for Captain Daniel Keys. The zinc coating gives the marker a faint blue cast. One side of the marker depicted a soldier, the other side had the fallen soldier’s information.

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The military decided wood nor zinc-coated cast iron was the right material. White marble was chosen as more traditional and appropriate. Each white marble gravestone is to be 13 inches wide, 4 inches thick and 42 inches tall—with 24 inches to show above ground. Soldiers who fought for the North have segmented (or rounded tops) while their Confederate counterparts were issued pointed top tablets.

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