Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Change Coming to VA Marker Rules

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on November 26, 2014


As many of you know, the Veterans Administration revised its rules in 2009, restricting applications for headstones to those who could establish their bonafides as next-of-kin. That caused, naturally, a considerable uproar among various historical and heritage groups, who spend a lot of time researching and placing grave markers.

Via CWT user CMWinkler, the VA has formally proposed broadening the definition of “applicant” to a wider range of family members, and others who are  auhtorized to make decisions on behalf of the decedent (PDF). And while they will still require the involvement of family members for veterans of the First World War and later, for earlier service that will be waived in recognition of the fact that, for a great many of them, there are no traceable family members.

This seems like the crucial part of the policy to me, as it regards CW veterans:


We also propose, in Sec. 38.600(a)(1)(iv), to accept applications from individuals who have authority under state or local laws to make final arrangements for decedents. As may be expected, states and localities have varying laws on this topic, and we cannot detail each variation. However, some examples include an individual who is appointed by a county within a state to arrange burial of homeless or indigent individuals, or someone to whom a court of competent jurisdiction has issued an order providing the individual with authority to arrange burial or memorialization. We also include in this  group funeral home directors, crematory operators, or those responsible  for the operation and maintenance of a cemetery, because their activities are regulated by state or local laws. Any individual who provides documentation of such lawful duty would be eligible to apply for a headstone or marker for an eligible deceased individual.


My emphasis. So as I read this, a heritage group would have to make the request through the cemetery, which pretty much has to be done anyway, in order to get the stone placed. This seems like a step in the right direction.



8 Responses

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  1. Jimmy Dick said, on November 26, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    They should have put in a clause making it crystal clear that no applications for historically inaccurate black confederates will be accepted unless said marker states that the veteran was not a soldier during the Civil War.

    They could have been more to the point by saying that all SCV and UDC applications regarding black confederates will be immediately tossed in the trash unless said applications make it clear that the veteran was not a soldier and would not be identified as such in any way, shape, or form.

    • Andy Hall said, on November 27, 2014 at 10:02 am

      Closer scrutiny of applications on the part of the VA would be helpful. They have denied such claims in the past on the basis of the men not having been enlisted soldiers, notably for the stones requested to make up that fake cemetery in Pulaski, but that may have been as much a matter of wanting to avoid the cost of that particular project, as anything.

  2. n8vz said, on November 26, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    Where does this leave neo-Confederate groups trying to falsely claim former slaves as “black Confederates”? Will they be able to use these new regulations in some nefarious manner to promote their revisionist agenda? Or will they still have to use private money for buying misleading tombstones?

    • Andy Hall said, on November 27, 2014 at 10:15 am

      I don’t know if this change will make a huge difference. They’ve had a number of projects where they had active buy-in from the descendants (e.g., Weaty Clyburn, Richard Quarls), as well as cases where they went ahead and bought stones of the same VA pattern privately.

      In many ways I think the “black Confederates” thing is a separate issue. It’s terrible and misleading history, but for all the attention that folks like Kevin and myself have drawn to it, it’s a small number of cases. They’d have to keep up at the current rate for decades to assemble a full company of Black Confederate Zombie infantrymen.

      More generally, I think this is a step in the right direction. Whatever the rules are, there will be someone who finds a way to game them to their own ends, but you have to write the rules for the larger community.

  3. OhioGuy said, on November 27, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    You are probably right, Andy, but as you may remember, I’m kind of sensitive about this issue since my son-in-law’s g3grandfather had a tombstone erected implying he was a black Confederate, when he was actually an enslaved cook with the 6th Alabama (CSA).

    • Andy Hall said, on November 28, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      I haven’t forgotten. But I’ve come to recognize that the “black Confederate soldier” is something that exists entirely separate from historical evidence and the observable world. Some of the people who push that narrative are flat-out charlatans, who know better but have a vested interest in promoting that line, but the majority believe because they need to. They need to because the supposed existence of black Confederates absolves their heritage of the stain of slavery and chattel bondage. There’s no convincing those folks with any amount of, you know, evidence.

      It’s still important to call bullshit on this stuff, but at the same time I don’t want to become a shouty clown like so many of the heritage crows seem to be. That’s counterproductive.

  4. Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on November 29, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    One option that I’m considering in my neck of the woods is replacing the badly broken tombstone of an individual who was a slave and did duty as a servant during the war with a grave marker similar to what he had originally, rather than replace it with a VA stone. The goal would be to ensure that this individual is not forgotten but also not use the occasion to make any sort of political statement.

    • Andy Hall said, on November 29, 2014 at 4:38 pm

      I think that’s the right approach. No one should be forgotten, but it’s a whole different thing to perpetuate dubious history.

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