Rare Civil War Wooden Grave Marker

Wayne County Historical Society Acquires Rare Wooden Civil War Tombstone Marker

Wooden grave marker of Michael Silver, 1864.

Wooden grave marker of Michael Silver, 1864.

As with any new burgeoning country, the United States was no stranger to conflict during its earliest years of union. In those days, the task of burying patriots rested upon garrison officers since no centralized system existed for recording the deaths. Often the dead were buried at a cemetery plot owned by the garrison; however, if none were available, these brave souls were buried on the spot where they were killed. It was not until the Civil War, and the great number of casualties it produced, were the first national cemeteries established. Under General Order number 75 dated September 11, 1861, the War Department charged commanders with the task of burial. The Quartermaster General of the Army provided these commanders with grave markers, which were originally wooden markers with a rounded top that listed the name of the soldier and the company with which he served. After the Civil War, a more permanent solution to the old wooden markers was sought, since the wood would not hold up to the elements over time. By 1873, the first stone markers were adopted and placed at all unmarked graves of soldiers who served during the Revolution War, War of 1812, Mexican War and Indian Campaigns. The white marble markers, as we know them today, were not implemented until 1948. At present, the office of Veteran’s Affairs provides government markers for all veterans regardless of where they are buried.

This particular wooden marker belongs to Michael Silver, “then a young man, and one of the finest looking men in the county, o stalwart build and the picture of health” who enlisted with the second organization of the 60th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, commonly referred to as the 1864 O.V.I. in February 1864. His regimen was mustered on April 5, 1864 and arrived in Washing D.C. several weeks later where they were assigned to the IX Army Corps who reported directly to General Grant. On or about May 4, 1864, they became part of the Overland (or Rapidan) Campaign which consisted of a series of battles though the wilderness of Virginia fought in May and June of 1864. On a 40-mile hike from Alexandria, Michael Silver succumbed to sun stroke and was laid up at a field hospital for several days. After hearing of an upcoming battle at Spotsylvania, Silver and several of his sick comrades left the field hospital to rejoin their regiment. On May 9th, at the Battle of Mary’s Bridge, Michael Silver lost his life when he took up the flag after several color bearers before him had been wounded. “But as he waved the colors making himself a target of attack, he quickly became the victim of a bullet, being shot by a Confederate sharp-shooter. He was mortally wounded and died on the field of battle. His comrades later buried him on the battlefield, marking the grave the best they could before having to move on.” His body was eventually brought back to Wayne County where he was laid to rest in Pioneer (Warner) Cemetery, a private cemetery west of Wooster. Additional Information on the life of Michael Silver can be found in an October 11, 2012 article on the Wayne County Historical Society’s website: http://waynehistoricalohio.org/2012/10/11/michael-silver-killed-in-action-during-civil-war/


  1. A very inspiring true story of the man. Those were really hard times and everybody seems to be very brave and dedicated. I am amazed that the wood marker survived after all those years.

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