My beef with care-free “headstoning”

Posted on March 26, 2009 by



Harry (aka Bull Runnings) sent me this image just yesterday. The shot is of a headstone in a cemetery in Beaver County, Pa., near the Pennsylvania/Ohio line.

Now, to some, looking at this headstone might evoke a response like, “Yes, so, it’s a Confederate soldier’s headstone. So?” Yet, it just isn’t that simple.

For one, note the metal G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic… indicating, of course, Union veterans) marker that was placed next to the headstone (it’s reversed here). O.K., so was he one of those who was a Confederate and then opted for the Union later? Hard to tell just looking, but sure, somebody might walk away with that as a possibility, but, I did some digging… and I can’t find evidence that he served in blue. Maybe someone else knows, and if so, please feel free to let me know.

O.k., but that isn’t it… as for the Confederate part of this whole thing… if all someone did to order this headstone was to send in a copy of this guy’s service record along with the application, I’m stunned… no, actually, I’m a little more bothered by this than “stunned.” You see, James Stinson Drake (of Henderson County, North Carolina?), as the stone suggests, did serve in Co. A, 25th N.C., but the nature of his service is quite shaky. There is, in fact, only one card in his service file and it states that he was “captured” as a “deserter” on 10/11/64. Another notation on the card shows that he was going NORTH to “Grant Co., IN.” There isn’t a record of the date of his enlistment or anything else… zip, nada, zilch. It seems to me that one of the criteria for ordering headstones (Union or Confederate) should be that the soldier served honorably… and that only makes sense as it is, after all, part of the eligibility criteria for ordering headstones for modern veterans… no headstone issued to those whose “character of service results in a bar to veterans benefits.” Well, with all of one record in this guy’s service record, and that record not speaking too kindly in terms of “honorable” service, it isn’t looking too favorable… yet, it’s clear, the headstone was approved and delivered. Somebody might say, “well, the VA should be more critical of the applications.” Well, quite honestly, I think accountability starts with the person making the application.

I’ll be candid… if this is all that was used to order this headstone 1) it’s an injustice to the man and the history behind the man in this grave, and 2) it’s a pathetic waste of Veterans Administration funds. Let’s see, how many mentions of abuse of the VA’s headstone program does this make in this blog regarding Civil War soldiers?

Again, if somebody knows the full scoop on this guy and it isn’t as bad as it looks, please let me know.