Identity discs

Modern soldiers are issued with dog tags, but during the American Civil War there was no way of identifying soldiers killed in battle. Many soldiers before going into combat would pin slips of paper with their name and regiment to the backs of the coats in the hope that if they were killed they could be identified. Sometimes they also scratched their names into their waistbelts, or stenciled them on their haversacks, canteens or knapsacks. Many soldiers bought identity discs which were advertised by jewellers in popular magazines of the day like Harper's Weekly.

Identity discs usually came in two types. The first was a badge made out of gold or silver engraved with the soldier's name and unit. The second were made out of brass or lead and similar to modern dog tags were bored with a hole through which a length of

Bucktails were not the only soldiers to personalise their headgear. This infantry private wears an unsually shaped hat with a sprig of greenery or a feather stuck in it. David Scheinmann string could be threaded for the disc to be worn around the wearer's neck. These tags usually had a patriotic motto on one side, with the owner's name and regiment on the other. Some soldiers even had their discs stamped with the names of the battles they had fought in. Civilian manufacturers sometimes set up shop on roadsides to supply passing troops with discs. In 1864 the entire 14th New Hampshire Infantry was supplied with discs stamped out by a dealer as the regiment marched through West Virginia, heading for the Shenandoah Valley.

Civil War Identity Disc

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