Headstone Record for Civil War Soldier David Bingaman

NARA Record Group 92: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General


David M. Bingaman (1842-1896), served in the Civil War in Companies C, D, and E of the 20th Indiana Infantry. Family lore has it that he was wounded in action at the Battles of Malvern Hill (1 Jul 1862) and Gettysburg (2 Jul 1863). He survived these wounds, but older brother, John M. Bingaman, whom David followed into the Army, perished in combat at Malvern Hill, Virginia. David went on to marry Amanda A. McKibben in 1871. They lived in Illinois, the Oklahoma Territory and Kansas. The couple had no children.

As a deceased Union Civil War veteran, his grave in Pomona, Kansas was marked with a headstone supplied at government expense in 1902, under legislation passed in 1879 (20 Stat. 281). Besides the allowance for grave markers for Union veterans in private, village and city cemeteries, the law stipulated

The Secretary of War shall cause to be preserved in the records of his Department the names and places of burial of all soldiers for whom such headstones shall have been erected by authority of this or any former acts.1

Today, headstone records for interments in private cemeteries for the period between 1879 and roughly 1903 are part of Record Group (RG) 92 Office of the Quartermaster General. Per the catalog entry there are 166,000 cards that have been microfilmed on 22 rolls. The microfilm may be accessed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. or at regional branches of the National Archives. Nine 3” x 4” inch cards were microfilmed per frame. This microfilm collection has also been digitized, and is available at Ancestry.com as Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, 1879-1903.

Headstone card for David M. BingamanHeadstone card for 2 Lt. David M. Bingaman of the 20th Indiana

Information from the card is as follows:

Name: Bingaman, David M.
Rank: 2nd Lt.
Service: Co. D, 20th Regt., Ind[iana] Inf[antry]
Cemetery: Pomona
Cemetery Location: Pomona, Franklin Co., Kans.
Grave: [blank]
Date of Death: Nov 30 – 1896
Headstone Supplied by: Lee Marble Works
Contract Date: March 29, 19022

I have not yet been able to ascertain whether applications for headstones made between 1879-1903 might exist, although I have seen earlier examples online at NARA, and catalog entries for the period following. This will be added to my to-do list when I attend the National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR) in Washington, DC in July 2013.

Read more about this topic:

Kluskens, Claire Prechtel. “Headstone Records for US Military Veterans, Part II: Records for Headstones Requested from 1879 to 1925.” NGS Magazine 39:2 (April-June 2013), 32-35. A copy of this article may be downloaded by NGS members at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.

Mollan, Mark C. “Honoring Our War Dead: The Evolution of the Government Policy on Headstones for Fallen Soldiers and Sailors.” Prologue 35:1 (Spring 2003), 56-65. Online here.


1 “An act authorizing the Secretary of War to erect headstones over the graves of Union soldiers who have been interred in private, village, or city cemeteries,” 20 Stat. 281 (3 Feb 1879).

2 “Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, 1879-1903”, card for David M. Bingaman (1902); digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 May 2013), citing NARA microfilm publication M1845, roll 2.

Civil War Widows’ Pensions on Fold3

If you, like me, are interested in history and technology, you’ll find this short video on digitizing the Civil War Widow’s Pensions fascinating.

Until now, Civil War pension files existed only in textual format at the National Archives. When you visit the Archives in Washington, D.C., you can request a file be pulled, and then you may view that file in person in the reading room on the 2nd floor. And while nothing quite compares to handling the documents yourself, touching the same page as your family member once touched, having this series of records available online will be a tremendous resource for genealogists and historians alike.

From the video, we learn that there are 1.28 million approved case files of widows and dependents that will ultimately be digitized and made available online. 25,000 – 30,000 case files are processed by volunteers each year, working since about 2007. The first digital images became available online on what is now Fold3.com in the fall of 2008. As of today’s date, 4% of the collection has been digitized and posted, representing roughly 75,000 pension files. In April 2012, Fold3 indicated on their site that the highest WC (Widow’s Certificate) number posted is WC95971.

Civil War Widows' Pensions Online

Note the emphasis on the word approved in the above description. Rejected application files will apparently not be filmed or otherwise placed online. For those files, you will still need to order the file online from the National Archives, visit in person, or hire a researcher to copy the file for you.

Who will you look for on Fold3?

Three Civil War Pension Files

If you’ve reached an impasse when researching your direct-line ancestors, you’ll need to cast a wider net. Whether called “collateral research”, “whole family research”, “cluster research” or similar variants, the concept remains the same: to break down our proverbial “brick walls” we need to broaden the scope of our research to include members of our target ancestor’s extended family and larger social circle. We may need to research the lives of friends, neighbors, colleagues, comrades and the like. The more difficult the problem to be solved, the further afield we may need to go to track down records relevant to our research problem.

It is with this idea in mind that I recently ordered three United States Civil War pension files, all for the brothers or brothers-in-law of several of my direct ancestors, each of whom served in the Union Army. To order their files, I needed information from the pension index cards. There are two readily available indexes online: T288, available at Ancestry.com, and T289, available at Fold3.com. (To see the card images, you either need to be a subscriber, or go to an institution that has a subscription to one of the databases.) Both indexes were created and microfilmed by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) from the original index cards.

I’ve uploaded the pension index cards from T289 for each of the soldiers whose file I’ve ordered. Each card shown illustrates a different scenario with respect to Civil War pension research.

Soldier: David M. Bingaman of Companies C, D and E of the 20th Indiana Infantry, brother of my 2nd great-grandfather, Josephus Bingaman who also served in the Civil War.

Civil War Pension Card for David M. Bingaman

“Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900,” digital images, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 09 May 2012); David M. Bingaman (Cos. C, D & E, 20th Indiana Inf.) index card; imaged from Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900, T289 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives), roll 91.

In the image above, note that David Bingaman (the “invalid”) applied for a pension 13 Aug 1892, application no. 1,125,866, certificate no. 890,449. Following his death, his widow also applied for a widow’s pension, application no. 645,202, certificate no. 464,995. The fact that the card references a certificate number beside each pension type means that both David and his widow received pensions.

Soldier: George Carson, alias George Cassner, of Company F 38th New Jersey Infantry, brother of my 3rd great-grandmother, Caroline Carson.

Civil War Pension Card George Carson

“Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900,” digital images, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 09 May 2012); George Carson, alias George Cassner (Co. F, 38th New Jersey Inf.) index card; imaged from Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900, T289 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives), roll. 307.

George Carson applied for a pension 14 Apr 1902 less than a year before his death. His application was no. 1,283,970. His widow also applied for a widow’s pension, application no. 781,136. Applications for both George and his wife were apparently rejected, as there is no certificate number recorded for either of them in the column on the right. Perhaps there was a problem establishing his identity, especially since George seems to have also used the last name of Cassner.

Should I allow the fact that it appears that the applications were rejected to deter me from following up and ordering his pension file? Most definitely not! Even if a pension was rejected, the file will still contain, at a minimum, the application. Indeed, rejected applicants often tried multiple times to prove their claim, offering additional details and advancing more witnesses to vouch for them. On occasion, a Special Examiner was appointed to investigate the merits of the claim, in which case the file may yield a great deal of information.

Soldier: Jackson Wells of Co. D, 128th Ohio Infantry, brother-in-law of my 2nd great-grandfather, Washington R. Wallace.

Civil War Pension Card Jackson Wells

“Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900,” digital images, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 09 May 2012); Jackson Wells (Co. D 128th Ohio Inf.) index card; imaged from Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900, T289 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives), roll 429.

In this last example, the soldier himself did not apply for a pension. Instead, his widow applied under application no. 462,465. She received a pension under certificate no. 508,610.

Widows’ applications typically provide more family information than a soldier’s application as a widow had to prove:

1. that she was married to the soldier, and the date of the marriage
2. that she remained a widow (she lost the pension if she remarried)
3. divorce or death of any previous wife or wives
4. that the soldier was deceased (if he died outside of actual service)
5. birth information for soldier’s minor children under 16

(See the full text of the pension Act of July 14, 1862 as published in the New York Times, 12 Aug 1862).

Although acquiring a Civil War Pension file isn’t cheap ($75.00 for the first 100 pages from NARA), oftentimes a pension file can contain the key to solving a brick wall problem. You can spend literally years searching for proof of a relationship only to discover the answer plainly stated within the file.

How to order a Civil War pension file
Civil War pension files are still, for the most part, textual (i.e. paper) records. They have never been microfilmed, and are only now being digitized. With the large number of pension files available, it will be years before they’re online. To access a pension file, you’ll need to do one of three things:

1. Visit the National Archives in Washington D.C. yourself
2. Order the pension file from the National Archives directly
3. Hire a private researcher to examine and copy the record for you

To order a pension file from the National Archives, go to: https://eservices.archives.gov/orderonline/start.swe#SWEApplet1

Order Military Records OnlineThe second item is the link to order the complete file (form NATF 85D).

NATF 85D online formTechnically, to order a pension file using NATF 85 you only need the following information, marked with an asterisk (*) in the above screenshot:

Veteran’s first and last name
Branch of service (Army, Navy, Marine Corps)
Kind of service (Regular, Volunteer)
War in which he served
State from which he served

However, I have found that having the pension application number and name of widow or other claimant will ensure you are getting the correct file.

Whenever possible, I recommend acquiring a complete military pension file early on in your research. If you don’t look, you won’t know what nuggets of family information may be included. I have heard tales of family bible pages and photographs being found within a pension file, although I myself haven’t been that lucky.

Stay tuned as I reveal the goldmine of family information discovered in just one of these pension files!