Some time back, over a decade ago, I set out to photograph gravestones of members of the 37th North Carolina Troops. My goal was to include as many of them as possible in the book that I was writing on that regiment. When it came time to turn in that project , I did not have room for any of the pictures. With maps and pre-war, war-time, and post-war photographs of the men who served, I did not have the space for an additional 200+ (maybe 300+) photographs of graves.
But, I have continued to photograph tombstones. I even teach a class in gravestone iconography. And with the advent of digital photography, I continue to photograph many stones.
I pulled out four the other day (three of these were shot with film), to talk about the Southern Cross on the tombstones.
Many of you will be familiar with the Southern Cross of Honor. The Confederate government wanted to award a medal to Southern soldiers who had distinguished themselves on the field of battle. Of course, with the shortage of resources during the war, the medal was never actually produced. Instead, the names of men, voted upon by their comrades in arms, were published in local newspapers. According to a bit I found on the web, the idea of presenting a Southern Cross to former Confederate soldiers arose again in 1898. The United Daughters of the Confederacy came up with the idea of awarding medals to the soldiers.
Judging from the examples provided below, the ideas went further than just medals to hang from one's coat. Of course, we all know that Southern Crosses decorate many a Confederate grave. But some soldiers (or their loved ones) went a step further, and had them carved on their tombstones. And as you can see by these four examples, there is no uniformity to the carvings. I actually have a fifth Tar heel example, but I did not come up with this idea until I had put that photo back in storage. It is a simple cross between the birth and death dates.
The four men whose tombstones are pictured below are:
Jacob B. Graham, buried at Grace Chapel UMC, Caldwell County;
Harvey A. Davis, buried at the Old Lutheran Cemetery, Watauga County;
Robert C. Bell, buried at the Chestnut Hill Cemetery, Rowan County;
T. J. Wise, buried at the Pisgah UMC, Avery County.