Civil War Week

A Fitting Tribute

It’s been a busy Civil War week for me thus far and it’s only Tuesday night.

Saturday morning I headed up to Calvary Cemetery in Evanston, Illinois, to meet with staff there regarding my application for a government provided tombstone for my great-grandfather William Donar (1826-1899).

He served with Co “C” 25th NY Infantry during the Civil War in 1862. According to The Roster of Union Soldiers 1861-1865, his division participated in the siege of Yorktown, fought at Manassas and was held in reserve at the Battle of Antietam—one of the bloodiest battlefields of the entire war. (Knowing he survived all of that it’s a miracle I even exist!)

Mark Biallas looks over an unmarked expanse  of green grass at Calvary Cemetery, Evanston, Illinois, where his wife’s  great-grandfather is buried in an unmarked grave. An application to  obtain a free headstone for the Civil War soldier who fought in the Union Army will be on it’s way to Washington in the next several days.

For the last few days I’ve been working on various wording options for the marker (in keeping with government guidelines) and expect to mail the application in to the VA in Washington by the end of the week. Here’s hoping I’ve crossed all my “T”s and dotted my “I”s so the request goes smoothly. If so, this unmarked grave, which has been that way since 1899, should soon be bearing a proud testament to a man who, like so many others, risked life and limb to keep our Union intact.  It’s an honor that is long, long overdue.

An interesting side note to great-grandpa’s interment there which made things a bit complicated at first was this:  It seems that his son, also named William Donar (1856 – 1923), is buried in that unmarked grave as well—right on top of his father. That made for some complicated options for engraving the stone but if all goes well, it looks like it should all work out to honor both Donar men.

If you have a Veteran in your family who’s buried in an unmarked grave, you too, can obtain a marker at (mostly) government expense.  The VA will pay for the stone, it’s engraving and delivery to the cemetery; but you will have to cough up the cash to pay the cemetery for having them set it in the ground. For complete details on the program, an order form  (VA Form 40-1330), and directions on applying for a marker for your deceased Veteran go to:

The Presidential Memorial Certificate

In the process of investigating the much anticipated headstone  for my great-grandpa Donar (actually, while I was on hold with Washington listening to an endless loop of encouragement to use the VA’s website), I learned that I could also apply for something called a  “Presidential Memorial Certificate.”  This memento, which is free of charge, honors the memory of  an honorably discharged deceased Veteran and is signed by none other than the President of the United States. (I imagine it may actually be pre-printed with Obama’s signature, but still—just sayin’—pretty cool to have the President’s signature on a document naming your family member as someone who served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.)

With plenty of new proof of two great-grandfathers in the Union Army, it was a minor task for me to pull out the appropriate documents from their military records which I obtained last fall at the National Archives in Washington. The form (VA Form 40-0247) was simple—only half a page—and painless too, with just five blanks to fill in and a place for your signature.  Attach your records proving Honorable Discharge and you’re off to the mailbox with your request.  You can even fax in your request if desired.

If you’re interested in learning about how to obtain a Presidential Memorial Certificate for the patriot in your family here’s the link to do so:


A few months ago I was granted membership in the National Society Daughters of the Union (NSDU)   and wrote about it in these posts:  Me? A Daughter of the Union? and Three new Daughters of the Union.

Recently I  learned that my application for another heritage organization, the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War  (DUVCW), has also been accepted and I’m looking forward to receiving my membership certificate in that organization in the next few weeks as well.

Civil War Days

Rounding out my Civil War activities this week will be a visit next weekend to Naper Settlement in Naperville, Illinois, which will be celebrating its annual “Civil War Days” with more than 300 Civil War re-enactors camping on-site. Battle re-enactments, demonstrations of 19th century surgical skills, and a visit from Abe and Mary Todd Lincoln are all on the schedule. For complete details on these and other activities at Naper Settlement this weekend visit its website.

And if you see a wide-eyed middle aged woman wielding a digital SLR with a long telephoto lens aimed at the men in blue and gray, it’s probably me—just trying to get some authentic looking images for some future posts I will undoubtedly be writing once that tombstone is delivered and those certificates arrive in my mailbox.

Copyright © 2012 Patricia Desmond Biallas

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1 Response to Civil War Week

  1. Pingback: A Presidential Honor on Inauguration Day | GeneaJourneys

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