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Cemetery Chat — Finding Elmwood's Confederate Soldiers

Updated: Oct 9, 2023


The BRIGHTON HISTORY DETECTIVE recently received a new private-eye assignment for reporting back any Confederate soldiers buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Brighton, Colo. Vaguely remembering some clues from years past, she picked up her magnifying glass for a tombstone trek through the grounds. Her investigation revealed the discovery of two Confederate soldier burials — that of CAPTAIN CHARLES S. SHORTER and JUDSON T BROWN. Read on for the complete story and photos, as well as tombstone tourist tips (including a QR code mapping the location) for locating both Confederate and Union headstones in your own cemetery investigations.

Discovery of Confederate Soldier Grave



The BRIGHTON HISTORY DETECTIVE found her first clue: a white-marble upright headstone marking the burial of CAPTAIN CHARLES S. SHORTER, born Aug. 22, 1841 and died Apr. 22, 1924. Cemetery records indicate his headstone was placed in Elmwood Cemetery in Sept. 1965. His military-issued headstone identifies him as a soldier in the Confederate States of America (CSA), serving in Company A of the 31st Georgia Infantry.

Military and Census Records

Additional military records list the Confederate soldier's promotion from First Lieutenant to Captain on Aug. 29, 1861. He was transferred to the Engineer Corps on Oct. 14, 1864, but was captured on Aug. 2, 1865 at Burgess. Cpt. Shorter was released at Johnson’s Island, OH on Jun. 20, 1865.

Census records indicate the Confederate soldier married Sarah Shapira on July 2, 1863 in Muscogee, Ga., the state of his birth. As of 1870, the couple was living in Russell, Ala. where they had three children (Charles Jr., Lizzie, and Theressa). The 1910 census record lists him at age 68 as widowed, and as a servant living in the John J. Coffee household in Henderson, Colo. The 1920 Census record shows him as a boarder in the same household.


Finding Captain Shorter’s Headstone Location

The headstone of CAPTAIN CHARLES S. SHORTER is designated with a Confederate Soldier military marker and located in Section 7 of the outskirts of the Historic Section, positioned at the south end of the cemetery and fanning out from the original-entrance circular drive centerpiece (that in days gone by showcased a water fountain). A map identifying the cemetery sections is provided at the end of this article Elmwood Cemetery Section Map. Walk approximately four rows west from Aspen Lane, starting slightly north of the light pole. The headstone faces west.

Scan the following QR code for a map of the headstone location.








Tombstone Tourist-Trek Tips

Locating Confederate and Union Headstones on Your own!

How do you identify a military-issued, Confederate Soldier headstone? Use the following identification tips and background information to assist you in your tombstone tourist treks in this and other cemeteries.


Pointed Top of Confederate Soldier Headstones

The historical design of military-issued headstones for both Union and Confederate soldiers of the Civil War can be made of marble (white) or granite. However, the round shape of the top of a Union Soldier headstone differs from that of a Confederate Soldier headstone, which is shaped with a pointed top. A popular, yet apocryphal (fictitious), story states this differing shape was created to keep “Damn Yankees” from sitting on top of the headstones. In actuality, the pointed-design, with flush-design facing, was selected to differentiate from the rounded-top Union Soldier headstone that contain a recessed carving of a Civil War Union shield (with raised lettering) on its face. Popularly known as the “Civil War” headstone, this headstone type was first issued as a replacement to wooden headstones in 1879.


Recessed-Shield Union Soldier Headstones

The special recessed-shield headstone is still available today by special application from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs https://www.cem.va.gov/hmm/historic.asp, but is reserved for Union-only soldiers of the Civil War and soldiers of the Spanish-American War. The following photo of the military-issued headstone of JOHN F. DART shows an example of the recessed shield.


Finding Dart’s Recessed-Shield Headstone

The headstone of JOHN F. DART, engraved with the recessed-shield of the Union Army, is located in Elmwood Cemetery in Section 9 of the Historic Section (congruent to Elmwood Drive on the south side of the cemetery before arriving at the shop area). A map identifying the cemetery sections is provided at the end of this article Elmwood Cemetery Section Map. Scan the following QR code for a map of the headstone location.





The Confederate Cross of Honor

The historical pointed-top headstone (with flush facing) design for Confederate States of America (CSA) Soldiers and Sailors is engraved with a Confederate Cross of Honor. This symbol can also help you identify a Confederate Soldier headstone and is located on the face of the stone, above the inscription of the soldier’s name, rank, company, and regiment. This CSA historic-design headstone, first placed by the government when permanently marking Confederate graves in 1906, is still available by special application from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs https://www.cem.va.gov/hmm/historic.asp. (Unlike those buried after Nov. 1, 1990, the application requires verification that a “privately-purchased, permanent and durable headstone or marker or Government-furnished headstone or marker is not present on the grave.”)


Military-Issued Flat Grave Markers

In addition to the upright headstones described previously, look for military-issued flat grave markers (flush with the ground) identifying the burial of Civil War veterans. A flat marble grave marker was adopted by the Assistant Secretary of War in 1936 to accommodate cemeteries that do not allow upright headstones and only allow flat markers. Flat granite grave markers were later adopted in 1939 and flat bronze grave markers in 1940. All three flat marker types are available today from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at https://www.cem.va.gov/hmm/historic.asp. (Those buried before Nov. 1, 1990 with existing headstones may not qualify. Refer to the official site for details.)

An example of a military-issued, flat granite grave marker is found on the grave of DR. ALAN RAU CRAIN, located in Prospect Hill Cemetery in Wash. DC (Wikipedia Commons photo).


Privately-Purchased Grave Markers

When searching for the headstone or marker of a Civil War soldier, consider non-military-issued designs. The family may have privately purchased a headstone or marker of various (non-military) types and may or may not have included any reference to military history. The upright companion headstone of VALENTINE RAPP and his wife Elizabeth, pictured below for example, is an open-book design and contains an inscription of Valentine’s Civil War service. His family has also placed a photo of the Union soldier and his wife, as well as a written history, by the headstone. Of course, many Civil War veterans may not have such helpful identification. To verify a headstone name you believe may have served in the Civil War, start with a basic name search of Civil War records on the National Archives website at https://www.archives.gov/research/military/civil-war or the National Park Service at https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm.


Finding the Location of the Rapp Headstone

The privately purchased headstone of Union soldier VALENTINE RAPP (1842-1931) and his wife Elizabeth (1859-1933) is located in Section 7 in the Historic Section, positioned at the south end of the cemetery. A map identifying the cemetery sections is provided at the end of this article Elmwood Cemetery Section Map. From Pine, walk one row in from the west. The headstone is approximately six headstones from the entrance drive. Scan the following QR code for a map of the location.





An Unlikely Friendship between a Union and Confederate Soldier



Ken Bennett, pictured above, first shared the story of his great-grandfather, VALENTINE RAPP, in the Elmwood’s Second Annual Historic Cemetery Walk (2015). His story included the tale of an unlikely friendship (or as history more commonly tells us, a familiar one) between his great-grandfather, a Union soldier, and a Confederate soldier named JUDSON T. BROWN. Both soldiers eventually made their homes in Hudson, Colo. and are laid to rest at Brighton’s Elmwood Cemetery.


Discovery of a Second Confederate Soldier Grave

Following Bennet's lead for the burial of Confederate Soldier JUDSON T. BROWN, the Brighton History Detective armed herself with her clue-seeking magnifying glass. She discovered a second Confederate Soldier grave in Section 10 of Elmwood Cemetery's Historic Section.



Privately-Purchased, Military-Design Markers

The grave site of JUDSON T. BROWN is marked by both a headstone and a flat ground marker. The ground marker is most likely an example of a privately-purchased marker with a military design, as cemetery records document that Brown's grave already had a headstone placed at his grave at a time close to his 1915 death date of 1915. Government-provided military headstones and ground markers were and are ONLY issued to those veterans who died before Nov. 1, 1990 and are buried in unmarked graves. Many private companies offer flat military grave markers that can look identical to a government-provided military flat ground marker.


Finding the Location of Brown’s Grave

Brown’s headstone and privately purchased military marker are located in Section 11 of the Historic Section (positioned in the south-west area of the Cemetery). A map identifying the cemetery sections is provided at the end of this article Elmwood Cemetery Section Map. The headstone faces west and can be accessed from Pine or the circle drive. Scan the following QR code for a map of the location.


History of Civil War Soldier Gravesites

Finding the grave of a soldier who died in a Civil War battle is not always as straightforward as taking a tombstone trek through your local cemetery. Although the soldiers of the American Revolution and the War of 1812 were typically buried in churchyards and family cemeteries, these were slowly disappearing and a transitioning to rural parklike cemeteries, due to growing urban populations and concerns of sanitation. Additionally, as the nation expanded west, the military also established post cemeteries. However, neither of these new cemeteries were prepared nor able to accommodate the more than 600,000-plus (some estimates quote 750,000) men who died in the Civil War.


Battles Left Soldiers Too Weak to Bury Their Own

In 1861, the United States War Department designated the commanding officer as responsible for the burial of his unit’s dead. But, reality presented major challenges to handling large numbers killed in each battle—not to mention the deaths of many commanding officers. The battles also left the unit’s remaining men hungry, fatigued, and injured impeding their ability to dig graves and bury their dead. When the unit could bury their men, it was often in hasty shallow graves where the men fell.


From Paper Notes to Metal Dog Tags

Commanding officers also found it difficult to keep records of the fallen, as few soldiers had identification on them. Although some soldiers pinned a piece of paper with their hand-written name to their clothing, these often didn’t survive the elements. Metal identification tags were not yet used, being first initiated in World War I. Later in World War II, the tags were slightly redesigned into a shape that resembled dog tags, earning them the familiar moniker we use today. Families and friends were known to search the battlefield for their loved-one’s body, and those that could afford it sent a body home by train for burial. Efforts to locate, identify, and re-bury fallen soldiers would take years—and in many cases not be possible.


Early National Cemeteries for Union Soldiers

The overwhelming number of dead in Civil War battles left many Union and Confederate soldiers lying on the fields of battle. By 1867, the government took new action to create thirty national cemeteries and designated seven soldier lots in private cemeteries. However, these national cemeteries were ONLY for Union soldiers who died during Civil War service. Private organizations in southern states managed re-burials of confederate soldiers. When reburial corps were established in the late 1860s and they met the remains of a Confederate soldier next to the body of a Union soldier, they recovered only the Union soldier, and left the body of the Confederate soldier on the field. In 1873, eligibility for burial in a national cemetery was extended to all Union Civil War veterans and a permanent stone marker design (replacing wooden headstones) was adopted. Congress later authorized the furnishing of these headstones for the unmarked graves of veterans in private cemeteries in 1879.


POW, Mistaken, Isolated, and Final Inclusion of Confederate-Soldier National Burials

One exception to Union-only burials in early national cemeteries, described in the previous section, were Confederate prisoners-of-war (POWs). Confederate POWs were buried in a special section within federal cemeteries (and other cemeteries under federal care), often without a headstone. Those cemeteries that did provide headstones, identified the deceased by name only, concealing their military history and making it impossible to differentiate them from civilians buried in the cemetery. In some cemeteries, family members of Confederate soldiers were kept from decorating graves or even entering the cemetery. Additionally, because identification was often difficult, it is estimated that some Confederate soldiers were buried in national cemeteries mistakenly as Union soldiers. However, in 1906, that the Federal government became involved in permanently including and marking Confederate graves. An act was passed, the same year, to provide headstones for Confederate soldiers. Today, both Union and Confederate soldiers are eligible for burial in national cemeteries and for taxpayer-funded headstones.


Help in Locating a Union or Confederate Soldier's Burial Location

Locating a particular Civil War soldier’s burial location can still be difficult today, despite the numerous and varied listings created over the years. Two centralized organizations may be helpful in targeting research, including: The Sons of Union Veterans of Civil War (SUVCW) National Graves Registration project established in 1996 (https://suvcw.org/projects/national-grave-registration-project/) and the Sons of Confederate Graves Registry (https://cgr.scv.org/).


Elmwood Cemetery Section Map

The following map is provided for identifying numbered sections of Elmwood Cemetery's Historic Section. Refer to the individually-detailed directions and QR code maps, provided in previous sections, for help in finding the location of the headstones mentioned in this article. Additional information on Elmwood's historic section and other cemetery history, can be found in the book, A Stroll through Elmwood: a graveside (or bedside) tour of a cemetery’s most intriguing and not-to-be-forgotten by Robin Kring. Copies can be purchased from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BQXYK655.


Meet More of Elmwood’s Intriguing and Not-to-be-Forgotten

Visit http://clearcreekpub.com (Our Publications tab) to learn about A Stroll through Elmwood: a graveside (or bedside) tour of a cemetery’s most intriguing and not-to-be-forgotten by Robin Kring (aka the Brighton History Detective). Recently updated in late 2022, the guide takes you on a self-guided physical, or virtual, tour of the stories and gravesites shared in Elmwood’s First Annual Historic Cemetery Walk. Meet fascinating characters like Lloyd “Red” Barker, of the infamous “Ma” Barker Clan; a 49-er goldminer; and the Schell twins who tragically drowned in the now-missing Carmichael Lake. The book also shares the history of Elmwood Cemetery, the story of Brighton’s founding father Daniel F. Carmichael, a Glossary of Memorial Architecture, and a Tombstone Tourist’s Guide to Hidden Symbolism. Purchase your copy (now available in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle versions), packed with 20+ stories and 140+ photos (color & black and white) today at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BQXYK655.


About the Author


Robin Kring (aka The Brighton History Detective) is a local historian and an author of 6 books and over 100 magazine articles. Kring has served on the Brighton Historic Preservation Commission and led the Colorado Preservation, Inc. Most Endangered Places Team for documenting and photographing the historic Brighton Great Western Sugar Factory. She also had the pleasure to serve on the Brighton Cultural Arts Commission and on the authoring team for the City of Brighton Cultural Plan. Kring, who lives on a historic site connected to Brighton’s founder, D.F. Carmichael (and later the first Adams County Courthouse and County Jail) is a local history speaker and a frequent Tour Guide Presenter for Elmwood’s Annual Historic Cemetery Walks. For information on Kring's publications, visit http://clearcreekpub.com (Our Publications tab).




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