Civil War "Dog Tags"

The government-issued identification "dog tags", which were routinely issued to all soldiers in the First and Second World Wars, were unknown in the Civil War. Soldiers were concerned that their bodies would not be identified in the aftermath of a battle, so they would often pin a piece of paper bearing their name inside their uniform. Later in the War, various merchants and sutlers (itinerant suppliers who followed the armies, selling directly to the soldiers) began to sell tokens which could be stamped with a soldier's name and unit, and perhaps home town. With a hole drilled on one edge, they could be worn on a lanyard around the soldier's neck or attached to his clothing. 

Tags like these have recently (July 2007) been sold on eBay for as much as $860. 

Many Civil War tags were made from old coins, stamped with the soldier's name - A.B. Miner's tag at right  is one example of this kind of tag. (collection of webmaster Mike Brown)

Matt Price, a reader of this website, managed to identify the coin - it's a Spanish two Reale coin, dating from the reign of Charles III (1735-1788). 

The examples below are four tags, stamped "E. J. Efner, Co. I, 76th Reg. N.Y.S.V., Middleburg", "C.H. Smith, Co. K, 76th Reg. N.Y.S.V., Springfield",  "Geo. Moore, Co. A, 76th Reg. N.Y.S.V., Virgil", and "A.Boyce, Co. E, 76th Reg. N.Y.S.V., Richfiord" Given that the tags are nearly identical, it's probably safe to assume they were made by the same sutler. 

Photos of Erastus Efner's ID disk (above) by Don Chase, who notes, "I bought this tag at an outdoor market in Shupps Grove, PA in 1970 or 1971."

Photo of Charles Smith's tag at left was sent by B. Conrad Bush, who wrote:

The picture of the dog tag was made by Tom Turner, Granite City, Illinois. He had it in his collection as of Feb. 1998. He gave me the picture for my information on who C H Smith was.


George Moore's dog tag (left) was offered for sale on eBay in February of 2002 by Robert Fernbacher, who said in the listing:

"The 76th New York saw severe action in support of the Iron Brigade at Brawner's Farm on Aug. 28, 1862. There were 32 men killed and 75 wounded. Capt. Grover and two of the skirmishers were wounded. Private Moore found himself in one of the hottest parts of the Battle of Brawner's Farm when he along with 7 other men were picked by Capt. Andrew Grover to be skirmishers. Capt. Grover's men reached a rail fence about 50 yards ahead of the main line where they could hear the commands of the rebel officers in the distance. The skirmishers shouted back the rebel orders to the main line which in turn got relayed to Gen. Doubleday. The skirmishers were caught in the middle of the rebels and main line with firing coming from both sides. "

An article on Civil War ID tags in America's Civil War (September 2006) by Joseph Stahlin said that "This disk, made by the Scoville Brass Company of New York, was based on the US $10 gold coin of the period." The disk was then in Stahlin's collection, according to the article. 

For a picture of Allen Boyce see Images (A-N)

For information on Allen Boyce, see Roster (B)

Image contributed by a reader of this site. 

Tag for Lt. William S. Walcott

Edward Kelly's dog tag. 
Dog tag for Corporal Samuel D. Squires

Tom Bowen Jr. is the owner of this tag, purchased from Campsite Artifacts. He writes, "It is of the common type - (gold washed eagle "War of 1861") and simply says "Corp. S. D. Squires." He died at Falmouth and this tag was found by a digger in the Falmouth area in 2005.

"Interesting that the letter "p" in CORP is a different die letter and about 1/2 size of the other capital letters. It seems the P in the sutlers die set must have been lost and the tiny "p" was substituted - (this is the size of the "th" in "76th" on the other ID's) It may make identification of future discs more certain, if we see more ones with a small letter P. I looked and none of the existing examples used the letter P."

Dog tag for Pvt. John W. Seeber (or Seber). Note that the regiment is (erroneously) given as the the 76th NY Veteran Volunteers. Also, "Cortland" County is mis-spelled as "Courtland". 

This dog tag was sold at eBay auction on July 18, 2007, for $861.51. 

eBay auction photo, used by permission

Dog tag for Corp. J. J. Bice
Reverse of tag is same "War 1861" and eagle as Squires tag above. 

Photograph courtesy of The Horse Soldier antique store in Gettysburg, Pa., which had the tag for sale as of April, 2007 (item number 37-187). 
Used by permission.

Dog Tag for Pvt. W. C. Salisbury
Co. H

This dog tag was sold at eBay auction February 1, 2009 for $232.50

eBay auction photograph used by permission

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- Last Updated August 6, 2011