During the Civil War, the fonts of sign painters had a new purpose: identifying the resting places of soldiers who fell in combat, or died of illness. Two months after the first battle of the war in 1861, it was determined that grave markers for Union soldiers would be issued through the Quartermaster Department. These grave markers were constructed of wood with a rounded top and featured painted lettering on either a painted or natural wood background. As a temporary marker, these were expected to last approximately five years before needing replacement or maintenance. The expense of upkeep, and the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, led to the use of more permanent marble gravestones for Civil War union veterans beginning in the 1870s. Marble markers would become the iconic Civil War veteran grave monuments that can still be seen in historic cemeteries across America on this Memorial Day. Here’s an image of wooden grave markers with painted lettering at the Alexandria National Cemetery in Virginia during the 1860s.