Illinois National Guard

Revolutionary War
War of 1812
Seminole War
Civil War
Spanish-American War
World War I
World War II
Korean War
Since Vietnam
    Revolutionary War

The Revolutionary War and the reasons for it shaped the culture of America and the manner in which she tends to her dead. The war involved the entire country in a way that previous wars did not. The army was comprised entirely of militia. Every male between the ages of 16 and 60 was required to serve. The responsibility to create and protect this new nation fell on the whole of the nation - not just a small minority. Whole communities would often feel the loss of the young men who left to fight. The first year of the war brought large numbers of casualties. These large battles were often fought close to the strategic ground of the cities. The reality of war came to the doorsteps of America as they saw battlefields left with dead bodies still littering the ground; uncared for, and left to the mercy of the elements. Battlefields were always left in the hands of the victor. Often, the victors would only have the time to take care of their own dead. If they were chasing the enemy, there was often not time enough to take care of their own. Time and the lack of technology to preserve the bodies required quick burials often in shallow, unmarked graves or in large mass graves. Fighting the war was a priority; the dead were dead and would have to wait. Pressure from the public brought about legislation from Congress that would give guidance and requirements for the caring of the war dead. The laws required the military to bury the dead and return all of the soldier's personal effects to the family. However, we do see the beginnings of military honors provided by the military whenever the situation provided the opportunity. Early accounts from journals describe many of these funerals. Some of the honors in the journals describe a scene that would begin with the soldier's unit forming outside of his tent. While drummers played, the body would be born to the gravesite by six soldiers from the man's unit. A religious service would be performed, and three volleys would be fired over the grave after the body had been interred. The honor afforded officers did not differ much from those of the enlisted man. This would be the start of recognizing the sacrifices of the individual common citizen.