One of the most popular stories from our Civil War is that of Union soldiers stitching their names to their uniforms before Cold Harbor in June 1864, in case their bodies need to be identified following the battle. Ken Burns narrates this incident along with an image of Union soldiers apparently doing just that. Gordon Rhea, however, recently challenged this story in his study of the battle. If I remember correctly, his argument boils down to the fact that there is only one postwar source that cannot be corroborated.
I’ve been making my way through the recently published notebooks of Lt. Col. Theodore Lyman and came across a very interesting passage about a similar incident. On Monday, November 30, 1863 Lyman wrote the following:
We were bright up & early, for it was necessary to get the trains out of the way about sunrise, as they would be exposed to shell, when the cannonade opened. All was expectation. Yet such is the force of your surroundings that I felt no particular nervousness–to be sure I did not have to lead an assault–which makes a wide difference. The soldiers of the 2nd Corps, that morning pinned bits of paper on their clothes, with their names on them! As for Col. Farnum (he of yacht Wanderer fame) he said he considered himself under sentence of death, that morning for an hour! (74)
I was of no use! We came back; the moment had passed, the assault was countermanded and the 2nd Corps might unpin their bits of paper. (75)
I was wondering if there are other examples of men pinning their names to their uniforms before battle.