In the Civil War, it was not uncommon for soldiers to write their name and hometown on pieces of paper to be pinned onto their backs. The idea was that if they were to fall in battle someone would know who they were. Maybe even there would be a chance for their body to make it home.
To that extent, the Civil War saw innovations in embalming techniques that would allow for a body to be preserved for the trip home. If they could afford it. A soldier who purchased the service would be issued a medallion that they were to wear around their neck. After the battle representatives of the embalming company would search through the bodies to find their clients. These men would be embalmed and sent home.
What would eventually become “dog tags” was born.
On December 20, 1906, War Department General Order No. 204 that was issued. This order made the “identification tag” standard military issue. This tag was to be an aluminum disk approximately the size of a silver half-dollar. It would be stamped with name, rank, company, and regiment. The order provided that the tags would be issued to enlisted men for free, but officers had to purchase theirs at cost.
In 1916 the regulations were changed to provide two tags to each individual. One to be kept with them and one for the burial services and record keeping. At a later point, the religious beliefs of the wounded were added to ensure the proper services during burial.
The tags in the picture above are from the Pre-WWI era and were most likely issued to American soldiers that were engaged in the Philippine Insurrection.