Remains of Civil War Soldier Return Home on Anniversary
By Air Force Senior Airman Jameel Moses
Special to American Forces Press Service
SHARPSBURG, Md., Sept. 17, 2009 The remains of a Union Civil War soldier found at the Antietam National Battlefield here will be buried today in his home state of New York on the 147th anniversary of the battle, the Civil War’s bloodiest day.
National Park Service rangers stationed at Antietam National Battlefield carry the coffin containing the remains of an unknown Civil War soldier from New York found on the Antietam National Battlefield during a Sep. 15, 2009, ceremony to transfer the remains to be buried in New York. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jameel S. Moses, National Guard Bureau
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The remains of the soldier, believed to be between 17 and 19 years old when he was killed, were transferred Sept. 15 from the Antietam National Cemetery Lodge to the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville, N.Y. He will be buried with full military honors.
"It is right and fitting that today's citizen-soldiers from New York state bring home this unknown New York volunteer of the Civil War," Army Maj. Gen. Joseph J. Taluto, the New York adjutant general, said. "The Soldier's Creed reminds all American soldiers that we never leave a fallen comrade behind. This is a way for soldiers of today to care for a fallen comrade from our past."
The New York National Guard accepted the transfer of the soldier’s remains from the Maryland National Guard, which also conducted the honors ceremony at Antietam.
The remains were escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders Association for the 330-mile trip to the New York State Military Museum, where they lie in repose today with a military honor guard.
"The majority of the men who came here and were killed, did not have the opportunity to go back home," said J.W. Howard, superintendent of the Antietam National Battlefield and Antietam National Cemetery. "In our national cemetery, there are over 1,500 unknown graves and you do not know who these young men were, and yet you knew they came here and made this sacrifice. The idea of being able to send him home was something the entire staff stood behind. It was the right thing to do."
The soldier's remains were discovered by a hiker from Oklahoma who was walking along the battlefield last October.
The hiker was walking on a trail running through the Miller cornfield, where the bloodiest fighting of the 12-hour battle occurred, Howard said. A pile of dirt that a groundhog had dug caught his eye. After a closer look, the hiker realized what he had stumbled upon.
The remains included more than 400 bone fragments from 24 different bones, seven coat buttons, two New York state cuff buttons from the left sleeve, six trouser buttons, a leather strap and a belt buckle. They were placed into a box made by a carpenter at Antietam from a walnut tree cut down on the battlefield.
The uniform items will be buried along with the soldier.
"We consider this to be a part of his uniform he was wearing when he died," Howard said. "They should be buried with him."
(Air Force Senior Airman Jameel Moses serves in the National Guard Bureau.)