Soldier's remains found at Antietam

January 08, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

SHARPSBURG -- More than 146 years after the last shot was fired at the Battle of Antietam, the remains of a Union soldier were found by a visitor hiking in the north end of Antietam National Battlefield in late October.

The hiker dropped off a bag containing some bones at the battlefield visitors center saying he found them in some loose dirt near a freshly-dug groundhog hole.

"He did everything right," Superintendent John Howard said. "He drove right to the Visitor Center with the bones."

Howard said he wished the hiker would come forward so park personnel could thank him and let him know how the investigation is progressing.

With only sketchy information from that visitor, the site was found, Howard said. National Park Service staff poked around and found more bone fragments, leather pieces and buttons from a Civil War-era coat.


The bones were confirmed as human. In early December, a park service archaeologist determined they belonged to a male between the ages of 18 and 21. From the other items recovered, the soldier was believed to be from a New York regiment.

The remains have been sent to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., for further analysis with eventual interment in either the National Cemetery at the battlefield or a location appropriate to family or military associations if they can be determined, Howard said.

Over the years, remains of Union and Confederate soldiers have been recovered - sometimes on the battlefield and sometimes as far away as Michigan.

In 1998, a jawbone of a Confederate soldier who died in the battle was found in a Michigan museum. It was returned to Washington County and buried in a ceremony at the Washington Confederate Cemetery at Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown.

"About 10 or 12 years ago, the bones of more than one Confederate soldier were found and buried here with a full entourage for the ceremony," Rose Hill Cemetery manager William Divelbiss said.

Howard said the remains of four Irish Brigade Union soldiers were found in a farmer's field near the observation tower in 1989.

"They were buried in the cemetery at the battlefield," Howard said.

At that time, the park service didn't own that field, Howard said.

"The farmer was plowing and he said he heard something that didn't sound right," Howard said.

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