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Civil War soldier's remains head to N.Y.

September 15, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

SHARPSBURG -- The recently discovered remains of a Civil War soldier who died during the Battle of Antietam are headed to his home state of New York.

The remains were unearthed last year after a battlefield visitor found a jaw fragment with four teeth, according to a summary of the dig.

The soldier was traced to New York by his uniform buttons, but his identity isn't known. He is thought to have been about 19 years old.

Archaeologists found about 20 percent of his bones when they excavated a grave on the Miller farm in December 2008, archaeologist Karen Orrence said. The grave was 16 to 18 inches deep, against a limestone outcropping that sheltered it, she said.

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A 1-foot-by-1-foot repository box containing the remains was placed in a wooden coffin Tuesday, then handed off to the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs for the roughly 400-mile trip.

The remains will be interred with full military honors at a national cemetery near Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Thursday, the 147th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. The battle is considered the nation's bloodiest day, leaving more than 23,000 people dead, wounded or missing.

The last remains of a Civil War soldier were found in 1988 on the Roulette farm, said John Howard, the battlefield's superintendent.

During a military-style ceremony Tuesday, a flag was draped over the coffin.

Howard said five park rangers -- Ed Wenschhof, Keith Snyder, Keven Walker, K.C. Kirkman and Brian Baracz -- and Lynn Keener, a battlefield carpenter who made the repository box, were pallbearers.

James Rosebrock Sr. of Jefferson, Md., and his 18-year-old son, James Jr., were dressed as Union soldiers and served as an honor guard.

The elder Rosebrock, who grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., said the ceremony was "a powerful reminder of how important freedom is."

Members of the Maryland National Guard's honor guard, based with the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore, also attended.

"The adjutant general thought it would be appropriate for us to be here," said Jari Villanueva, the honor guard's director.

Besides skull, foot and leg fragments, archaeologists found New York State and U.S. Eagle uniform buttons and a Union waist belt plate.

A sample of Antietam dirt was included with the remains sent to New York.

"We just thought it would be nice if he went home with some Maryland soil," Orrence said.

The New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs is taking the remains to Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville, N.Y., near Saratoga Springs.

As the SUV containing the casket rode off, it was accompanied by motorcyclists with the Patriot Guard Riders, a national group that attends military funerals.

Edward W. Kornowski of Buffalo, N.Y., said the group and the soldier's remains will stay overnight at Camp Smith near Peekskill, N.Y., part of the way between New York City and Saratoga Springs.

Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery doesn't have any Civil War soldiers, according to Dan Cassidy, the cemetery director.

This also will be the first unknown soldier there, said Eric Durr, director of public affairs for the New York State Division of Military & Naval Affairs.

Durr said that national cemetery was chosen because it's close to the division's headquarters, which is near Albany, and to a military history museum in Saratoga Springs.

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