“Skeletal remains of Confederate soldiers identified, reburial plans uncertain”

By | August 9, 2023

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Skeletal remains discovered in Williamsburg have been identified as Confederate soldiers. The reburial location is yet to be determined by a group of stakeholders. The remains were found near a temporary hospital where Confederate soldiers were cared for after the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862. Personal items were also found with the remains, providing insight into their lives. Analysis of the grave location and documentary research confirmed the identity of the soldiers. Wilford Kale reported

The skeletal remains discovered in the historic area of Williamsburg have been positively identified as Confederate soldiers. However, the exact details of their reburial, including the time and location, have yet to be determined. Jack Gary, the director of archaeology at Colonial Williamsburg, expressed his satisfaction at being able to identify these individuals and provide them with a dignified reburial. A group of stakeholders, including the Williamsburg Battlefield Association and the Office of U.S. Army cemeteries, will collaborate to decide on the most appropriate reburial site, likely in or around Williamsburg.

Preliminary research suggests that the remains of four individuals can be narrowed down to approximately 21 or 22 soldiers who likely died during the period when a Union-operated hospital was caring for Confederate casualties after the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862. The burial site was discovered near the Powder Magazine on Duke of Gloucester Street, close to where the temporary hospital was located. During the excavation, one soldier was found to have a wound consistent with the cause of death – a minié-style ball lodged in his spine. This soldier was buried alone in a separate pit.

The other three remains were found together in a pit just a foot away, while another pit nearby contained three amputated limbs from surgeries performed by the surgeon. Shrapnel fragments were also found near two of the remains, although it is unclear if they were the cause of death. Personal items were discovered with the soldiers, including an ivory-handled toothbrush with a snuff bottle and vest buttons. Notably, no uniforms were found.

Another soldier was buried with two dollar gold coins sewn into the waistband of his pants, alongside a musket ball embedded in his hip. Analysis of the grave location and documentary research, such as the records of the Baptist Church hospital and the burial records of Benjamin Bucktrout, the city undertaker, confirmed that these remains belonged to Confederate soldiers.

In conclusion, the identification of these Confederate soldiers’ remains is an important step towards honoring their memory with a respectful reburial. The collaboration among various stakeholders will ensure that the reburial location is chosen thoughtfully, most likely within the vicinity of Williamsburg. The discovery of personal items and wounds on the soldiers provides insight into their lives and the conditions they faced during the Civil War..

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