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Antietam Soldier To Be Buried With Full Honors

The remains of a young New York solider found on the Antietam battlefield in December will be transported to the Saratoga National Cemetery, in New York, for a burial with full military honors on Sept. 17 at 10 a.m. The service will take place 147 years to the day that the unidentified solider died as he and others fought on the Miller farm in Sharpsburg.

The solider, who was between 17 and 19 years old when he died, is considered to have been killed in action and thus qualifies for the full honors ceremony. The service will be open to the public.

"We will give him a hero's welcome," said Donald Roy, director of the New York Military Force Honor Guard.

In a press release, New York Gov. David Paterson said, "I am proud that the New York National Guard is bringing home one of our soldiers who gave his life to preserve the United States of America during the bloodiest years in our nation's history. Soldiers like this unknown young man fought to give our nation the 'new birth of freedom' that Abraham Lincoln spoke of in his Gettysburg Address."

Although the solider was found at the Antietam National Battlefield, near the Antietam
National Cemetery, park superintendent John Howard said in December he would offer to send the remains to New York State officials. If they had turned the offer down, then the soldier would have been buried at Antietam cemetery.

In a statement, Howard said there were over 1,500 unknown soldiers buried at Antietam. "You don't know who these young men were, and yet you knew they came here and made the sacrifice. The idea of being able to send him home was something the entire staff stood behind. it was the right thing to do," Howard said.

Little is known about soldier other than what the National Park Service's archaeologist Stephen R. Potter discovered when he directed the excavation of the grave in early December, and in his research that followed. The young man had been buried in a shallow grave next to a stone outcropping and left behind when others were removed to Antietam National Cemetery. His remains might have never been found if ground hogs hadn't kicked several bone fragments out of their tunnels, where they were found by a tourist.

Potter was able to determine the grave held a soldier aged 17 to 19, based on the growth patterns of the skull, a right thigh bone and an emerging wisdom tooth. In all, he and others examined 401 bone fragments. The soldier's New York regiment connection was obvious, he said, because five buttons marked with the state excelsior insignia were in the grave.

He said the teenager was a soldier fighting "in a veteran New York regiment that had seen hard campaigning," judging by the replacement of four of the New York buttons with U.S. general service buttons. Potter said the soldier had seen enough fighting to have lost some of his uniform's original buttons and had replaced them with what was available.

Plans call for the soldier's remains, placed in a replica of a Civil War coffin, to be picked up at Antietam battlefield on Sept. 15. That evening the coffin, draped in a 35-star flag, will be displayed at the New York National Guard's Camp Smith Training Site near Peekskill. The next day, it will be taken to the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, where the remains will lie in repose all day.

On the 17th, the soldier with no name will be buried. Part of the honors planned include a 21 gun salute provided by active duty soldiers, veterans from the area and Civil War re-enactors.

By Linda Wheeler  |  September 3, 2009; 5:18 PM ET
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