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Transfer of Soldier's Remains On Tuesday

The remains of the young Union solider exhumed at Antietam battlefield in December, will be transferred to New York officials during a brief ceremony at Antietam National Cemetery Lodge on Tuesday at 9 a.m. The collection of bones and uniform buttons, confirmed to belong to a soldier of a New York unit, will leave Maryland in a hand-made walnut box constructed by two National Park Service employees.

The remains, discovered by a park visitor in October and exhumed in December by park archaeologists, will be taken to Saratoga National Cemetery for burial with full military honors. That ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 17 at 10 a.m.


Both ceremonies are open to the public.

Those who come to the ceremony in Sharpsburg may see the lovely, walnut box made by carpenters Lynn Keener and George Slifer. The rich brown, hinged box measures 12 by 12 by 16 inches on the inside and was made from wood of a downed tree on the Samuel Mumma farm, a part of the national battlefield park.

"We needed something pretty," Keener said. "We don't get bones everyday."

The dove-tailed box was made with modern equipment available in the maintenance shop and finished with several coats of varnish. Inside, it is lined with a thick pad of felt that may be covered with a decorative fabric.


Slifer, 72, thought it was appropriate he and Keener were asked to make the box because they are both military veterans. Slifer served in Korea between 1953 and 1958. Keener, 60, served during the Cold War period, from 1969 to 1971.

Keener will be one of the pall bearers on Tuesday.

The soldier, whose remains were found in a field of the Miller farm, was examined by the Smithsonian Institution and determined to be between 17 and 19 years old. He was buried in the field shortly after the battle ended, next to an outcropping of stone. He was missed when a reburial crew came through the field in 1866 to transfer the bodies to the national cemetery that opened in 1867.

The stone formed a shield that protected the grave site from farmers' plows for 146 years. The soldier might still have been buried there if ground hogs hadn't dug tunnels through the area and kicked several bones out of their way. A visitor found a jaw and a few other pieces of bone and took them to the visitors' center, launching an investigation by park staff.

The soldier, whose name will probably never be known due to the few clues to his identity, died during the most horrific one-day battle of the Civil War when an estimated 22,720 men from both sides were killed, injured or missing on Sept. 17, 1862.

By Linda Wheeler  |  September 13, 2009; 7:02 PM ET
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