Union Soldier Goes Home to New York
SHARPSBURG, Sept.15 -- The young Union soldier went home to New York this morning with an honor guard and a crowd of about 50 to see him off. The National Park Service pall bearers gently carried the American flag-draped pine coffin from the old caretaker's lodge at the entrance to Antietam National Cemetery to a waiting vehicle.
Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent John Howard, who oversaw the archeological dig that uncovered the bones in December and then planned today's ceremony, said, "We may not know his name but we do know he is going back home to be among family and friends."
The remains are en route to Saratoga National Cemetery, N.Y., where the solider will be buried with full military honors Wednesday morning, as is due a soldier killed in action.
His grave site was found by chance when ground hogs kicked out a jaw bone from a tunnel they were building in one of the farmer's fields where intense fighting took place on Sept. 17, 1863. That led to a full archaeological examination of the site in December which turned up more bone fragments and several coat buttons with the New York state insignia. Experts determined the soldier was between 17 and 19 years old when he died but could not identify him or his regiment.
Howard offered to send the remains to New York officials, who accepted the offer, leading to today's brief transfer ceremony.
Inside the plain, pine replica of a Civil War coffin that was carried from the cemetery grounds this morning was a polished, hinged walnut box that held the actual remains. It was hand-made for the occasion by two park carpenters, Lynn Keener and George Slifer.
As the coffin was slid into the vehicle, Kathi Donatucci of Point of Rocks, Md., stepped forward and placed a small bouquet of fresh flowers next to the coffin. It was tied with a red-white-and-blue stripped ribbon.
"I wrote 'someone's son' on the bow," she said. "Somebody never knew what happened to him."
Near by, visitor center volunteer Elisabeth Creech watched as the motorcade began to pull away.
"He speaks for thousands of unknown solders from the past and the present," she said softly. "He gives us a face for all of those others. He humanizes the war."
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