Early last December, park staff and National Park Service archeologists excavated a recently discovered grave that held the remains of a Union soldier.
In late October, a park visitor dropped off a bag containing some bones at the front desk of the visitor center. The man did not identify himself, nor did he provide the exact location of his find. He mentioned that he was hiking on the north end of the battlefield and was taking a shortcut through a field when he happened upon a freshly dug groundhog hole. The bones had been found in the dirt that had been displaced by the animalâs digging.
Within a few days, rangers located the site believed to be the location where the remains were initially recovered. Other material was collected at that time, including a few more bone fragments, leather pieces and buttons from a Civil War era coat. Photos of the recovered remains were provided to the National Capital Region archeologist. He confirmed that the bones were human; together with the other articles found, he concluded that the site was possibly a previously undiscovered soldierâs battlefield grave.
In early December, battlefield staff and regional archeologists excavated the site in an attempt to determine the extent of the burial. Based on their findings, it appears that the remains are those of a man who was 18 to 21 years old and that he was likely from a New York regiment.
The remains have been sent to the Smithsonian Institute for further analysis. Eventually, the soldier will be reinterred either in the National Cemetery at the Antietam National Battlefield or at a location appropriate to family or military associations, insofar as either can be determined.
Considering the number of New York regiments engaged in that part of the field, coupled with the fact that here are over 1500 unknown burials in the National Cemetery, it is highly unlikely that the identity of this solider will ever be confirmed.