thought they would overrun the Confederates and return home victorious in short
order. The remains of six, however, did not make it home until yesterday.
The remains were buried at the
“For them, it has been a long journey home,” cemetery director Paul McFarland said at a ceremony that drew 200 people despite steady rain. “The journey started here in
before the first battle of Manassas — a Confederate victory in July 1861 that
surprised President Lincoln — their graves were unmarked and undiscovered until
the early 1990s, when relic hunters came across bones on a site slated for the
construction of a McDonald’s restaurant in Centreville, Va.
Using war records and other clues, including uniform types, they were later identified as members of the 1st Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, although they were buried as “unknown” because DNA testing hasn’t been done.
A fife and
drum band led a hearse carrying the six wooden caskets — each 3 feet long and
covered by an American flag — in a procession through the cemetery, where
40,000 other veterans and their spouses, including
Jerry Casey, 51, said he drove 45 minutes from his
“That poor guy, coming down here by himself, no family,” he said. “I saw this (Union soldiers) on the news and said, ‘I’ll go down there.’ I’m sure these guys don’t have any family.”
Indeed, no descendants have been identified yet, which means there’s no DNA matches to be had, resulting in the “unknown” burials.
McFarland said the remains were tentatively identified as William A. Smart of
“They have names, but they couldn’t match who was who,” he said before the ceremony.
The anonymous burials reportedly didn’t sit well with the Virginians who discovered and researched the remains. But Michael Johnson, a
“It still can be done through a court order, rather than leave them in a box on a shelf,” said Johnson, who attended the ceremony.
Kevin Ambrose, a member of the Northern Virginia Relic Hunters Association, discovered the unmarked graves. The remains later were turned over to the Smithsonian Institution, where they stayed for about a decade.
Another relic hunter, Dalton Rector, a descendant of a Confederate soldier, spent years researching the identities, and eventually teamed with Bellingham resident Frank Haley, a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, to get the remains moved to Massachusetts.
One other Civil War veteran is interred at the
Before yesterday, the most recent burial was Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick J. Gallagher, 27, who died in April in
as Civil War soldiers carry a coffin yesterday during burial ceremonies in
Bourne for the bodies of six Union soldiers who died on a battlefield in