A Skeleton Found at Vicksburg

The Vicksburg Campaign cost thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers their lives, and lonely graves lay scattered over the countryside. Very little care or attention was paid to these graves while the war still raged, but after the conflict ended, most of them found new places for their eternal rest. Union soldiers were interred in the Vicksburg National Cemetery, and Confederate soldiers at Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Given the crude nature of most of the original graves, it should not come as a surprise that some of the bodies were missed by the teams of  diggers charged with finding and transporting the remains to their respective cemeteries. This is the story of one soldier who was missed; he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and lay in a forgotten grave for over 70 years. The Vicksburg Evening Post related the story on December 14, 1933:


Doing Erosion Control Work When Discovery was Made

The skeleton of an unknown Union soldier was discovered in the National Military Park Thursday morning by Robert Bradley, of Inverness, Miss., a C.C.C. camp boy in the J.W. Collier camp. Bradley, along with a squad of other boys, was doing erosion control work near the Baldwin Ferry Road, just to the rear of the camp. 

Bradley, using a pick, struck something. He immediately withdrew his pick and reported

the incident to S.S. Mitchell, foreman. An investigation was made and as the dirt was

Headline from the Vicksburg Evening Post, December 14, 1933
Headline from the Vicksburg Evening Post, December 14, 1933

removed the skeleton was unearthed. The spot on which the skeleton was found was on a hillside, which would indicate the soldier was killed in action and then removed to back behind the lines for burial.

Bits of the blue uniform, showing he was a Union soldier, were taken from the grave, along with some buttons. These were seen by a Post representative who visited the scene yesterday. Bradley’s pick was said to have struck the skull of the skeleton, breaking it, and in the removing of the remains from the grave, where they had remained for seventy years, the bones were disarranged. However, these were partly placed together, which showed the soldier must have been about six feet tall, and was an adult.

The soldier was believed to have been a member of General A.J. Smith’s division, in operation against the Texas Lunette. The remains were taken in charge by Stuart Cuthbertson, park historian, will be interred in the National Cemetery. Photographs of the spot where the skeleton was found, and other details in connection with the unearthing of same, were made by the camp photographer, and these will accompany Major Heider’s report to headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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