NY Volunteer Burial
The Pine Casket of the NY Unknown Volunteer, Arriving at the Cemetery and later being carried to the Gravesite.
New York Casualty at Antietam Finally Returns Home (1)
David M. Dziewulski
and Raymond W. LeMay, III, PCC
The New York National Guard, National Park Service, and Veterans Administration worked over the past eleven months to return the remains of a New York Civil War Soldier found at Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland to his home state of New York.. The soldier’s remains – – bone fragments, a belt buckle, pieces of leather and metal buttons (2) were discovered in a familiar area of the Battlefield called “The Cornfield” by a hiker in October 2008. The design of the button, particular to New York State volunteer regiments, helped identify the remains as those of a New Yorker. Over sixty New York infantry regiments participated in the battle and NY regiments were heavily involved in the action, along with other units, at David Miller’s cornfield. Because this soldier was wearing a coat with buttons issued to a New York regiment early in the Civil War, it is likely that this soldier volunteered shortly after the war started in April, 1861. As the war went on, “Federal” uniforms replaced state-specific items of wear.
This soldier, most likely a teenager, was in the middle of the action when the battle began early in the morning of September 17, 1862, as both armies struggled for control of Mr. Miller’s cornfield. He was buried where he fell on the battlefield, said John Howard, Superintendent of the Antietam National Battlefield and Antietam National Cemetery. But when other Soldiers were moved into the National Cemetery near the battlefield, he was overlooked and forgotten for 146 years. His grave was never found because it was very near a rocky outcropping, which prevented plowing in the area. It wasn’t until a ground hog began to excavate a tunnel leading to its burrow that the remains were disturbed and brought to the surface. (3)
(Patriot Guard Riders (including Veterans) standing guard outside of the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, NY
(September 16, 2009) during the public wake for the NY Civil War Unknown Soldier found on the Antietam Battlefield.)
The young soldier’s remains were brought to the New York State Military Museum on Wednesday, September 16, 2009. That day Commander LeMay arrived with Bros. Capstraw (Acting Camp Color Bearer) and Charles “Chuck” Greenfield, PCC. Our group acted as the 1st Receiving Color Guard for the receipt of the casket. It was only a three-man line, but we were grateful to have representation from the SUVCW for this solemn event. Brothers from Willard Camp #154 were also the Second Guard, after the Army, to salute the casket upon arriving at the NYS Military Museum for the wake. The 34-star flag-draped casket containing the remains was in repose for viewing by the public and was guarded by New York Forces Honor Guard and Civil War re-enactors from the 125th NY Infantry until 8 p.m. That evening our camp members conducted the SUVCW Burial-Memorial Service for the NY Volunteer. Participating in the Ceremony that evening were the following Brothers: Camp Council Paul W. Grady, Camp Secretary/Treasurer Thomas J. Capstraw, Camp Sr. Vice Commander Robert Hensel, Camp Patriotic Instructor and Guard Peter Bond, Richard Touchette, Robert Fickies, David Dziewulski, and Camp Commander Raymond LeMay III.
During the period of repose, interest of the public was impressive with a steady stream of people making their way past 10 or more Patriot Guard Riders, each bearing the American Flag, who kept watch along the approach to the museum. Even if only out of curiosity alone, the overall response from the public was positive, respectful and properly subdued. Many stated to Cmdr. LeMay that they were truly moved and some wept. Both inside and outside the museum there were many questions and conversations related to the battle and the amazing chain of events that brought the fallen soldier back home.
Reenactor (left) and New York State Honor Guard (right) standing guard next to the flag-draped coffin of the New York State Soldier returned home from Antietam to be interred on the 147th anniversary of the battle that claimed his young life.
(Above) Reenactor and New York State Honor Guard standing guard next to the flag-draped coffin of the New York State Soldier returned home from Antietam to be interred on the 147th anniversary of the battle that claimed his young life.
(Above and Right) Brothers of G.L. Willard Camp #154 and the 125th NY Volunteer Infantry re-enactors, led by Commander LeMay, about to enter the NY Military Museum for the short SUVCW Burial-Memorial Service during the Wake of the Unknown Civil War Soldier.
(Left) Brothers of Willard Camp Standing for a Group Shot.
The soldier was finally buried at the Gerald B. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery with full military honors on Thursday, September 17, the 147th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. This burial marked the first time that an unknown Soldier has been buried in this National Cemetery that was established in 1999 (4).
(Right) Gerald B.H. Solomon National Cemetery Sign, Saratoga, NY
On the 17th, Willard Camp members arrived along with Bro. Charlie Slater from the Tanner Camp #134. The Camp Guard consisted of Brothers Greenfield, Thomas Capstraw, Robert Fickies, and Department Representatives. Brothers representing the Department of NY included Dept. Jr. Vice Commander Douglas E. Deuel, Dept. Patriotic Instructor Lyman Baker and Thomas Crounse, Commander of the David Ireland Camp #137 of Binghamton, NY
In unity, all fell in with our Camp Guard. Cmdr. LeMay left Bro. Greenfield in command of the Color Guard who proceeded to the grave site and stood guard.
Commander LeMay and Patriot Riders participate in the Funeral Procession, September 17, 2009.
Cmdr. LeMay was asked to take part in the funeral procession along with Maj. General Joseph Taluto, Army National Guard Adjutant General for the State of NY,and a Ulysses S. Grant reenactor, Mr. Larry Clowers of Gettysburg, PA. The procession stopped at Shelter 2 on the cemetery ground for a brief ceremony and then proceeded to the gravesite where Cmdr. LeMay place the Camp wreath and the funeral service was then performed; Willard Camp’s wreath was the only wreath to be placed on the grave. The sentiments of Cmdr. LeMay summed up the feelings of all the SUVCW Camp participants: “I was truly blessed and honored when we paid our respects to such a veteran, known only to our Lord, to call myself a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and to honor him as a Son – – I felt a true kinship”.
1- News facts were compiled from information on the New York Military Museum website, press releases from the Division of Military and Naval Affairs of New York State http://www.dmna.state.ny.us/pressroom/presindx.php? id=1253040053) and from the National Guard http://www.ng.mil/news/archives/2009/09/091809-Honors.aspx,
2- A team of National Park Service archeologists, with forensic analysis provided by the Smithsonian Institution helped determine the nature of the young man’s remains. “(We) recovered 401 fragments from 24 different bones out of a total of 206 in the adult human skeleton,” said Dr. Stephen R. Potter, regional archeologist for the National Park Service, who led the analysis team, “most of them coming from the skull and both legs and feet.”
3- Washington Post, December 28, 2008, accessed on line 09/29/09 at