71st New York Infantry Returns to the Field 27 Years Later

24 04 2020

SOLDIER’S BONES
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A Grave at Bull Run Desecrated by Veterans.
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THEY WANTED SOUVENIRS
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Members of the Seventy-first Regiment Unearth a Skeleton on a Relic Hunting Expedition – It May Have Been a Comrade.
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New York, July 26 – The Evening World Says: Apparently there’s trouble ahead for the Seventy-first regiment. The bones of a soldier have been removed from their resting place in the battle ground at Bull Run by members of this regiment, and what the consequences will be no one knows just now.

The regiment went to Bull Run last Friday night to celebrate the twenty-seventh anniversary of that famous battle. The members reached Fredericksburg on Saturday and Bull Run on Sunday. They were handsomely entertained by their hosts and enjoyed themselves immensely.

They roamed over the battlefield and discussed the positions and engagements of their regiment on that memorable occasion, and compared notes with their Confederate hosts until Sunday night, when they started home, stopping at Washington on the way. They arrived in New York Tuesday morning. The boys searched over the battlefield for souvenirs, and finding a skeleton of a soldier, sever thought a few of its bones would be more desirable as reminders of that occasion than battered bullets and rusty sabers, so they brought them home.

Surgeon E. T. T. Marsh told a reported about it as follows: About eighteen or twenty members of Company B were walking over the battlefield in search of souvenirs. They came to a little gully about six feet deep which had been washed out by water. On the side of this gully was a little mound which attracted the attention of one of the company. It looked like a grave, and when one of the boys stirred up its surface a skeleton was revealed. The men and knives they opened the grave as best they could.

“The soil is clay and pretty hard, so the men soon gave up trying to take the skeleton out whole. They discovered a piece of blue cloth and a button which proved that the dead man was a Union soldier.

“The men told about their discovery when they joined the rest of the regiment and it was talked over freely. Some thought the poor soldier was one of those of our regiment who was never accounted for.

“Private M. C. O’Brien, a physician, was one of the party that unearthed the skeleton, but I do not know any others. I am certain that the whole skeleton was not taken, but I should not wonder if some of the long bones – those of the arm and the thigh – were carried away. I suppose if I had been there I would have taken a bone, too. I did not see any of the bones, but I heard the boys talk about them.”

Sergt. Bonestiel, of Company K, who is at present on duty at the armory, professed to know nothing about the matter.

When he was told about it he laughed and thought it was a grand joke if the boys secured the bones for trophies.

It was rumored that Governor Lee, of Virginia, had communicated with Governor Hill on the subject, but reporters were unable to see either Governor Hill or his secretary at Albany.

Wilkes-Barre (PA) News, 7/27/1888

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Contributed by John Banks


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2 responses

24 04 2020
LoyaltyOfDogs

Although the soldiers’ actions may seem ghoulish, they might also be viewed in the same vein as religious pilgrims’ traditional regard for relics of the saints. (Just as an aside, as one who appreciates aptonyms, I wonder whether the writer of the article was skeptical that “Sergt. Bonesteil” did not participate in taking any of the bones for trophies.)

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24 04 2020
Harry Smeltzer

LOL.

Liked by 1 person

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