Gettysburg is the home of a burial site that holds the remains of thousands of soldiers who gave their lives during the Civil War, and many of those men died with no name given. They’re at rest in the Gettysburg National Military Park, however, and that honor wasn’t bestowed upon one suspected soldier whose skull was found on a farm near Gettysburg. Now, rather than see the remains sold at auction along with other Civil War memorabilia, the Gettysburg Foundation will authenticate them and have them buried with full honors.
The skull–along with other artifacts from that time–was unearthed in 1949 on a farm belonging to Josiah Benner, which had once been the site of a Confederate field hospital. They were donated to the Gettysburg Foundation by an unnamed collector, and an auction had been planned in Maryland for the remains. However, the question of whether or not it was appropriate to sell human remains arose, and the decision was made to cancel the auction.
“We are extremely grateful to the owners of the collection for making this decision, and to Tom Taylor, the auctioneer, for helping make it happen. It truly was the right decision to return these remains to Gettysburg, providing the integrity and dignity this veteran deserves,” Foundation President Joanne Hanley said in a statement.
Once news got around that there was an auction planned, the Gettysburg Foundation says they were “overwhelmed” by “an unprecedented outcry from concerned citizens.” While Civil War artifacts are in high demand at auction, it’s rare for human remains to be offered up for sale, and the idea of an auction was seen as a “spectacle” by some.
“Our goal is to respect the memory of those who fought and died here. These human remains should be buried with honors in the Soldier’s National Cemetery,” said Katie Lawhon, spokeswoman with the Gettysburg National Military Park.
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