Sunday, May 30, 2004

The remains of six Civil War soldiers, unearthed when Hurricane Isabel struck Virginia last year, were reburied yesterday at Yorktown National Cemetery.

The Union soldiers were reinterred during a ceremony that featured both Union and Confederate re-enactors, who honored the dead with a 21-gun salute and a bugler playing taps.

Each of the six caskets — handmade by members of the 1st Texas Infantry, a local Confederate re-enactment unit — had a Confederate and a Union escort. Women dressed in 19th-century apparel placed flowers on each casket as it left the ceremony for the grave site.

“It was a good opportunity to spend their Memorial Day here,” park Ranger Chris Bryce said of the 300 people who attended the event. “They’re getting to see a real tangible reminder of what people have given to this nation.”

The soldiers were first buried at Yorktown in 1866. They were unidentified, except for Edmund Ackley, 27, who served with the 85th New York Infantry, Mr. Bryce said.

Originally park officials planned to rebury seven soldiers yesterday, but the number was reduced by one after rangers determined that “a very small percentage” of one soldier’s remains was disinterred during the storm.

“We determined that most of him had survived the storm intact,” Mr. Bryce said. Park employees returned the remains to his grave on Wednesday.

“He had his own little ceremony,” he said. “We read a poem and said a prayer over him, and went back to work on the other ones.”

The mid-September hurricane toppled about a dozen trees at the historic site, their root systems tearing open graves as they fell. The park suffered $20 million in damage.

Archaeologists and National Park Service officials removed the exposed remains after the storm and stored them in a collection area used by curators, Mr. Bryce said. The remains were kept there until park repairs were completed.

Yesterday’s ceremony “was a long time coming for a couple of us who were there from the beginning to the end,” he said. “They’re back with their comrades.”

Nearly 2,200 soldiers are buried at the cemetery, and only about 750 of the dead were identified. Only 10 of the soldiers buried at the cemetery were Confederates.

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