The archeologists, Jeff Hanson and Mark Hungerford with the Bureau of Reclamation, spoke with OldWestNewWest.Com about a covert effort that began in 2007 to exhume as many bodies as they could find at the post cemetery after the agency was tipped off to looting that had taken place, possibly even as recent as a few years ago.
"We found many empty coffins, some of which that obviously had been looted," Hanson said. "It looked like it was a nasty process. In some cases they left behind fingers and toes and buttons. They were probably looking for artifacts, but they were also taking human skulls."
Why the team of archeologists can date the looting to as early as 30-plus years ago is because they found a 1970s-era Pepsi can in one coffin, next to where bones, and bits of hair and skin, had been tossed back in. They also found a 1979 diet Seven-Up bottle in another coffin.
According to Hanson and Hungerford, the dig team removed 67 skeletons from the post cemetery. The skeletons were those of 39 men, two women and 26 infants or young children. The men were mostly soldiers. Many were in a mummified state.
"The adult male remains appear to have been Civil War, or Indian Wars soldiers," Hanson said. "We don't think there were any Confederates there. After the battle of Val Verde, the [fallen] Confederate Texans were buried down around there, but [the remains] have never been located. It was clear that where we were digging was a Union cemetery."
According to federal records, there were supposed to be 251 graves at Fort Craig, but Hanson said when you add it all up it doesn't even come close. It's also possible contractors didn't dig deep enough.
"Relative to the battle of Val Verde, bodies were only buried a couple of feet under ground," he said. "Others that we found that were intact were buried four or five feet deep."
The team found the graves of six Buffalo soldiers from 125th infantry, African-American soldiers who were nicknamed Buffalo soldiers by Native Americans.
Fort Craig Cemetery
New Mexico, USA
Maintained by: Sons of Union Veterans o...
Originally Created by: Bev
Record added: Aug 30, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 75730613
Never to be forgotten.|
Added: Aug. 24, 2013
Added: Oct. 20, 2012