Soldiers from 1840s war will be reburied
By MICHAEL NEWSOM - mmnewsom @sunherad
Four unknown Mexican-American War soldiers, whose coffins were recently discovered in Jackson County, will be given a full military burial complete with horse-drawn caissons on Memorial Day at Biloxi National Cemetery.
The remains were found beginning in April 2008 on Greenwood Island, which is near Bayou Cassotte in East Pascagoula, when the sand bank had finally worn down enough for coffins to be exposed. The island, which is more accurately described as a peninsula, was set up as a temporary outpost to receive returning soldiers after New Orleans became inundated with them at the end of the war. The new outpost was called Camp Jefferson Davis; it was occupied from June 1848, when there were 1,800 troops there, until November 1849.
The four soldiers will be reburied Monday at Biloxi National, where two other unknowns discovered in 1979 at the Camp Jefferson Davis site were reburied. For the service, the Ocean Springs Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter built four replica coffins to replace the originals, which had been heavily weathered. Horse-drawn caissons, something rarely seen in modern times, will escort the four flag-draped caskets. The flags will contain 29 stars, just as they would have in 1848.
AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD The remains of four unknown U.S. soldiers rest in freshly made coffins draped with U.S. flags bearing 29 stars at the GI Museum in Ocean Springs on Friday, May 28 2010. The soldiers, recently found on Greenwood Island in Jackson County, are from the Mexican-American War and will be reinterred at the Biloxi National Cemetery.
Gallery:Soldiers from 1840s war will be reburied
The soldiers' burial at 9:30 a.m. is expected to draw a larger-than-normal crowd at the cemetery's annual Memorial Day remembrance, Biloxi National Cemetery director Gregory Lee said.
The efforts of the unknowns, as well as of all U.S. troops, deserve to be honored, Lee said.
"No matter when they served and where, they are not forgotten," he said.
The Mexican-American War was partly driven by the U.S. desire to expand westward to the Pacific Ocean, because at the time Mexico controlled much of the territory that is now the southwestern United States. Manifest destiny, or the belief it was the "will of God" for the U.S. to expand, helped fuel support for the war. Detractors called the war a land grab.
War on Mexico was declared in May 1846. By its end, 13,000 U.S. troops and 25,000 Mexican troops had died, most from diseases rather than combat wounds. After the war ended in 1848, the United States gained half of Mexico's territory.
Some 160 years later, when the remains at Greenwood Island began to surface in 2008, the University of Southern Mississippi's anthropology and sociology department was called in to dig at the site and analyze the remains.
USM anthropology professor Marie Danforth said the analysis led researchers to surmise the men likely died of diseases such as malaria or yellow fever, just as many of their fellow soldiers did. Only one of the soldiers had any sign of trauma — a single piece of shrapnel on his collarbone. Buttons found on the soldiers' remains helped with identification. Researchers believe the four were between the ages of 18 and 30 when they died
"Our Unknown Dead of 1848"
Unknown Soldier 01.
Unknown Soldier 02.
Unknown Soldier 06.
Unknown Soldier 05.
Unknown Soldier 04.
Unknown Soldier 03.
Biloxi National Cemetery
Plot: DD 27
Created by: Ann Nash
Record added: May 19, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 52565985