Unknown But No Longer Unmarked

Editor's Note – In the summer of 2012, Ansley Wegner, a historian with our Research Branch, wrote a series of blog posts highlighting various historical destinations around the state. This is the third post in that series. You can see all Wegner's posts on this page.

“A Day in the Life of a Civil War Soldier” continues to be offered each June.

An 1895 photograph of the Goldsboro Rifles Monument that showed wooden grave markers led archaeologists to revise their search parametersOld photographs are amazing – and I’m not talking about pictures of your first day of school or of the dreaded 1980s prom dress. I mean really old photographs – ones that convey details that have been otherwise lost to time.

For many years people knew that there were Confederate soldiers buried somewhere near the Harper House at Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site. After the battle in 1865, about 20 wounded soldiers who could not be moved were left behind in the care of the family.

As part of the History Channel’s “Save Our History” program, a cooperative effort between the Office of State Archaeology and Wake Forest University Archaeology Laboratories was launched in 2007 to try to locate their graves. Ground penetrating radar (GPR) was tried a number of times, without results. But, in 2008 an old photograph was discovered—one that had been taken at the dedication of the 1895 Goldsboro Rifles Monument. It showed about 20 wooden grave markers and their general location could be distinguished.

Learn More About Our State's Archaeology Program

The Goldsboro Rifles Monument todayUsing the photograph, archaeologists revised their GPR search parameters and discovered what are called “subsurface anomalies.” The electronic signatures suggested the presence of graves. These areas were carefully hand excavated, and they were indeed graves. Last year, the Harper House/Bentonville Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy donated official Confederate headstones to mark the graves of the unknown soldiers.

On Saturday, June 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site will hold a 2nd Saturdays event called “A Day in the Life of a Civil War Soldier.”  If you visit, you can see the graves of those unknown Confederate soldiers whose day has come again. 

Discover All You'll Find at Bentonville Battlefield

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