150 Years Later, Civil War Sailors Laid to Rest

Under the swirling clouds of a blustery March day, two fallen heroes of the Civil War were laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery last week, their identities still a mystery.

The two men were sailors on the USS Monitor, a Civil War icon that sank a century and a half ago in a storm off the coast of North Carolina, claiming the lives of 16 of her crew. Hundreds gathered at Arlington on March 8 to watch as horse-drawn caissons carried their flag-draped caskets to the graveside ceremony, which included a military band and a rifle salute.

The event marked the end of a long journey for the two sailors, whose remains were discovered in the ironclad's turret when it was raised from the seafloor during a joint NOAA-U.S. Navy expedition in 2002. From there, they were transferred to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Hawaii for identification, but the age and condition of the remains have thwarted efforts to determine which of the 16 "lost Monitor boys" now rest in Arlington near memorials to the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia.

Those present at the ceremony — held on the day before the 151st anniversary of the Monitor's famous clash with the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia at the Battle of Hampton Roads — included Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere Kathryn Sullivan, and descendants of USS Monitor crew members. The descendants were also invited to attend a special luncheon earlier in the day hosted by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.

While the identities of the two sailors buried Friday may remain unknown, NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries continues to work with diverse partners to uncover more of the stories surrounding the USS Monitor, and to protect and preserve this irreplaceable piece of our maritime heritage for future generations.

Photos: Matt McIntosh and David Hall, NOAA

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