McLEAN, Va. – Researchers have discovered the remains of two Civil War soldiers buried among a batch of severed limbs on a northern Virginia battlefield.
The National Park Service on Wednesday announced the discoveries at Manassas National Battlefield Park.
The park service says it’s the first time that a surgeon’s pit at a Civil War battlefield has been excavated and studied. The complete remains of two soldiers were found in the pit, along with 11 partial limbs.
Researchers believe the bodies were those of Union soldiers who died in the Second Battle of Bull Run, also known as the Second Battle of Manassas. The battle was fought in August 1862.
Researchers are confident the remains belong to Union soldiers because buttons from a Union jacket were found in the pit. In addition, one of the soldiers had an Enfield bullet lodged in his thigh bone – those bullets were used almost exclusively by Confederate soldiers.
The Enfield bullets also provide a key clue that the pit is from the second Bull Run battle, not the first. Those bullets were not yet in use during the first Bull Run battle, which was the first major battle of the war. The location of the pit also fits with the battle lines from the second battle.
Park Superintendent Brandon Bies called the discovery unprecedented and said it “sheds light on military medicine during the Civil War and personalizes the human price of war.”
He also said the findings “deepen our understanding of the techniques field surgeons used to save the wounded in the midst of battle.”
Amputations were the most common surgery performed during the Civil War. About 50,000 amputations occurred in the Union and Confederate armies combined, according to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland.
The soldiers’ remains will be buried later this year at Arlington National Cemetery, which was established initially as a place to bury the Civil War dead.
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