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Archaeologists protect soldier’s remains in National Cemetery

Archaeologists from the National Park Service’s Southeast Archeological Center (SEAC) are recovering the remains of Civil War soldiers from the collapsed section of the Vicksburg National Cemetery.

The remains will be removed from graves that were part of the collapse or that are in an unstable area. Approximately 15 burials will be affected.

According to a release from the Vicksburg National Military Park, each set of remains will be carefully removed and stored to ensure that the remains of each soldier are kept together. DNA testing may be required to ensure that each soldier’s remains are identified. The identity of the soldiers is unknown.

“This is among the most important work that we do,” archaeologist Dawn Lawrence said. “These soldiers served and died for their country and they deserve our respect for their sacrifice.”

The archeologists worked with public health and safety specialists to create procedures they are using to prevent the spread of and protect themselves from the COVID-19 virus. The procedures follow the Center for Disease and Control Prevention and public health guidelines.

For example, each of the SEAC crew members volunteered for this assignment and self-quarantined for five days before starting their drive to Vicksburg from Tallahassee, Fla.

“I am deeply grateful to these women and men for being willing to take on this important work, especially now,” Vicksburg National Military Park Superintendent Bill Justice said. “The collapse of the Cemetery Road in February created tremendous challenges. None are more important than protecting the remains of those who fell in the service of our country. These archeologists stepped forward to ensure that happens. They are a special group.”

The soldiers’ remains will be reinterred in the Vicksburg National Cemetery.