On Friday, October 12th, Julie Heintz’s University US History, University Western Civilization, and World War II students learned about remote sensing technologies and viewed the field work on a project to attempt to locate unmarked graves of Union soldiers buried in Columbus, Mississippi’s’, Friendship Cemetery during the Civil War. The Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Mississippi employed remote sensing including ground penetrating radar to search for the graves.
Those unmarked Friendship Cemetery graves of up to 10 soldiers and the graves of 32 other Union soldiers whose remains were moved to Corinth National Cemetery in 1867 and of over 2,100 Confederate soldiers were decorated with flowers by Columbus ladies on April 25, 1866. Their act of reconciliation received extensive national praise, inspired the poem “The Blue and the Gray” and was an event that led to the creation of Memorial Day. Their act of compassion was recognized by President Obama in his 2010 Memorial Day Address. The location of these Union soldier’s graves was last referred to in 1919 and all that is now known of their location is that it was in the south west corner of the 1865 cemetery grounds. The location of these soldiers graves indicate they had probably served under General U. S. Grant and had died after the battle of Shiloh in 1862.
Through the use of non-invasive, remote sensing technologies, archaeologists from the University of Mississippi attempted to locate the resting place of these American heroes whose graves played a central role in the origins of Memorial Day.
This was a joint project of, the Center for Archaeological Research, University of Mississippi, the U S Grant Association and U S Grant Presidential Library at Mississippi State University, and the Billups-Garth Foundation of Columbus, with assistance by the City of Columbus and the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau.