Archive for November 26th, 2009

Revolutionary War skull to get military funeral

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Revolutionary War skull in its burial casketWe can’t know for sure the living possessor of the skull was a Revolutionary War soldier, but given its date, age and location, it seems likely the skull belonged to a Continental Army soldier captured by the British during the Battle of New York in in late 1776.

It was found in Milford, Connecticut, in 1840, when they were laying railroad tracks. The skull was given to the local historical society in 1907 and is now in the hands of State Archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni. He’s bringing it back to Milford for reburial with full honors on Saturday.

Bellantoni, who examined the skull Tuesday, said it was clearly a male’s between age 25 to 35, and his ancestors were from Europe. The skull still had two teeth left.[…]

[Local historical reenactor] William Macmullen said Saturday’s funeral will resemble a military funeral from the Colonial era. Three historic militias will be represented, including the state’s 2nd Company Governor’s Foot Guard. A fife and drum corps will lead the procession from the church to the cemetery, where a canon will be fired. The skull will be placed in a custom-made casket and buried near the Revolutionary War monument.

This may be the first Revolutionary War reburial with full military honors. It’s the first Bellantoni knows of, anyway.

The British dumped 200 prisoners of war in Milford on New Year’s Day 1777 when they were found to have contracted smallpox aboard a prison ship. Forty-six of them died near what is now Milford Cemetery, where the skull was found.

The British kept many prisoners in ships in Wallabout Bay on the Brooklyn shore of the East River. Conditions were opprobrious, needless to say. Over 10,000 people died in the rotting hulks, more than on every Revolutionary War battlefield combined.

The Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park, New York, was erected in memory of the soldiers and sailors who died in misery and squalor on those infamous ships.

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