Located on the State Mound in Frankfort, the Military Monument was commissioned by the Kentucky State Legislature in 1848 to honor Kentucky veterans of all wars. The first soldiers to be buried on the mound lost their lives during the Battle of Buena Vista in the war against Mexico in 1847. Veterans of this conflict were further memorialized in Theodore O’Hara’s poem Bivouac of the Dead.
During the 1980s, brick and concrete walkways were mistakenly laid over the graves of five veterans. When this information was brought to the attention of Historic Properties, the agency worked with other state agencies to relocate the five honored veterans: Henry Edwards, Yves J. Thoreau, W.C. Green, Ed F. Hogg and C.W. Gilmore.
The relocation of these veterans offered a unique opportunity for forensic anthropologists and archaeologists to study 19th century military burial practices.
Three of the five individuals who were examined died during the Battle of Buean Vista (Edwards and Thoreau) or during the occupation (Green ). Hogg survived the Mexico campaign, but died in the Civil War. Gilmore lived into his sixties and died of natural causes.
Those that died in Mexico were brought back to Kentucky in some of the earliest cast iron coffins used in Kentucky. Green’s body had been packed in wood charcoal for the trip from Mexico to Frankfort. All of the coffins had viewing plates and Gilmore’s association with the Mason’s was reflected in his coffin hardware.
Changes in the manufacture of military uniforms was documented with earlier uniforms being hand made and later uniforms being machine made and exhibiting greater standardization of buttons. Gilmore’s association with the Mason’s was reflected in his coffin hardware, and his relative high social and economic status was reflected in the quality of the clothing he was interred in and the recovery of a gold-gilded button.
Analysis of the human skeletal remains indicated that several of the soldiers had led hard lives that involved a great deal of manual labor. Some were found to have suffered nutritional stress during the course of their lives and they may have joined the military to better their lives.
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