Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

U.S. Army Declines Request for DNA Test on Manassas Remains

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on November 4, 2018


Members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment carry the remains of two unknown Civil War soldiers to their grave at Arlington National Cemetery on Sept. 6. Associated Press/Cliff Owen

Earlier this year, it was announced that two complete sets of remains had been recovered from what was believed to have been a U.S. field hospital used during the Battle of Second Manassas. Paul Davis knew that a relative of his, a color sergeant in the Second Wisconsin Infantry Regiment of the Iron Brigade, had died under similar circumstances, and petitioned the Army to have a DNA profile run on the remains in hopes of identifying them. Several other families did, as well. The Army refused, saying in carefully-worded, anodyne phrasing that it wasn’t worth the expense:

The Army made the decision that the costs associated with obtaining, storing, and testing of the DNA from these two Unknown U.S. Soldiers was not justified due to the significant passage of time as the possibility of identifying comparator DNA is extremely unlikely.

Even if the prospect of finding a match between this solider and someone living in 2018 is slim, this response from the Army strikes me as a terribly tone-deaf, especially for a nation that makes much of the principle of “no man left behind.” Yes, the costs associated with DNA testing can be substantial, but they pale in comparison to the multi-billion-dollar boondoggles the U.S. government (including the Pentagon) pour money into every day. Remember that the United States has an entire laboratory established to do exactly this kind of work; they’re professionals at doing it. It’s also worth noting that the Navy, not very long ago, went to great lengths, including DNA testing and facial reconstruction, to identify the remains of the two sailors recovered from the turret of USS Monitor.

With these unidentified remains now interred at Arlington, it seems unlikely that Paul Davis and the other families will ever have a chance to find out if, in fact, the remains recovered at Manassas are related to them. That’s a shame, but perhaps they’ll get enough criticism about this case they they will respond differently when the next case comes along.

___________

H/t Robert Moore and Phil Gast.

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2 Responses

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  1. OhioGuy said, on November 4, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    Makes me proud to be a US Navy veteran! 😉

  2. Adrienne Morris said, on November 6, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Reblogged this on Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained-Author Adrienne Morris and commented:
    Earlier this year, it was announced that two complete sets of remains had been recovered from what was believed to have been a U.S. field hospital used during the Battle of Second Manassas.


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