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Unknown Graves Uncovered At Vicksburg National Cemetery

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 27 Jan 2011 03:34pm | comments
Drew Wise pushes a radar cart

An investigation is underway at one of the oldest military cemeteries in the country. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports on an unexpected discovery at Vicksburg National Cemetery.

Officials at Vicksburg National Cemetery are trying to determine how many veterans lay in unmarked and previously unknown graves after they found two caskets they didn't know were there.

Cemetery superintendent Mike Madell says the search started when they prepared to bury a World War Two veteran and found the caskets in what appeared to be an open plot.

"Well immediately many questions pop to mind. The typical ones: why, how, excreta. It was surprising, it was disappoint. As we have tried to research it and find answer it has been frustrating," Madell said.

Madell says they have not been able to figure out who the graves belong to or what happened to burial records.

Vicksburg National Cemetery home to more than 18-thousand veterans, mostly from the civil war, but also from wars as recent as the Korean War.

Crews from the National Park Service’s Southeast Archeological Center have meticulously mapped two acres of the cemetery and scanned it with radar. Drew Wise is one of the technicians who is pushing a two wheel cart with a small orange radar box on front.

"It is heavy and it doesn't particularly like the clover. This antenna has to be pushed across the ground and so the thicker the grass is, the thicker the ground cover, the harder it is to push," Wise said.

Early results of the search have turned up at least 8 previously unknown graves, and officials expected to find dozens more by the time the search is finished this spring.

David Morgan from Archeological Center says it is not uncommon for graves to disappear in a cemetery and scanning the earth with radar is a non-invasive way to look for more graves.

"Because, of course, they want to show due respect and reverence to, in this case, the fallen soldiers. And they really don't want to have to start digging to try and identify where unmarked graves might be," Morgan said.

Cemetery officials say they didn't know about the graves because of poor book keeping or because the small head stones sank into the ground.

There are still about 50 reservations left at the cemetery which closed in 1961. Those veterans will still be buried at Vicksburg but in a different section if their plot is already occupied.

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Drew Wise pushes a radar cart


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