The skull of a Civil War soldier has been pulled from auction amid mounting criticism from a number of interest groups, including the National Park Service. The macabre lot was identified as the human remains of an unknown soldier who died at the Battle of Gettysburg. It was found in 1949 among several other Civil War artifacts by a private citizen who was tilling a garden on private property near Benner Farm in Pennsylvania. The skull was recently set up for auction and expected to sell for anywhere between $50,000 and $250,000. However, the true value of the remains will never be known, as the bones were removed from auction and turned over to the Gettysburg National Military Park for a full burial at the Soldier's National Cemetery.
A relic of history
The Battle of Gettysburg is regarded as one of the most significant battles of the Civil War. Occurring over three days in 1863, the fighting was immortalized by the address given by President Abraham Lincoln to consecrate the battlefield and burial grounds. The "Gettysburg Address" remains one of Lincoln's most well-known speeches, despite only having been a few minutes in length. In that address, the president consecrated the battlegrounds as, "a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live." It is in this spirit that many notable historians, as well as government and citizens groups, have spoken out against the proposed sale of the soldier's skull. Opponents of the auction argued that, unlike other pieces of Civil War memorabilia, any human remains related to the war are not proper objects for auction.
Shutting down the sale
The planned auction was set to take place at the Best Western Grand Venice Hotel in Hagerstown, Maryland. However, the auction company responsible for the event agreed that the lot deserved to be included along with the remains of other unidentified soldiers. However, the lot will remain on display during the event, which will auction off 13 other Civil War artifacts. The available lots include a breastplate found near the body that comes from a Louisiana branch of the Confederate Army. All these lots were found in an area that was just a few miles away from a hospital outpost during the battle.
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