ARLINGTON, Va. – More than 150 years after the USS Monitor sank off North Carolina during the Civil War, two unknown crewmen found in the ironclad’s turret when it was raised a decade ago were buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.
The evening burial, which included a gun salute and a band playing, may be the last time Civil War soldiers are buried at the cemetery overlooking Washington.
Today is a tribute to all the men and women who have gone to sea, but especially to those who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf, said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who spoke at a funeral service before the burial.
The Monitor made nautical history when the Union ship fought the Confederate CSS Virginia in the first battle between two ironclads on March 9, 1862. The battle was a draw.
The Monitor sank about nine months later in rough seas, and 16 sailors died. In 2002, the ship’s rusted turret was raised from the Atlantic Ocean floor, and the skeletons of the two crew members were found inside.
On Friday, the remains of the two men were taken to their gravesite by horse-drawn caissons, one pulled by a team of six black horses and the other pulled by six white horses. White-gloved sailors carried the caskets to their final resting place near the cemetery’s amphitheater. A few men attending the ceremonies wore Civil War uniforms, and there were ladies in long dresses from the time. The ceremony also included Taps, which was written the same year that the Monitor sank and became associated with military funerals as early as the Civil War.
The sailors buried Friday would not have recognized some parts of the graveside service, however. The military band played America the Beautiful, which wasn’t written until three decades after the Monitor sank.