A planned auction of a Civil War soldier’s skull found at the Gettysburg battlefield has been cancelled, according to the Daily Mail on June 3. Outrage from the National Park Service and the public has caused the auction house to donate the skull to be buried with military honors.
The skull is thought to be from a soldier who died at the battle of Gettysburg, which took place 150 years ago last July. The skull was actually found by a gardener in 1949 on the Benner Farm in Gettysburg. The farm is two miles north of a building that was used as a field hospital during the battle. Thirteen other artifacts were found with the skull.
Originally, the Estate Auction Co. of Hershey, Pa. had the skull listed for auction in Hagerstown, Md. However, a recent news release stated that the skull had been donated to the Gettysburg Foundation. It will be authenticated and delivered to the park “for interment with full military honors in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg.”
A spokesperson for Gettysburg National Park, Katie Lawhon, said that in two decades of working in Gettysburg she had never heard of a sodlier’s remains being offered for sale. She had previously called reports of the sale “very unfortunate.”
"I can't think of anything more grotesque or disrespectful than auctioning off the remains of a soldier who may have been one of those, as Lincoln put it, who gave their lives that the nation might live. The skull belongs in the Gettysburg Soldiers Cemetery, not on the auction block. I have nothing against passionate collecting. But this is desecration," Harold Holzer, an author and expert on President Lincoln, told The Washington Post in an email.
The battle which took place at Gettysburg from July 1 to July 3, 1863 claimed more lives than any other battle in American history. The Union and Confederacy combined lost 8,000 men and there were more than 46,000 soldiers wounded. It is, however, considered to be the battle which turned the war for the Union. Still, the conflict raged on for two more bloody years.