The Military Monument stands in the Frankfort Cemetery on a high point called the "State Mound." It was commissioned by the Kentucky State Legislature in 1848 to honor Kentucky veterans of all wars. The first soldiers buried there lost their lives during the Battle of Buena Vista in the Mexican-American War in 1847. Veterans of this conflict were further memorialized in Theodore O’Hara’s poem "Bivouac of the Dead."
During the 1980s, brick and concrete walkways were mistakenly laid over the graves of five Mexican-American War veterans: Henry Edwards, Yves J. Thoreau, W.C. Green, Ed F. Hogg, and C.W. Gilmore. When Historic Properties learned of this, the agency worked with other state agencies to relocate the men.
The relocation of these veterans' remains offered forensic anthropologists and archaeologists a unique opportunity to study nineteenth-century military burial practices.
Three of the five men died during the Battle of Buena Vista (Edwards and Thoreau) or during the occupation of Mexico (Green). Hogg survived the Mexican campaign, but died in the Civil War. Gilmore lived into his sixties and died of natural causes.
Those who died in Mexico were brought back to Kentucky in some of the earliest cast iron coffins used in the Commonwealth. All of them had viewing plates (glass plates built into the coffin for viewing the body). Gilmore’s association with the Masons was reflected in his coffin's hardware.
Investigators documented changes in military uniform manufacture. Earlier uniforms were hand-made, while later uniforms were machine-made and exhibited greater button standardization. Gilmore’s relatively high social and economic status was reflected in the quality of the clothing he wore when he was interred and the recovery of a gold-gilded button from his coffin.
Analysis of the human skeletal remains indicated that several of the soldiers led hard lives that involved much manual labor. Some suffered nutritional stress during their lives. They may have joined the military to better their lives.
A Charcoal-filled Coffin
W.C. Green (ca. 1825-1847) survived the Battle of Buena Vista but was assassinated shortly after the conflict ended. Green’s burial was unique in that his body was shipped back to Kentucky in a coffin filled with charcoal.
The charcoal may have been used to absorb odor and fluids from the decomposing body. Using charcoal in this way reflected some of the problems associated with transporting bodies over long distances in the mid-nineteenth century.
Keep the Search Alive!
Learn more about the ROBOT INSERT TIME PERIOD HERE.