Auction of Civil War soldier's skull canceled after protests

Two rows of dead Confederate soldiers are gathered for burial at the southwestern edge of the Rose Woods in Gettysburg, July 5, 1863. Timothy H. O'Sullivan/Library of Congress

GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- The planned auction of a skull found at Gettysburg that purportedly was that of a Civil War soldier has been canceled following protests, and officials say the remains have instead been donated by the auction company for burial with honors.

Estate Auction Co. of Hershey had listed the skull for sale at auction Tuesday in Hagerstown, Maryland, drawing protests from the U.S. National Park Service in Gettysburg and others.

The listing was removed from a public auction website and replaced by a statement saying the auction company was donating the skull to the Park Service. "At the auction company's request, it remains as part of the catalog due to its historical value," the statement said.

Gettysburg National Military Park and the nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation said Tuesday in a news release that the remains had been donated to the foundation late Monday. After they are authenticated, they will be donated to the park "for interment with full military honors in the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg," the announcement said.

The park and foundation said auction organizers had been "overwhelmed" by "an unprecedented outcry from concerned citizens."

Auctioneer Tom Taylor told WHAG that he believed "like the National Park Service told me, it should have a proper burial."

Gettysburg National Military Park superintendent Ed Clark said in a statement that officials were grateful for the opportunity "to honor what is very likely an American veteran and have his final resting place recognized."

The auction site said the remains were found in 1949 as a garden was being tilled on the Benner Farm in Gettysburg. Notarized and handwritten documents said the remains, along with 13 other artifacts, were found two miles north of a barn used as a field hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg, Taylor said.

Gettysburg park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said there are two Benner Farms in Gettysburg, and one was known to be a hospital during the war. She told the York Daily Record that in her two decades of working in Gettysburg, she had never heard of a soldier's remains being offered for sale.

Roughly 50,000 soldiers died at the Battle of Gettysburg, making it the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.

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