Archaeology Researchers Searching for Civil War Graves in Columbus

Public invited to observe search for resting places of soldiers

A search using ground-penetrating radar will attempt to locate the lost graves of Union soldiers. Photo courtesy of Tony Boudreaux

OXFORD, Miss. – This weekend (Oct. 12-13), representatives of the Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Mississippi will be at Friendship Cemetery in Columbus as part of an effort to locate the unmarked graves of Union soldiers who died during the Civil War.

On Friday (Oct. 12), classes of students are invited to observe the search that will be led by Tony Boudreaux, director of the UM center. Classes are welcome to visit the cemetery between 9 a.m. and noon, and from 1:30 to 4 p.m. to watch and learn about the archaeological technology used in the search.

On Saturday (Oct. 13), the public is invited to the cemetery, also between 9 a.m. and noon and 1:30-4 p.m., to learn about the use of noninvasive technology during a day of public archaeology.

All that is known of the soldiers’ location is that they are in the southwest corner of the cemetery grounds, according to information that dates to 1919. The soldiers probably fought under the command of Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and died after the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, in 1862.

Visitors who come by this weekend to watch the efforts will have an opportunity to learn about the technology being used to find the graves, Boudreaux said.

The Ole Miss team will use different kinds of noninvasive, remote sensing technology, chiefly ground-penetrating radar, to send electronic pulses up to 20 feet into the ground. The pulses are used to generate images of what the area beneath soil looks like.

The team also will use a magnetometer, which can pick up localized differences in underground magnetic fields. 

Other organizations involved in the project include the U.S. Grant Association and the U.S. Grant Presidential Library at Mississippi State University, the Billups-Garth Foundation of Columbus, with assistance by the city of Columbus and the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“If we can hopefully get some results that will be important to people of Columbus and people of Mississippi, I’ll enjoy that,” Boudreaux said. “And if we get folks that show up because they’re interested in history and archaeology, it’s always good to share what we know in our profession with others who are interested.”

To schedule a time for a class to visit the project and observe the remote sensing technology, contact Visit Columbus at 662-329-1191.