McSoldiers

Shortly before construction began on the Centreville McDonald’s restaurant in early 1997, the unmarked graves of six Civil War soldiers were unearthed on the site.

The astonishing discovery led to an excavation under the direction of forensic anthropologist Doug Owsley of the Smithsonian Institution. Skeletons and historic artifacts from the gravesites were measured, cataloged and removed.

Five years later, a local historian and member of the Northern Virginia Relic Hunters Association — which also participated in the dig — believed he’d unlocked the mystery to the soldiers’ identities. What’s more, he said as many as 10 Civil War soldiers may have actually been buried in that spot.

“They were found in what’s now the drive-through lane for a fast-food place,” said Dalton Rector, who presented his theory at the Centreville fire station to more than 150 people riveted by his every word.

Speaking at the quarterly meeting of the Historic Centreville Society, he said, “I can make a compelling case that they were [Union soldiers] from Massachusetts that died during the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford, halfway between Centreville and Manassas.”

He said a member of his group, Kevin Ambrose, actually discovered one of the graves in 1995, but no one investigated further until Jan. 30, 1997 — day one of the three-day archaeological excavation.

 “Digging human remains is an experience I can’t explain,” said Rector. “My friends and I started debating, right then and there, who they were and where they were from. We thought they were from the early part of the war, so I used March 10, 1862 — the date of the Confederate evacuation of Centreville — as my research cutoff date.”

The research became so fascinating to him that it took up the last five years of his life, and his conclusions — based on forensic evidence, genealogical records and extensive historical data — do seem quite plausible.

“To me, they do,” said newly elected Historic Centreville Society president Spencer Marker. “I was fascinated with what he came up with, and I haven’t heard of anyone else working in this area with these soldiers.”

With the skeletons, also found in the graves, were metal uniform buttons, glass buttons from undergarments, pieces of fabric and even musket balls. And one soldier was still wearing his shoes. Some of the buttons from the state-militia jackets had an “I” on them, signifying “infantry,” and Massachusetts used this type of button for its officers.

The fact that the soldiers had been buried in coffins also provided a clue. “That meant they were buried by their own men,” said Rector. “Therefore, they were in control of Centreville at the time.” He also noted that the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford was fought July 18, 1861 — three days before the Battle of First Manassas, which is considered to be the first battle of the Civil War.

The Smithsonian determined the soldiers’ approximate ages and heights, and Rector took it from there — eventually identifying the men by name, military unit and company. He even learned about their childhoods and family backgrounds.

Companies G and H of the 1st Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment fought in the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford, and Rector obtained a list of those soldiers’ names and ages and discovered how each man died. From 24 names, he painstakingly concluded which ones were in the Centreville graves.

At the time of this battle, he said, “The Confederates were already waiting in Fairfax County for the Union soldiers. Ten were killed in action from the 1st Massachusetts unit and three more were mortally wounded [and died later].”

Company G was the first company on the battlefield, and these soldiers arrived in their jackets. When the 17th Virginia entered, hand-to-hand combat ensued and Company H came in as reinforcements, fighting with their jackets off. These details proved important because the men in graves No. 1, 3 and 6 all had jackets, but the others did not.

After grave 1 was uncovered, the McDonald’s developer cleared away brush from the site to discover the five other graves. A week later, said Rector, a relic hunter found another cluster of buttons — probably from a seventh grave. From his research and the type of buttons, Rector identified this soldier as Ebenezer Field, 27, of Company G.

He noted, as well, that — a week before the dig — Owsley used a steel probe on the site and reportedly stated nine to 10 graves were there. Owsley later denied the remark, but Rector said a relic hunter he’s known for years swore he heard Owsley say it. Rector also determined who these men would be.

The six soldiers’ remains are in boxes in the Smithsonian, and Rector is trying to have DNA testing done to confirm their identities. “I don’t want them buried as unknowns,” he said. “I want them to have the chance to have their identities restored and them returned to their families.”

Afterward, Ron Savage, Historic Centreville Society vice president, said he was pleasantly surprised by how many people attended Rector’s talk and how well received it was. “People sat there mesmerized,” he said. “I was impressed — it was a well-done, professional presentation.”

Savage said residents were truly interested in learning what happened after the dig. “There’s a great thirst for the history in and around Centreville,” he said. “If [Rector’s] hypothesis works out, I think he should put it in a book.”

As for Marker, he hopes to have more such programs in the future, saying, “I think people who

Joke of the Day

Jim, a traveling salesman goes to a hotel late in the night and asks the clerk for a single room.

As the clerk is completing the formalities, Jim looks around and finds a stunning blonde seated in the lobby. He tells the clerk to excuse him for a moment and heads to the lobby. He is back in a minute with the blonde on his arm.

“Fancy running into my wife here,” he tells the clerk. “Guess I’ll need a double room after all.”

Next morning, when Jim comes to settle his bill, he finds the amount to be $4200. “What the hell is this?” he yells at the clerk. “I have been here for just a night!”

“You are right, Sir,” says the clerk, “but your wife has been here for 4 weeks.”

There Be Pirates

Once known as the wickedest city in the world when it was the playground of British buccaneers and explorers in the 17th century, little now remains of Port Royal.

However, a campaign supported by the Jamaican government was launched this week to secure UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) world heritage status for the sunken city to put it firmly back on the map.

Surveys by a team of experts are under way to mark the land and sea boundaries of what is regarded as one of the most important archeological sites in British history as part of the bid to UNESCO.

A seven-mile spit of golden sand arcs around Kingston bay protecting the capital. At the far end lies the small fishing village of Port Royal (of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame), which was once a bustling city and key British outpost in the 1600s.

The port, which boasted a population of 7,000 and was comparable to Boston during the same period, was a playground for buccaneers like Henry Morgan, who docked in search of rum, women and boat repairs.

England seized Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655 under the orders of Oliver Cromwell with the aim of establishing a trading base in the Spanish New World.

Merchants and pirates flocked to the new settlement and Port Royal soon became synonymous for excess. There was one tavern for every 10 residents and boasted a thriving prostitution trade.

The city became known as “the Sodom of the New World”, with contemporary writer Charles Leslie noting in his history of Jamaica of the buccaneers: “Wine and women drained their wealth to such a degree that… some of them became reduced to beggary. They have been known to spend 2 or 3,000 pieces of eight in one night and one gave a strumpet 500 to see her naked.”

However, on June 7, 1692, an earthquake and tsunami decimated the coastline, submerging two-thirds of the city and killing an estimated 2,000 people.

The port remained a key strategic British naval base, but the debauchery was washed away with the tsunami. Fort Charles, where Lord Nelson was once stationed, sank three and a half feet during the earthquake but remains standing to this day.

Despite the village being littered with remnants of British military installations, many of the historic colonial buildings are dilapidated.

The algae-covered remnants of the city are under water in an archaeological preserve closed to divers without a permit.

But in recent decades, underwater excavations have turned up artifacts including cannonballs, wine glasses, ornate pipes, pewter plates and ceramic plates dredged from the muck just offshore. The partial skeleton of a child was found in 1998.

At a press conference on Tuesday, experts said it is among the top British archaeological sites in the Western Hemisphere and should be protected for future generations.

“There is outstanding potential here. Submerged towns like this just do not exist anywhere else in the Americas,” said Robert Grenier, a Canadian underwater archaeologist who has worked closely with UNESCO.

Donny Hamilton, Texas A&M University nautical archaeologist, said the consulting team has completed the fieldwork for the world heritage assessment and is working on a management plan.

Port Royal could become a sustainable attraction for tourists but first “there’s got to be something above the ground that people are going to want to come and see,” Mr Hamilton said.

Jamaican officials and businessmen have announced various strategies to renovate the ramshackle town over the years, including plans for modern cruise liners and a Disney-style theme park featuring actors dressed as pirates.

Some area businessmen have grown exasperated with the slow pace of development.

Attribution: UK Telegraph

Joke of the Day

On a plane bound for New York, the flight attendant approached a blonde sitting in the first class section and requested that she moves to coach since she did not have a first class ticket. The blonde replied, “I’m blonde, I’m beautiful, I’m going to New York, and I’m not moving.” Not wanting to argue with a customer, the flight attendant asked the co-pilot to speak with her.

He went to talk with the woman asking her to please move out of the first class section. Again, the blonde replied, “I’m blonde, I’m beautiful, I’m going to New York, and I’m not moving.”

The co-pilot returned to the cockpit and asked the captain what he should do. The captain said, “I’m married to a blonde, and I know how to handle this.” He went to the first class section and whispered in the blonde’s ear. She immediately jumped up and ran to the coach section mumbling to herself, “Why didn’t anyone just say so?”

Surprised, the flight attendant and the co-pilot asked what he said to her that finally convinced her to move from her seat.

He said, “I told her the first class section wasn’t going to New York.”

Attribution: Karen

Joke of the Day

A woman was six months pregnant with her second child.

Her three year old came into the room when she was just getting ready to get into the shower.

She said, “Mommy, you are getting fat!”

The mother replied, “Yes, honey, remember Mommy has a baby growing in her tummy.”

“I know,” the little girl replied … “but what is growing in your butt?”

Joke du Jour

A pregnant woman gets into a car accident and falls into a deep coma.
Asleep for nearly six months, she wakes up and sees that she is no longer pregnant.

 Frantically, she asks the doctor about her baby.

The doctor replies, “Ma’am, you had twins! A boy and a girl. The babies are fine. Your brother came in and named them.”

The woman thinks to herself, “Oh no, not my brother — he’s an idiot!”

 Expecting the worst, she asks the doctor, “Well, what’s the girl’s name?”

“Denise,” the doctor says.

The new mother thinks, “Wow, that’s not a bad name! Guess I was wrong about my brother. I like Denise!” Then she asks the doctor, “What’s the boy’s name?”

The doctor replies, DeNephew.

Joke of the Day

A highly timid little man, ventured into a biker bar in the Bronx and clearing his throat asked, “Um, err, which of you gentlemen owns the Doberman tied outside to the parking meter?”

A giant of a man, wearing biker leathers, his body hair growing out through the seams, turned slowly on his stool, looked down at the quivering little man and said, “It’s my dog. Why?”

“Well,” squeaked the little man, obviously very nervous, “I believe my dog just killed it, sir.”

“What?” roared the big man in disbelief. “What in the hell kind of dog do you have?”

“Sir,” answered the little man, “it’s a little four week old female puppy.”

“Bull!” roared the biker, “how could your puppy kill my Doberman?”

“It appears that your dog choked on her, sir.”

Go for a Quick Dip

A quick dip in this pool could well turn into a marathon. It’s the Crystal Lagoon at San Alfonso del Mar resort in Chile.

Swimming a length in this, the world’s largest outdoor pool, would mean stroke after stroke for more than three fifths of a mile – that’s 20 Olympic-size swimming pools.

The enormous man-made lagoon is set halfway up the country’s Pacific coast, in the city of Algarrobo, and is filled with 66 million gallons of crystal clear seawater.

It also hold the Guinness record for the world’s deepest – so if you don’t feel like diving 115ft to the bottom, it might be best to bring some spare goggles.

The pool opened in December 2006 after nearly five years of construction work and is said to have set developers back as much as $1.5 billion.

And on top of that eye-watering initial cost, it takes over $3 million a year to keep it in working order.

It uses a computer-controlled suction and filtration system to suck water in from the ocean at one end and pump it out at the other, while the sun warms it to 26C (79F) – nine degrees higher than the sea.

The pool’s incredible dimensions leave the next biggest floundering in its wake, with the Orthlieb in Morocco measuring a mere 1,575ft long.

Attribution: India Times, Mail Online