WASHINGTON — One hundred and fifty years after their Civil War ironclad sank, two unknown sailors from the Monitor were buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday.
Burial came a year after officials in Washington unveiled forensic reconstructions of the sailors’ faces in an unsuccessful attempt to learn their identities.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the crew members “may very well be the last Navy personnel from the Civil War to be buried at Arlington.”
The skeletal remains were discovered inside the Union warship’s gun turret after it was raised from the ocean floor off the North Carolina coast in 2002. The Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration worked together to resurrect the ship.
The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii failed to identify the sailors. Officials hope a descendant will emerge one day and provide a conclusive DNA match, an NOAA spokesman said.
Burial came on the eve of the 151st anniversary of the fight between the Monitor and the Confederate ship Virginia, also known as the Merrimack, in the Battle of Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862. The 4 1/2-hour duel ended in a draw.
The Monitor sank in a New Year’s Eve storm that year. The 16 sailors who died that day will be memorialized on a group marker in the cemetery.
The shipwreck was discovered in 1974 and designated America’s first national marine sanctuary.