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Old 05-29-2012, 08:28 AM
 
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Yesterday i was watching the History Channel mini series ''The American Revolution War'' narrated by Edward Hermann and so i got to pondering as to what happened to the vast majority of Great Britain's war dead during the eight year conflict including it's German Hessian allies who died fighting in the colonies as well. Wikipedia lists approximately 40,000 British soldiers and sailors KIA along with some 7,500 Hessians KIA and so my questions is that with the exception of British killed up in Canada and out to sea just where did the majority of them wind up buried at?

For example where the british won battles (Long Island, Brandywine, Charleston etc.) logistically they would have controlled the local scene as i'm assuming that they would've transported them to coffin ships for transport out of America however it was a 3 week journey across the atlantic ocean back then and so wouldn't the decaying bodies (stench) made it unbearable for the ships crews to perform that task? Did they instead decide to bury many up in British Canada (Nova Scotia, Ontario) as it would have been a quicker route? On the other side of the spector where the British lost at battles (Saratoga, Cowpens etc) i'm going to assume then that the local colonial citizenry went ahead and buried the dead British soldiers close by where they felled?

So are there any large British Revolutionary War cemetaries in Great Britain, Canada or even here in America?
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Old 05-29-2012, 09:28 AM
 
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Footnote: as i just looked up some of the British Generals killed in the War of 1812 since believe there were more High Command Generals killed in that war and so for example it states that General Pakenham who was killed at Battle of New Orleans was transported back to Ireland for buriel however it stated that his coffin was filled with rum ..... and so is that bottles of rum or was he submerged ''in'' rum?

So then maybe just the officers were transported back to Great Britain and the enlisted were not?
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Old 05-29-2012, 09:55 AM
 
Location: the Beaver State
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Rum was frequently used as an preservation fluid for dead bodies in those days. I doubt enlisted men were treated that way though.
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Old 05-29-2012, 10:14 AM
 
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That's a very specific question. I can only tell you the practice during those times was to bury the war dead as quick as possible after the battle had ended, usually in mass trenches. Officers and "gentlemen" would be treated differently as an exception and rarely be buried with the troops, as in the case you mentioned.

In some cases on home soil (i.e. American soldiers) the bodies would be dug up from the trenches months later and reburryied in some kind of orderly and ceromonial fashion in a designated cemetary. Now that would be a gouish task. This is the case for many of the civil war cemetaries.
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Old 05-29-2012, 11:03 AM
 
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The dead were generally buried in the most expedient way possible. In cases where they were near a town that had a formal graveyard, that would be used. For instance in the "Central Burying Ground" in Boston (next to "The Commons"), one corner of the cemetery is filled with the British dead from the Battle of Bunker Hill and those that died during the siege/occupation.

If there was no formal ground available then the bodies were just burried in mass graves right on the battlefield. If there had been trenches used in the battle, many times these just became repurposed for that task. Again, in Charlestown, MA there are now homes and gardens built on top of the battlefield and many remains have been identified as being literally buried under what are now homes and backyard gardens. The trenches that existed for the defense of the hill became re-used as mass graves for the dead from the battle, both British and American as remains of both have been found.

Going back to Bunker Hill again, we have the case of Asa Pollard, a young private in the colonial militia who was killed by cannon fire in the prelude to the attack. Col. Prescott ordered him buried "quickly and discreetly" behind the lines so as not to scare the other men. However, it quickly turned into a full blown funeral service, but young Mr. Pollard was in fact buried right on the battlefield.

Officers would have of course been given a different level of accomodation. They were generally buried in separate and marked graves, while any enlisted were just thrown in a mass grave. Officers of note and from wealthy families may have had their bodies returned to their families. For this purpose is where you get the "body in rum". The rum preserved the body and kept the stink at bay while they were on the trip back home.

So, where are the British and Hessian dead buried? Everywhere. Another example I can pull from locally are the Hessians that were attacked in Trenton after Washington "Crossed the Delaware". Colonel Johann Rall who was the commander of the Hessian forces is buried in the cemetery of the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton in a marked grave. Many of his troops are buried in cemeteries throughout Trenton in marked, mass graves.
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Old 05-29-2012, 11:30 AM
 
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Just a further footnote - sailor's would be burried at sea during the age of sail. Usually sewed up in their cloth hammock with a 6 pound shot enclosed and then dumped overboard with a short ceromony after a battle has ended (although note that most deaths, as in land warfare, occured due to disease or accidents during this age). In time of heavy action however bodies could also unceromiously be dumped overboard during battle just to keep the deck clear.
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Old 05-29-2012, 02:26 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hamellr View Post
Rum was frequently used as an preservation fluid for dead bodies in those days. I doubt enlisted men were treated that way though.
Ah that explains why they did that then.
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Old 05-29-2012, 02:27 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dd714 View Post
That's a very specific question. I can only tell you the practice during those times was to bury the war dead as quick as possible after the battle had ended, usually in mass trenches. Officers and "gentlemen" would be treated differently as an exception and rarely be buried with the troops, as in the case you mentioned.

In some cases on home soil (i.e. American soldiers) the bodies would be dug up from the trenches months later and reburryied in some kind of orderly and ceromonial fashion in a designated cemetary. Now that would be a gouish task. This is the case for many of the civil war cemetaries.
So possibly to this day there are many British soldiers buried in unmarked mass graves is what your thinking then?
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Old 05-29-2012, 02:37 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJGOAT View Post
The dead were generally buried in the most expedient way possible. In cases where they were near a town that had a formal graveyard, that would be used. For instance in the "Central Burying Ground" in Boston (next to "The Commons"), one corner of the cemetery is filled with the British dead from the Battle of Bunker Hill and those that died during the siege/occupation.

If there was no formal ground available then the bodies were just burried in mass graves right on the battlefield. If there had been trenches used in the battle, many times these just became repurposed for that task. Again, in Charlestown, MA there are now homes and gardens built on top of the battlefield and many remains have been identified as being literally buried under what are now homes and backyard gardens. The trenches that existed for the defense of the hill became re-used as mass graves for the dead from the battle, both British and American as remains of both have been found.

Going back to Bunker Hill again, we have the case of Asa Pollard, a young private in the colonial militia who was killed by cannon fire in the prelude to the attack. Col. Prescott ordered him buried "quickly and discreetly" behind the lines so as not to scare the other men. However, it quickly turned into a full blown funeral service, but young Mr. Pollard was in fact buried right on the battlefield.

Officers would have of course been given a different level of accomodation. They were generally buried in separate and marked graves, while any enlisted were just thrown in a mass grave. Officers of note and from wealthy families may have had their bodies returned to their families. For this purpose is where you get the "body in rum". The rum preserved the body and kept the stink at bay while they were on the trip back home.

So, where are the British and Hessian dead buried? Everywhere. Another example I can pull from locally are the Hessians that were attacked in Trenton after Washington "Crossed the Delaware". Colonel Johann Rall who was the commander of the Hessian forces is buried in the cemetery of the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton in a marked grave. Many of his troops are buried in cemeteries throughout Trenton in marked, mass graves.

War is hell and time passes on and while they may have been the enemy as well as i'm sure that i'm biased do to my paternal British heritage during that war however none the less that's kinda sad to think about many of them are buried underneath houses.

Anyway informative as always NJG as i appreciate the info that you passed along here.
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Old 05-29-2012, 02:39 PM
 
13,138 posts, read 37,890,642 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dd714 View Post
Just a further footnote - sailor's would be burried at sea during the age of sail. Usually sewed up in their cloth hammock with a 6 pound shot enclosed and then dumped overboard with a short ceromony after a battle has ended (although note that most deaths, as in land warfare, occured due to disease or accidents during this age). In time of heavy action however bodies could also unceromiously be dumped overboard during battle just to keep the deck clear.
Yeap i know about that tradition and procedure and know that many were ''buried'' that way.
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