Historical group misses boat on soldier’s ID


The journalism phrase “burying the lede” refers to the practice of beginning a story, or “lede” paragraph, with details of secondary importance while failing to relate more essential facts until much later in the article.

A more egregious sin would be “skipping the lede.” Take this bit from the Beaufort County (SC) Historical Resources Consortium:

“The only Confederate soldier interred in the Beaufort National Cemetery with a tombstone marked as unknown has been identified. Pvt. Haywood Treadwell of the 61st NC Volunteers, Co. G whose identity emerges after 150 years, will be recognized along with other Confederate soldiers on May 9-10, 2014.”

So far, so good.

The release then goes on to state that the event will include a Friday evening symposium and a Saturday memorial ceremony, with the unveiling of the new gravestone for Treadwell.

In addition, historians will trace the life of Treadwell, a turpentine farmer from Sampson County, NC, who was wounded and captured during the battle for Battery Wagner in Charleston Harbor, and who died in Union Hospital No. 4 in Beaufort and was buried Sept. 12, 1863.

It then adds details on the time and location of the symposium and information about an informal talk on Civil War medical practices, along with details for the following day’s memorial service at Beaufort National Cemetery.

Unmentioned anywhere in the eight-paragraph release are details about how Treadwell’s identify was revealed after more than a century and a half.

A search of the Internet uncovers nothing beyond the above information. Apparently, whoever discovered Treadwell’s identity is either keeping their method a secret, or somebody has simply failed to comprehend that one of the most interesting aspects of this story is how the name of a long-unidentified Civil War casualty was uncovered.

If the former is the case, it might be a good PR move to whet the public’s appetite by including something along the lines of, “In addition to details about Pvt. Treadwell’s life and death, officials will reveal the means by which they were able to establish his identity.”

Often, the sleuthing involved with uncovering names connected to the long deceased can be as fascinating – and time consuming – as piecing together the lives of the dead themselves.

Whatever the reason for officials’ failure to highlight how Private Treadwell’s identity came to be known more than 150 years after he was laid to rest in Beaufort, SC, let’s hope their method is explained before too long.

10 thoughts on “Historical group misses boat on soldier’s ID

  1. Good post, and good point.

    Treadwell’s compiled service record at NARA confirms that he died at a U.S. military hospital at Beaufort, but how they made the connection between that recorded death and the burial plot will be interesting to learn. I sure hope there’s more to it than linking a name with a grave and saying, “well, that must be him.”

    • Yes, either that, or those connected to the story were so closely associated with the process that they failed to realize that outsiders would have wondered about this aspect. Unable to the see the forest for the trees, as it were.

  2. Pingback: Mystery of ‘unknown’ Confederate unraveled | The Cotton Boll Conspiracy

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