Lindow Manchester

Lindow Man, Human Remains and the American Civil War

No-one seems to have picked up the reference to the “mirror looking down the well” episode in Cold Mountain but I’ve came across another interesting human remains anecdote in Robert Hicks’ American Civil War novel The Widow of the South.

Based on fact, the novel describes the actions taken by a woman, Carrie McGovack (the eponymous Widow of the South),  in the aftermath of the battle of Franklin (1864) in which some 10,000 men died. Some years later, learning that the land where they were buried is about to be turned over to plough, she arranges for the remains to be recovered and reburied on her own family plot.

An archaeologist who is excavating a native American Indian burial ground provides Carrie with a method for recovering and labelling the remains to ensure that the transfer is carried out without losing the dead soldiers’  identities. In a  conversation towards the end of the book , the hero,  Zachery Cashwell, asks why the  Indian bones are being taken out of the ground. “To be preserved. For posterity” replies the archaeologist, who confirms they’ve been in the mound for a thousand years. Cashwell says “Sounds preserved to me”. Later he thinks to himself that it was funny the archaeologists had to dig into the mound to save the remains and that “the dead would end up scattered across the country, anywhere but where they’d started.”

The reason this springs to mind is because a few weeks ago  I attended a public debate at the Manchester Museum at which Prof. Piotr Bienkowski talked about the link between people and the land. He made the point that ours is the first society in which individuals do not know where they will be buried. He made a telling case for the remains of the dead to be returned where they were found, except in exceptional cicumstances.


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