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The skull of a Civil War soldier found near the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, battlefield is scheduled to be sold at auction in Hagerstown, Maryland, on Tuesday, June 3. The Estate Auction Company is hoping to sell the skull at a price of $50,000 to $250,000 to a private collector or museum.

The skull was found in 1949 on private land near Benner’s Farm, just north of the battlefield and the site of a Confederate field hospital, by the landowner. A breastplate found nearby came from a Louisiana unit of the Confederate Army. The seller, who made the find, has chosen to remain anonymous.

The most recent discovery of Civil War soldier remains was made in 1996. Those were interred with full military honors in Soldiers National Cemetery within Gettysburg National Military Park.

Why is this find being treated so differently? While the U.S. National Park Service believes there are still undiscovered soldier remains at Gettysburg and treat the entire battlefield as a sacred burial ground, federal law does not prohibit the sale of “artifacts” found outside the boundaries of the park.

Personally, I can’t think of anything more grotesque or disrespectful than auctioning off the remains of an American soldier, Union or Confederate. The skull belongs in the Soldiers National Cemetery, not on the auction block. Collecting is one thing, but this is desecration.

If we consider battlefields to be hallowed grounds, should we not accord those who died on them the same dignity?

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