For over six years, members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars have been asking the National Park Service in Gettysburg to give full accounting to the buried soldiers entrusted to its care. Initially, the focus was on 14 unmarked grave sites.
After Freedom of Information Act requests, the Park Service now admits to a massive injustice involving a significantly higher number of soldiers. In 1864 when the cemetery was turned over to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 3,512 soldiers were buried in the National Cemetery. After an initial FOIA request, the Park responded with in a number of 3,613 soldiers — a difference of 101 soldiers!
A subsequent FOIA response signed by the acting superintendent admitted the earlier response was erroneous and responded with the number of 3,553 soldiers buried from the battle of Gettysburg — still a loss of more than 50 soldiers. Admitting to "so many discrepancies in the paperwork that this is the best we can tell you," the Park Service has refused to conduct the necessary investigation to resolve this desecration of soldiers.
Using its "Cultural Resources" guide as a defense, the Park Service treats the remains of honored dead as "fence lines and piles of dirt" who deserve no special management or accounting.
It is time to for the Park Service to live up to Abraham Lincoln's exhortation. "that we here highly resolve thatthese dead shall not have died in vain." It is time to implement Lincoln's legacy by honoring every veteran. The Park Service must fix this problem.
Lt. Col. William D. Hewitt, USA (Ret)