Several days ago I shared a story from a book written in 1895, The 48th in the War, Being a Narrative of the Campaigns of the 48th Regiment, Infantry, Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, During the War of the Rebellion.
The author, Oliver Christian Bosbyshell, describes his experiences on Hatteras Island. Below are his observations about burials on the Outer Banks.
"Directly opposite the [Methodist] meeting house is an old graveyard, wherein reposes the dust (if it is dust) of the ancient Hatterasins ; a lonely old
place, with some curious inscriptions on its tombstones.
"Here’s one as
"In memory of
Died 1845. Aged 70 years.
"Thos. Austin. Was. His. Name.
Heaven. I. Hope. His. Station.
Hatteras. Was. His. Dwelling. Place.
And. Christ. Was. His. Salvation.
Now. He. Is. Dead. And.
All. His. Bones. Are. Rotten.
Remember. Him. When. This.
Least. He. Should. Be.
"The author of that epitaph was not familiar with the peculiar virtues of that old burying ground. Thomas, rest in peace; your bones
are not all rotten, old boy—oh, no; listen!
Diehl, of Company G, was buried in this graveyard. The authorities refused permission to send his body home.
"It is not the mere
burying that makes the soldier’s funeral so inexpressibly solemn, it is the
thought that there is no one near to mourn for him; none but the moaning wind and the ever roaring surf. It was a doleful funeral, tramping
through the sand, up the island to this old graveyard. Digging the
grave was not difficult. It was tedious to make it as deep as it should
be. Two feet below the surface developed water, and the balance of the
depth attained was through a constantly increasing volume of water.
The coffin was lowered into the grave, and by the aid of sticks was
pushed down under the water and held there until a sufficient quantity
of the wet, sandy soil had been thrown upon it to prevent it from floating.
"Diehl was buried in December. The following May his body
was disinterred, placed in a lead coffin, and sent North. But what a
metamorphosis had taken place in the short time it had lain in this old
graveyard. Through some chemical action the work of petrifaction
had begun, the forehead had already turned to stone. A longer stay
in the grave would have undoubtedly completed the change. This incident causes doubt as to the 'dust' of the old Hatteras folks reposing
in this out-of-the-way graveyard, probably they are all stone statues, as
it were. Had it been supposed that this was the case with the bodies
silently resting here it would not have been remarkable, judging from
the known tendency of some of the sojourners on Hatteras for practical
jokes, to have discovered, on most any bright morning, all the old worthies unearthed from their salt, sandy, wet bed, and standing up as
guardians over the places so long occupied by them."
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042114.htm.