University of Southern Mississippi faculty and students participated in an anthropology expedition Dec. 28 on Greenwood Island in East Pascagoula, the site of Camp Jefferson Davis at the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848.Twice in the last 30 years, local fishermen have discovered wooden coffins at the site containing the remains of U.S. veterans exposed by ongoing beach erosion.
After years of speculation about other remains, the Jackson County Historical and Genealogical Society (JCHGS), Coastal Environments, Inc. (CEI) and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History teamed up with Southern Miss for a final comprehensive search of the beach.
“We learned from Post Records that 105 soldiers, many of whom had arrived sick or wounded, died in East Pascagoula and a few on Greenwood Island,” said Dr. Marie Danforth, professor of anthropology at Southern Miss. “When we arrived on the beach, another coffin had been exposed by the sand being churned up from wave action.”
The work on Greenwood Island has allowed Southern Miss students the unique opportunity to learn about the lives of these soldiers by analyzing their remains and interpreting their findings within the rich historical context that has become available through the dedicated efforts of many JCHGS members, Danforth said.
With a little help from Chevron’s HumanKind program, which reimburses employee volunteer time, the team rented a high-tech Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) system to scan the beach.
“We had plans to re-inter the previously found remains at Biloxi National Cemetery, but before we did so, we needed to ensure we didn’t leave any others behind,” said Roger Hansen, a Chevron Pascagoula Refinery employee and member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars member and the JCHGS military committee.
When tides were at a optimum low, anthropologist Kelsey Lowe of CEI conducted the analysis while Southern Miss faculty and students, JCHGS volunteers and additional CEI professionals mobilized to assist with the work. Subsequently, the entire stretch of beach where the graves were found was searched using GPR technology. Although the findings have yet to be fully analyzed, it does not indicate that more coffins are present.
Coordinated by Hansen, the JCHGS plans to re-inter the newly found remains and those of three other previously discovered soldiers into Biloxi National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2010. This will make a total of six soldiers interred at the cemetery from Greenwood Island in 20 years.
“We eventually hope to uncover the names of all 105 soldiers who died at the camp,” said JCHGS President Barry Mclllwain. “We have confirmed 40 of the names and there are plans to erect some type of memorial to the history of the camp.”
For more information and photos of the expedition, online visit www.jchgs-ms.org or contact Joanne Anderson, JCHGS Publicity Chairman at
or 228.355.0711. For more information on archaeology digs and projects of the Southern Miss Department of Anthropology and Sociology, including a Web page on Greenwood Island, visit www.usm.edu/antsoc.
Keith Davis, a member of the Jackson County Historical and Genealogical Society, and Kelsey Lowe, archaeologist at Coastal Environment Services, Inc. conduct Ground Penetrating Radar analysis along the beach during an anthropological dig in east Pascagoula. The JCHGS, Coastal Environments, Inc. and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History teamed up with Southern Miss in December for a final comprehensive search of the beach for remains of U.S. veterans of the Mexican-American War who were buried near the area. (Submitted photo by Harold W. Webster, Jr.)
Roger Hansen, a Chevron Pascagoula Refinery employee and Southern Miss anthropology professor Marie Danforth screen sand recovered in the area of the new burial site of U.S. veterans of the Mexican-American War. The Jackson County Historical and Genealogical Society (JCHGS), Coastal Environments, Inc. (CEI) and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History teamed up with Southern Miss for a final comprehensive search of the beach for remains of the veterans. (Submitted photo by Harold W. Webster, Jr.)
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.