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Remains found in first ironclad ship to be buried at Arlington

The remains of two Navy sailors who died during the Civil War will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery next month after efforts to identify them failed.

The sailors were on the USS Monitor when a storm sank the ship on Dec. 31, 1862, off Cape Hatteras, N.C., a Navy statement said Tuesday. The Monitor was the nation’s first ironclad warship and fought in the first battle between two such ships when it clashed with the CSS Virginia in the Battle of Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862.

A ceremony will be held honoring the two sailors on March 8, the statement said. The date was chosen to commemorate the Monitor’s role in the battle 151 years ago.

“These may very well be the last Navy personnel from the Civil War to be buried at Arlington,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said in the statement. “It’s important we honor these brave men and all they represent as we reflect upon the significant role Monitor and her crew had in setting the course for our modern Navy.”

The Monitor made history when it was designed and assembled in 118 days, the statement said. It was commissioned on Feb. 25, 1862.

The ship saw action right away. Although the Battle of Hampton Roads was a draw, the Monitor prevented the Virginia from gaining control of Hampton Roads, thus keeping the federal blockade of Norfolk intact, the statement said. The battle signified an end to the era of wooden ships.

The Monitor’s wreck was discovered in 1974 and designated the nation’s first national marine sanctuary, managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the statement said. The Navy, NOAA and the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Va., began recovering artifacts in 1998.

In summer 2002, while trying to recover the Monitor’s 150-ton gun turret, Navy divers discovered human remains inside the ship, the statement said. The remains were transported to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii for possible identification. JPAC, with the assistance of the Navy Casualty Office and NOAA, tried to identify the remains but was unsuccessful due to the age of the remains.

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