Off Beat: Civil War sailors, found or long-lost, had lives to remember

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Two Civil War sailors who died in 1862 finally are in a position to be honored by their nation on Memorial Day.

They were laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in March — more than 150 years after they died aboard the USS Monitor.

A former Vancouver resident was involved in the effort to fill out their stories, and put names and faces on the skeletal remains found in the ironclad's gun turret.

Jim Delgado's role in honoring those lost at sea was reported Sunday in The Columbian. Delgado heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric and Administration's office of maritime heritage.

(He's played another role, literally, in nautical heritage: When he and wife Ann Goodhart — a longtime Vancouver librarian — lived here, Delgado portrayed Hudson's Bay ship captain James Scarborough in reenactments at Fort Vancouver.)

A forensics lab at Louisiana State University used the remains to do facial reconstructions, hoping the results might resemble sailors portrayed in an 1862 crew photograph.

The project had a wider goal, Delgado said. Fourteen other sailors died when the Monitor sank during a storm on Dec. 31, 1862. None of their remains have been recovered; still, they all have stories to tell.

"Genealogists have helped us learn more about the lives of those 16 guys, and their families," he said.

"James Fenwick's wife died in the poorhouse in a cholera epidemic," Delgado said. "If he had not died, perhaps her circumstances would have been different.

"Daniel Moore fled slavery, made his way to Washington, joined the Union cause and enlisted in the Navy," Delgado said. "Twenty percent of the Union Navy was Afro-American, and there were integrated crews on Navy ships."

Moore was among those who drowned when the Monitor went down.

"His mother, who had relied on him as her sole source of income, lived well into old age; she finally was granted a pension of $16 a month."

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story