The Missing Grave of Margaret Corbin, Revolutionary War Veteran
BY SHANE CASHMAN
JANUARY 14, 2020
IN 2016, FIVE DAYS AFTER Thanksgiving, Margaret Corbin’s grave was dug up for the second time since her death in 1800. It began by accident. Contractors were working on a retaining wall near the West Point Cemetery, at the U.S. Military Academy, when a hydraulic excavator got too close and chewed through the grave.
As soon as they noticed bones spilling from the soil, they alerted the military police. The plot was quickly cordoned off, her monument was wrapped in tarp, and rumors started to spread about Corbin’s resting place—that is, if it even was her resting place. When forensic archaeologists arrived at the scene, they were perplexed: The bones seemed oddly large.
On the West Point monument, Corbin wears a long dress and a powder horn, and she operates a cannon while her long hair flies in the wind. SCIENCE HISTORY IMAGES / ALAMY STOCK PHOTOThe monument to Margaret Corbin is West Point’s only monument to a woman veteran, and it greets visitors near the main gate, just feet from a neoclassical chapel. It faces Washington Road, where the Academy’s top brass live, and depicts Corbin in a long dress, operating a cannon as her long hair and cape fly in the wind. She wears a powder horn and holds a rammer to load cannonballs; the rest of the rather cramped cemetery sprawls out behind her. The monument portrays the moments before Corbin became a prisoner of war.
WHEN MARGARET CORBIN DIED IN 1800, she was buried in a pauper’s cemetery in Highland Falls, just three miles from West Point. But in 1926, the national society of women known as the Daughters of the American Revolution saw to it that Corbin would earn her vaunted cemetery plot. The society, which is made up of women who can trace their lineage to participants in the American Revolution, was celebrating the sesquicentennial of American independence, and saw Corbin as the consummate symbol of both their organization and the Revolution. A year-long effort convinced the U.S. Military Academy to help them exhume and transport the remains to the prestigious cemetery, to be reburied with a military funeral.
A horse-drawn hearse carried a flag-draped casket that was said to contain Corbin’s remains. DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
The remains in Corbin’s grave actually came from an adult male. DiGangi determined that it was a large man, who could’ve been anywhere from five-foot-seven to six and a half feet tall. The remains of Margaret Corbin were not in Margaret Corbin’s grave.
So where is Margaret Corbin? Since the attempted reburial of Corbin’s remains, in 1926, her original gravesite in Highland Falls has been lost to time. Sometime in the 1970s, the town dropped a sewage plant where many believe it was once located. Yet Minus remains optimistic that Corbin’s remains will one day be found. read it here