Historians from Tennessee are at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, welcoming home soldiers who died in a war that ended 170 years ago. They've been working to fly home skeletal remains from the Mexican-American War discovered in 2011 — believed to be troops from Middle Tennessee.
The bones represent between 11 and 13 different soldiers thought to be part of the 1st Tennessee Regiment, which fought in the Battle of Monterrey. No one knows their names, but MTSU research professor Hugh Berryman says they will be taken off the plane in a ceremony known as a dignified transfer.
"It's something pretty special," he says. "These men in 1846 died for their country, just like men and women in uniform do today. And they will be treated as they should be."
What happens next, is hard to say. But the remains will not necessarily come to Tennessee anytime soon. In 2014, there was some thought they could end up reinterred near the Mexican-American War monument in Gallatin.
MTSU has a federal grant to study the remains and attempt to trace their birthplaces, which could also be in Mississippi. Berryman, who directs the MTSU Forensic Institute, says by taking samples from teeth and bones, analysts should be able to find out what was in the water they drank as young children and get a better idea of exactly where they came from.