Vermont’s Grave of the Unknown Soldier

Culture

November 3, 2022
by Michael Barbieri Also by this Author

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Those who study the Revolution in the northeast have some familiarity with the Crown Point Road that ran from the Fort at #4 in Charlestown, New Hampshire, to the forts at Crown Point and Ticonderoga. Built during the French and Indian War, the road provided a route across Vermont for troops and supplies moving from New England to the Lake Champlain valley. Along the seventy-seven-mile road, troops established encampments where they stopped to rest.

Over the course of two wars, thousands of soldiers walked that road. At an encampment near Plymouth, Vermont, one of those soldiers died and his comrades buried him on a knoll by the camp. Knowledge of the grave continued to be passed down through the generations of settlers in the area. Sadly, the soldier’s name did not survive the decades and is, as it says on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, Virginia, “known but to God.” In 1935, the Boy Scout troop from Chester, Vermont, and the Daughters of the American Revolution cleared the area around the grave and installed a wooden marker in honor of the fallen soldier.[1]

Detail from 1859 map of Plymouth, Vermont, by C.A. Scott et al. The white star marks the site of the grave. (Library of Congress)

For another sixty years, the story continued to be passed along. In the spring of 1995, Representative John Murphy introduced into the Vermont House of Representatives a resolution designating the burial place as Vermont’s official Grave of the Unknown Soldier. The Senate soon approved the resolution.[2] A ceremony at the burial site on July 4 of that year unveiled a granite marker outlining the story and acknowledging the official nature of the grave.[3] The soldier now represents all the Vermont soldiers of all time “lost in duty and devotion, giving their tomorrows for our today.”

Face of marker at the Grave of the Unknown Soldier, left, obverse of the marker, right. (Author)

This grave is not like the national Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is not in the midst of some large, well-maintained national cemetery but sits alone high in the hills of Vermont on wilderness land owned by a conservation foundation. Access is not gained by wide, smooth roads and walkways but, rather, by a narrow, dead-end dirt road off another narrow and rough dirt road which is, in turn, off a paved but nevertheless back road. The granite marker is next to the road but the grave itself is located some distance uphill from that road.[4] There is no impressive marble tomb but simply a pile of fieldstones, a DAR veteran marker, a wooden sign, and a small flag or two. It is maintained not by a round-the-clock crew but by the few souls who visit the site to pay their respects, some on a regular basis. It is not guarded by highly-trained volunteers from the military but by the trees of the forest. Standing there, in the midst of the Vermont wilderness, close by the faint trace of the Crown Point Road, and next to the grave of an unknown soldier who died walking that road, one cannot help but feel some sense of melancholy and history.

 


[1]The original sign has been replaced by another reading, “Here lies an unknown soldier of the American Revolution who died here by the road while returning to his home. Mt. Holly Boy Scouts Troop 17 1984.”

[2]I know of no other similar designations in any other state.

[3]The front of the marker bears the inscription, “A veteran of the Revolutionary War who died by a spring while on the way home. Buried on the knoll between the spring and the nearby encampment on the Crown Point Road.” On the back is incised, “In the hillside 600 feet north of this marker lies Vermont’s Unknown Soldier, representing all military services in all armed conflicts, those lost in duty and devotion, giving their tomorrows for our today.”

[4]For those wishing to visit the grave, its coordinates are latitude N 43° 28.946’, longitude W 072° 45.271’.

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