Home » Features » NC Civil War Site Tested For DNA To Determine If Stains Are Blood

NC Civil War Site Tested For DNA To Determine If Stains Are Blood

Dr. James Bailey, Site Manger Donny Taylor, and Dr. Maher Noureddine study stains on the floor. Photo: NCDCR.

By The NCDCR, Reprinted By The Raleigh Telegram

FOUR OAKS – In July the staff of Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site will know if those are just stains on the floor, or the blood of a fallen Civil War soldier. A forensic team recently visited to examine the floors and test the stains there.

The site’s Harper House served as the Union army’s XIV Corps hospital during the three-day battle of Bentonville fought in March 1865. During the battle and its immediate aftermath, nearly 600 soldiers from both armies were treated in and around the home. For years visitors and staff members alike have often questioned if any of the numerous stains on the original flooring could be attributed to the blood of soldiers treated in the home.

An answer will come when the testing is completed. Dr. James Bailey of Wilmington, professor emeritus in criminology at Minnesota State University-Mankato, and Dr. Maher Noureddine of ForensiGen LLC, a forensic genetics company based in Hillsborough, took multiple samples from the 1850s floor boards in the house, and also searched the crevices between the boards.

Samples will be analyzed for the presence of blood and DNA at IntelliGenetics Laboratories of Hilton Head, S.C. in collaboration with Dr. Daniel Demers. By taking samples for testing, the scientist will be able to verify the existence of blood without the use of luminol, a chemical that could damage the original flooring.

An additional advantage of forensic testing is the possibility of cataloguing any potential DNA found into a database for descendents of Bentonville veterans to compare with their own DNA. In addition to collecting samples for DNA analysis, a sample was also collected from several rooms for pollen analysis. Dr. Jane Bock, professor emeritus in forensic botany from the University of Colorado-Boulder will examine a sample to determine the presence of any unusual pollen or diatoms.

This is not the first time that Dr. Bailey used DNA to solve a historical mystery. While teaching at Minnesota State, Bailey was asked to verify if skeletal remains in a museum collection were that of Charlie Pitts, a member of the infamous James-Younger gang who was killed shortly after robbing the First National Bank of Northfield, Minn. By comparing the DNA from the skeleton to a descendent of Pitts, Bailey was able to prove that the skeleton was not that of Charlie Pitts.

Dr. Bailey and Dr. Noureddine hope to find such definitive information from the samples collected at the Harper House.

In March 1865 the last major Confederate offensive was launched at Bentonville Battlefield, which involved 60,000 Union troops and 20,000 Confderates in a battle that lasted three days over 6,000 acres, in which the Union finally prevailed.

Bentonville Battlefield is located at 5466 Harper House Road, Four Oaks, NC 27524, three miles north of Newton Grove on S.R. 1008, about one hour from Raleigh and about 45 minutes from Fayetteville. It is part of the Division of State Historic Sites in the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. For more information, visit online or call (910) 594-0789.  ::

Article posted: Thursday, March 29th, 2012