BAXTER, Ky. (May 12, 2017) – The U.S. Army reinterred American Revolutionary War Private Samuel Howard today at Resthaven Cemetery with full military honors, demonstrating the Army’s commitment to a patriot who braved the encampment at Valley Forge, Pa., and stood at Yorktown, Va., when British Gen. Charles Cornwallis surrendered to Gen. George Washington.
Brig. Gen. Mark Toy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Ohio River Division commander and funeral officer for the reinterment, emphasized that 176 years after Howard’s death, the Army remains committed to soldiers and their families in life and beyond.
“The Howard family reinterment ceremony shows, and is an example, of this commitment. This ceremony is a reflection of the Army’s ‘Soldier for Life Program’ that is committed to taking care of soldiers during their service, after their service, and after their passing,” Toy said.
In addressing more than 100 of Howard descendants, the general said the reburial culminates a lot of hard work accomplished by the Corps, the Howard family and local officials to save the remains of Howard, his wife Chloe and the couple’s baby.
A landslide developed in early 2016 at the Wix Howard Cemetery in Loyall, Ky., above the diversion channel of the Cumberland River, which threatened the Howard family graves. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters determined that a design deficiency from unseen site conditions caused the slope failure, making it possible for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District to move forward with corrective action. In November 2016 the remains of Howard, his wife Chloe, and baby Howard were exhumed.
“I would also like to honor the Howard family who rallied to save the remains and assisted the Corps in this project,” Toy said.
Judge Dan Mosley, Harlan County Judge executive, who coordinated closely with the Corps of Engineers on the legalities required for the reinterment, spoke about the importance of saving the Howard remains from falling into the Cumberland River.
“This ceremony celebrates the importance of Samuel, Cloey and Baby Howard had to Harlan County,” Mosley said. “It also celebrates the importance of when we all work together, and we all come together for an important cause, great things can be accomplished.”
Mosley said the process of saving the Howard’s remains challenged the family, local officials, residents, Congressional staff, the Corps of Engineers to the Harlan County community, but proved to be a great history lesson for him. The judge said he wondered about the challenges and hardships the Howards faced 220 years ago.
Howard was born July 2, 1762 in Buckingham, Va. He joined Captain Mayo Carrington’s Company in the Virginia Militia in 1778 at age 16 and served for seven years. He married his wife Chloe in 1784 and they settled in Harlan, Ky., in 1796 where they had 12 children and contributed to the development of the region. He died Dec. 5, 1840 in Harlan, Ky.
“I had never really been exposed to Samuel Howard and what he meant to Harlan County. But throughout this process I have been. But now we know that they will have a true and permanent, safe resting place,” Mosley said.
In respect of Howard’s military service, soldiers from the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment, “the Old Guard,” from Fort Myer, Va., carried his remains, posted the colors, fired three rifle volleys, performed ceremonial music of the period, and played taps during the reinterment.
The Old Guard is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, serving the nation since 1784. The unit is the Army’s official ceremonial unit and escort to the president, conducting military ceremonies at the White House, the Pentagon, national memorials and elsewhere in the nation’s capital.
Stephanie Fister and Sharon Osborne, Howard descendants, spoke on behalf of the family and noted how Samuel and Cloey didn’t leave behind anything physical, but did leave their voice, their love, and greatly impacted eastern Kentucky, the nation, and their family. Every generation since has passed along their successes, failures, virtues, life’s lessons, forging a better future to the present day.
“How often do we get to experience a funeral for someone 176 years after their death,” Fister said. “We do what is right by them today because they did what was right by us then.”
Osborne thanked everyone involved with the reinterment of the Howard family, and spoke highly about how the Corps of Engineers worked with the family throughout the process.
“They kept their word from day one,” Osborne said. “Every single person who has been involved with this has never given up. They stuck to it and they’ve done it because it was the right thing to do. And when you are doing the right thing, for the right reasons, the right things happen.”
Members of the Sons of the American Revolution and Daughters of the American Revolution attended and wore clothing from the period of the Revolutionary War.
Tom Coker, president of the Martin’s Station Chapter, Virginia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution in Lee County, said the members who participated were honored to present a wreath during the reinterment.
“It’s a great opportunity to think about our past,” Coker said. “It was a pleasure and an honor to be here, particularly for the family members and to honor Howard’s service during the Revolutionary War. Without people like him, people from his generation, this country wouldn’t be here.”
Marilyn Unthank, owner of Wix Howard Cemetery and wife of the late Federal Judge Wix Unthank, a fifth generation descendant, allowed the Howard family to be exhumed and attended the reinterment.
She said her husband loved genealogy and when he passed three years ago she buried him at his request just above the Howard family. She said it was a highlight of her life to see all the family present and to have the Old Guard be a part of the ceremony to honor the Howards, which her husband greatly respected.
“I have met so many new people that are relatives, like Sharon Osbourne, that have taken over to save the graveyard and to bring about what has happened here today,” Unthank said. “She has really worked hard and I’ve really enjoyed meeting her and some of the others that have worked hard too.”
Cindy Howard, whose husband is a seventh-generation grandson of Samuel and Chloe, said the ceremony was an once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It was bigger and more impressive than I could have ever imagined,” she said. “I’ve been working on it since February of last year and I think I can sleep now.”
Although there is more work to be accomplished to repair the slope near the Cumberland River, Toy said the important thing right now is to take care of the Howards.
“It is an honor to again commit the remains of Samuel, Chloe, and Baby Howard to the soil of the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Toy said. “May their souls rest in peace.”
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)