The body had been dressed for burial in socks, underclothes and an undress blue uniform. Lieutenant James Sutton’s limbs were so rigid by Sunday, October 20 that undertaker Raymond Taylor had to split his jacket in the back to get it on over his arms. The following day, after a brief service, Rose Parker traveled with her brother’s coffin to Washington and then to a hillside at Arlington Cemetery where he would be laid to rest in the “Southern division, officers section,” grave site 2102. Rose was the only family member to hear trumpeter Sam Nolan play the mournful sound of taps. She had made sure that roses, chrysanthemums and daisies covered the lonesome grave. Dwarfing the headstone behind it, a wreath stood propped against a stand encircling the word “Dad.” Below it, on the mound of fresh earth was a rectangle of large white flowers with the word “Mother” at the center. But the site had not been blessed by a priest and eight days after his death, the future of Jimmie Sutton’s soul remained very much in doubt. And so begins the story of A Soul on Trial.
On that sunny Monday afternoon in 1907, no one could have imagined that in September 1909 this grave would be opened, the body exhumed and an autopsy performed on remains that had remained, oddly enough, in almost perfect condition
Over the last century an enormous fir tree that may well be from Oregon has grown over the top of the grave; it is unlike any tree in the area. No graves surrounded Sutton’s small stone in 1907 but the scene is quite different today.
If you would like to see recent pictures of the grave or learn more about the later careers of some of the officers featured in A Soul on Trial check out webmaster Michael R. Patterson’s terrific site about Arlington National Cemetery. www.ArlingtonCemetery.net
Information about the Sutton story, can be found if you click this link or scroll down to “click here to search the site” on the home page and type in j n sutton. The Sutton is article no.1. Scroll way down for the pictures. Harold Utley has some info at no. 3. Thanks to “Holly” for adding the roses to the grave on the 100th anniversary of Sutton’s death in 2007.
Michael has been working on this site for more than 15 years. The site’s real value comes from the more recent moving stories about those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and tales of other military heroes.