The old stories are all new again. Despite all the past efforts and the various learned men and women opining on the matter, it looks like there might finally be conclusive proof as to whether the man who immigrated to America and died in Mocksville was actually one of Napoleon’s most trusted men.
Today, French researchers are exhuming the grave of Peter Stuart Ney. This will as far as I know be at least the third time the grave has been opened, but thanks to modern science the best chance to find out once and for all if the man buried within is truly Marshal Michel Ney of France, or a very good imposter.
Work started this morning with the removal of the glass window on one side of the brick mausoleum and the brick chips that were covering the grave space. Digging has continued all day and was still going on when I left after 6PM. It will likely take at least another full day of excavation before any remains can be found.
On hand was a small group of people representing Davie county, Third Creek Presbyterian Church, Davidson College, and other interested parties.
The French crew themselves consisting of filmmakers and anthropologist Jennifer Kerner travelled all the way from Paris and have been working towards this day for a number of years at this point but were waylaid like much of the world by the Covid pandemic. They will be filming the dig and segments at Davidson College where Ney’s papers and effects are kept for the French tv show L’Histoire au scalpel.
One wonders if they knew exactly what they were getting themselves into by choosing the middle of summer. It was most assuredly very hot and very humid.
Today’s notable finds did include some very long nails and part of a penny or possibly button of unknown date. Likely detritus from one of the past digs in the grave or cast offs from work on the mausoleum. It is known that parts of Peter Ney’s skull and mandible were taken from the grave during the last exhumation- a cast of the skull fragment is now housed at Davidson College, but it’s hoped everything that was removed was reinterred.
I received late word this was all happening but was lucky enough to be present as the work was taking place and took some pictures to mark the occasion.
It will probably be the end of the year before we know the results of all this work, but I will most certainly do my best to keep informed, and will update as I receive updates.
To read more about the man called Peter Stuart Ney, including LeGette Blythe’s book about him, see my past post or Davidson College’s resources on the man called Ney.
EDIT (7/11/22): The dig took a total of three days and no remains were found in the grave, though the outline of a since decayed coffin was noted. In the end, the crew chose to take back a sample from the bones Davidson College has from a former exhumation. The rest were buried once again in Ney’s grave at Third Creek Presbyterian Church.
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