Roy Paschal had gained considerable recognition as a forensic artist with the South Carolina Department of Correction when, in 1987, he took a new call from (the late) Ted Rathbone, then director of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, headquartered on Pendleton Street, at the edge of campus.
“We had worked together on a number of projects before then, and Ted wanted me to see what I thought could be done with the skulls of two African American Union soldiers who had served during the Civil War with the 55th Massachusetts Regiment that arrived on Folly Beach in 1863.”
Paschal said, “the remains of the two were found near, not in a brigade cemetery, which told us these two had not died in combat, but of natural causes – disease, perhaps, because of where and how they were buried. And the fact that their remains had been missed by other seekers over the years.”
Remains of other fallen Union soldiers had been removed more than a century earlier. “Soon after the Civil War, the federal government funded a concerted effort to bring back remains of Union soldiers for proper burial. “ Paschal said grave hunters, bent on increasing their earnings, would turn in a leg one day, a hip the next. “Finally, the government said they would pay only for remains that included skulls – or at very least, skulls.”
The remains of these two were missed because they had been buried slightly adjacent to the brigade cemetery. Combat burials in those times often were handled hurriedly. “These two had received greater care, indicating there had been time. They had been buried in their ______ (tunics, missed a word…”
Whatever investigation of these remains Paschal and Rathbone were going to undertake had to be done quickly, the artist recalled. “They were going to be reinterred soon in a ceremony at the National Cemetery in Beaufort.”
With several decades of forensic experience but only measurements and detailed photography to go on, Paschal followed a sculptor’s path to re-create heads and faces that science told him matched the ethnicity of the deceased.
The bronzed busts were displayed in myriad locations [from where to where} to help reiterate an important story. They now are in the permanent collection of the South Carolina State Museum.
Within the community Paschal continues to advance education, science, and the arts by teaching and mentoring, painting and sculpting, problem solving and befriending.
His current work can be seen at Village Artists, Village of Sandhills and at roypaschal.com. One of his recent paintings will be on view as part of the Ten Days – Ten Artists exhibition at Michael’s Café and Catering, opening First Thursday April for a month’s run.
Roy Paschal is artist number 7 of our #10artists10days campaign series. Catch up on the complete series here.