The wreck site of the USS Monitor, a Civil War ironclad, became the nation's first national marine sanctuary in 1975. Duke University scientists discovered the ship just two years earlier, resting in 235 feet of water 16 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. (Photo: NOAA)
UNDATED (CNN) -- The Navy is preparing to lay two Civil War-era soldiers to rest with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. But more than a century-and-a-half after their deaths their identities remain a mystery. However, clues from the wreckage of the historic USS Monitor have provided some answers.
NOAA shows shoes worn by a sailor 150 years ago, perhaps in the final moments of his life onboard the USS Monitor, a renowned Civil War battleship.
This is extraordinary. You are looking, at mismatched, but a pair of shoes that one of the sailors wore. David Krop with the Mariner's Museum says, "He had a different shoe on his left foot than he did on his right. It is hard to explain why that is. One of the possible options is that as these guys were leaving the ship the night of the sinking; it was chaotic, it was dark."
The shoes, just one clue in a detective story that started 240 feet below the surface of the sea. Who were the two men whose skeletons were found in the ships turret in 2002?
The Navy is about to bury them at Arlington National Cemetery not knowing the answer yet.
The 120-ton turret of the USS Monitor is sitting in a water preservation tank right now. This is the precise spot where they found the remains of the two Navy sailors.
More clues were found like buttons from a uniform, a gold ring, a comb, and some coins.
The Monitor itself made history as the first iron clad ship. Caught in a storm on Dec. 30, 1862 off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, it flipped over and sank. Sixteen sailors were lost.
Captain Bobbie Scholley led Navy dives to the wreckage. He says, "We needed to take all the appropriate steps necessary to recover those sailors with all the honors and dignities."
The military lab analyzed the bones and DNA samples were taken and facial reconstructions were made.
African American sailors and officers were eliminated as the remains were caucation. The buttons were not from officers coats. So now the list is down to five or six men with two possibilities, Robert Williams and William Bryan.
Back at Water's Edge in Virginia where the Monitor battled the confederacy, the official who oversees the ship's legacy says it's more than just history. David Alberg with NOAA says, "Whether it was 150 years ago or two weeks ago in Afghanistan, the nation's commitment to bring their fallen home, laying them to rest and returning them to their families. Stays as strong today as it ever was."