Search of Alamance battleground yields archaeological jackpot


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Those who fought and died at the Alamance Battleground in 1771 left behind artifacts of a struggle that remained under the earth’s surface waiting to be discovered by present-day historians.

Jim and Vickie Spivey, left, and Mac McAtee, right, search for artifacts at the Alamance Battlegound State Historic Site Friday. Photo Shawn M. Franks  For some, there had always been some argument over whether the Regulators battled against Royal Governor William Tryon’s forces at the designated N.C. Historic Site on South N.C. 62 since there had never been an extensive archeological dig at the site.

New archeological evidence recovered at the 300,000-square-foot search site this year confirmed that the battle occurred where pre-colonial maps showed the battle took place.

Some of these recently discovered artifacts from the battle were displayed on Friday for public. Nearly 150 artifact pieces have been discovered on the battlefield since September 2009 as part of the state’s Alamance Battleground Research Project. About 2,000 volunteer hours were used to conduct the work with help from the Old North State Detectorists.

Josh Howard, research historian with the N.C. Department of Archives and History, said one of the research project’s goals was to prove that the site was indeed a battlefield. It was the first time that the Alamance Battleground was systematically searched inch by inch for historical items linked to the 18th century.

Jim and Vickie Spivey search for artifacts at the Alamance Battlegound State Historic Site Friday. Photo Shawn M. Franks  By the time work was completed on Friday, artifacts from the American Revolution and Civil War were also found. All of these items were sent to Raleigh to confirm their authenticity and some will return to the Alamance Battleground site in May for a new permanent exhibit display.

“We found a lot of interesting things,” Alamance Battleground Site Manager Bryan Dalton said. “It’s going to enhance our interpretation of what happened here. This all gives us proof that a battle took place here close to where the artifacts were positioned.”

Dalton said new interpretive trails and markers will help show the public where some of the artifacts were found and present a clearer picture of what took place during the battle.

A conference will also be held next year to commemorate the battlefield’s anniversary. Most of the newly discovered artifacts were found between three and eight inches below the ground’s surface.

Howard said the items discovered confirmed journal reports from American Revolution and Civil War commanders’ accounts of their movements after Regulators fought at the site on May 16, 1771.

lcvdnq-lcvdn9alamancebattelground3 PATRIOT COMMANDER Capt. Robert Kirkwood led the Delaware Light Infantry on a raid against British General Charles Cornwallis’ forces at the site on March 5, 1781, just 10 days before the Battle of Guilford Courthouse west of Alamance County.

Howard said Kirkwood’s journal recorded the attack in Alamance County as an attempt to capture a British soldier to gather information about the British army’s movements. Kirkwood’s journal entry was the only known evidence that the raid occurred until the recent dig at the Alamance Battleground this year.

Howard said the dig discovered a colonial army button from Delaware produced in 1780 that showed extreme wear. “The only reason a Delaware button is there is because the continentals came across the area,” Howard said. “Kirkwood was right. There was an American Revolution skirmish on the site.”

Howard said the Colonial Army button was one of the greatest finds in his archeological career. Another button from a 3rd North Carolina Junior Reserve unit commanded by Col. John Hinsdale during the Civil War was also found at the site.

The site continued to be used after 1771 because of the main road that passed through the site. The junior reserves stopped and camped at the site one night in 1865 shortly before surrendering near High Point to Union forces. The Confederate button confirmed journal accounts that the junior reserves had been camped at the Alamance Battleground site.

Additional items found at the site included grapeshot from Tryon’s three pound swivel cannons, musket and rifle balls both fired and dropped during battle, a bayonet tip, a top jaw cap for a flintlock musket and a tool used to adjust a flintlock musket for firing.

Howard said the artifacts help capture what the human experience was like at the site during periods of conflict.

A continental army button with the leters USA on it from the Revolutionary War found at Alamance Battleground State Historic Site. photo sam roberts  IT WOULD HAVE cost the state about $60,000 to complete the search project but Howard said the state didn’t pay anything because of the volunteer work provided.

N.C. Office of State Archives Co-Director John Mitz said searchers used 10,000-square-foot-grids to search 100 percent of the Alamance Battleground historic site. A systematic archeological investigation had never been done in the state before on a battlefield, Mitz said.

Howard said he believed additional items are likely still yet to be discovered beyond the designated state historic site for up to two miles along a line where the Regulators retreated in 1771.

The nearly 150 newly discovered artifacts will help historians understand better what occurred at the site during three different periods of war. Alamance Battleground Friends Inc. President Ted Henson said he supported the research project’s efforts.

“We have got big plans here for the battlefield,” Henson said about the site’s future enhancements.

Elon University’s Anthropology Department was among several organizations that assisted with the project during the past year.

Author: Chris Lavender | Source: The Times News [December 03, 2010]



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