Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Civil War Cellar in Fredericksburg

It's been an interesting season for archaeology in Fredericksburg, Virginia. You can read about the excavation of Francis Bell's 1830s stoneware kiln site here and here. A recent salvage (4-day) dig produced fragments from a variety of vessel types that will be useful for archaeologists and museum curators working on other sites and collections. Here's one example:

Stoneware from the Bell kiln site. Marie Sicola/The Free Lance-Star from here.

Meanwhile, archaeologists surveying ahead of the construction of a new city courthouse uncovered a previously unknown cellar, part of a building that burned soon after the Battle of Fredericksburg in December, 1862. Union soldiers took shelter in the basement the night after the battle, depositing a remarkable trove of material culture, including bullets, clay pipes, can and bottle fragments, a cartridge box plate, and cap chinstrap buckles. It's an exciting time capsule that you can read more about here. I suspect it won't be the last we'll hear of this, especially considering that the battle's 200th anniversary in only a month away.

Tin can fragments, clay pipe bowls, and projectiles from the Fredericksburg cellar.
Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times from here.

Update: This Washington Post article provides some more details about the finds, which include brass letters "C" and numerals "2," the sort of ornamentation worn by federal soldiers on their forage caps (here's one example). These tantalizing clues suggest that we might yet know just which unit's soldiers took shelter in the cellar. In the meantime, photos like the one below demonstrate the amazing array of material culture they left behind.

Ceramic sherds, glass and stoneware inkwell fragments, clay pipe pieces, bullets, a bone brush handle, a hard rubber comb, and knapsack hooks are among the artifacts shown here. 
Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post from here.

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