J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, June 07, 2019

Taking a New Look at the Saratoga Battlefield

The Saratogian reports on a four-week project at Saratoga National Historical Park in which military veterans help archeologists search for evidence of the battle there in 1777.

This project uses G.P.S. (Global Positioning System) and Li.D.A.R. (Light Detection and Ranging) technology to map the terrain, and metal detectors to find military artifacts with minimal disruption of the surface. The article reports:
The project’s focus is Barber’s Wheatfield where the decisive Second Battle of Saratoga was fought on the afternoon of Oct. 7, 1777, leading to the British Army’s surrender 10 days later in present-day Schuylerville.

British soldiers and their German allies needed the site’s wheat crop, which was ripe for harvesting because Americans had cut their food supply lines.

The battle that ensued lasted less than an hour and ultimately changed world history.

But no archaeology had ever been done there, so much of what occurred has remained a mystery for more than two centuries.

“Basically the battlefield is unknown,” said William A. Griswold, Ph.D., a National Park Service archaeologist for the Northeast Region. “We’re trying to get a handle on where the lines were, how the battle unfolded and how people were moving across the landscape.”

Hundreds of musket balls have been recovered since work began last week along with case shot from six- and 12-pound cannon.
Thirty-three veterans are working on the project, spending two weeks searching for artifacts and another fortnight cataloguing them.

In addition to the National Park Service, the program is organized by the American Battlefield Trust and the American Veterans Archaeological Recovery. More support is coming from local civic groups providing housing and meals and occupational therapy students from nearby Sacred Heart University making sure the participants don’t wear themselves out.

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