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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Saturday, May 14, 2022

Dredging Up Details

Here are some recent dispatches from the realm of eighteenth-century marine archeology.

A few miles downstream from Savannah, a dredging operation has brought up nineteen cannon that experts believe date from the Revolutionary War.

Specifically, from the fall of 1779:
When French ships carrying troops were spotted off the Georgia coast, the British hurried to scuttle at least six ships in the Savannah River downstream from the city to block the French vessels.
Since the cannon would have been useful on other ships or ashore, the scuttling must have been hasty indeed.

Read more from WAMU here.

In Alexandria, Virginia, officials are trying to decide what to do with timbers from four ships discovered along the Potomac River from 2015 to 2018, as shown above. These were most likely merchant ships, not warships.

Preserving that wood requires keeping it wet. Since the finds, most of the timbers have been kept in city tanks while “Some pieces of the largest ship have been undergoing restorative treatment and study at Texas A&M.”

Now there’s a proposal to carefully place the pieces of at least one keel in a pond in a public park, which would be turned into a waterfront museum featuring the artifacts.

WJLA has more details.

Finally, with the 250th anniversary of the burning of H.M.S. Gaspee coming up next month, Rhode Islanders have renewed efforts to locate the remains of that ship.

Finding the Gaspee appears to depend on the wreck being preserved and hidden in deep silt that can nevertheless be penetrated by “sub-bottom-profiling sonar.”

Recovering artifacts would be a more expensive proposition for another season, and then there’s a legal issue: the Gaspee is still the property of the British government.

For more coverage, see the Providence Journal.

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