Imagining the Common Soldier’s Experience

As the final part of our Battle of Plattsburgh celebration for 2020, we bring a presentation by Cherilyn Gilligan, an archeologist from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. This research was part of an American Battlefield Protection Program grant won by the city of Plattsburgh. Cherilyn presented this live at the 2019 Battle of Plattsburgh event, hosted at the Kent Delord House Museum, and has provided a digital version for our 2020 season.

For the full transcript of this video, please look here.

Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Episode 6

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to our Battle of Plattsburgh Edition of Artifact Corner. Today we will be looking at a piece of copper sheeting, that has seen some serious damage. This piece is British, and has been hit by a cannon ball. As you can see there are a bunch of arrows covering this piece. These are called broad arrows.
The first use of a broad arrow was believed to be under King Edward III in the 1330’s. It was used by the King to establish his ownership over an item. In 1544 the broad arrow was officially used by the Office of Ordinance, and in 1597 it became the Board of Ordinance. In the 18th and early 19th Century, the broad arrow was used to mark everything from cannon balls to trees.
The British Navy valued the Eastern White Pine Trees in our area. They grow very tall and very straight, and are perfect for the masts of tall ships. The Navy therefore wanted as many Eastern White Pine trees as they could get, and would have trees marked with the Broad Arrow.
The other defining feature of this copper plate is the damage it sustained during the Battle of Plattsburgh. You can clearly see the impression of the ball’s shape, as it slammed into this piece of copper. Copper is a softer metal. Unworked copper is inherently soft, but if it is worked cold, it hardens. You can see the copper was curved by a crafts person. They likely did this cold, and therefore, this piece would have been work hardened. The cannon ball crushed through this easily.
An eight pound cannon ball can travel more than 1,000 feet per second and exert 124,335 foot pounds of force when striking an object. A cannon ball could go through over three feet of oak. Clearly a piece of copper sheet was no match for such force.
This remarkable artifact is an example of just how damaging cannon balls could be. Special thanks to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for allowing us access to their collections. This series could not have been possible without their generosity. You can learn more about them at LCMM.org. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Special thanks to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for access to the LCAA collection and their collaboration in making this video possible. Visit them at www.lcmm.org.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot
a href=”https://www.bensound.com”>www.bensound.com

Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Episode 5

Hi everyone, and welcome back to our Battle of Plattsburgh Edition of Artifact Corner. During the Summer of 1979, Craig Allen, a native of Peru, New York, discovered this cannon fragment (cascabel) in Lake Champlain’s Cumberland Bay during his very first open water SCUBA dive after receiving his PADI1 dive certification earlier the same year.
The cascabel segment of a cannon is the rearward portion of a muzzle-loading cannon, a knob-like feature of the cannon’s breach; and is intended for securing heavy ropes to and arresting the forceful recoil of a cannon after firing. This unique feature, having been fractured from the rest of a long gun, would have effectively rendered a cannon incapable of any further use.
The area of Cumberland Bay that the cannon cascabel/fragment was located and recovered from, was the approximate vicinity where Captain Thomas Macdonough had anchored the American naval squadron on the morning of September 11th, 1814. Macdonough, established this defensive position in advance of the British naval forces’ anticipated arrival, in what would later come to be known as the Battle of Plattsburgh. The late Dennis M. Lewis, local historian and author,2 a fellow friend and diver at the time; brought the cannon fragment to Fort Ticonderoga to be evaluated by museum personnel there. The cascabel was measured and compared to other cannons at Fort Ti and it was determined that the piece was likely fractured from a 24-pounder cannon. After carefully reviewing maps and drawings of the naval engagement and comparing triangulation bearings used for the dive that day, in addition to studying which vessels of Macdonough’s fleet mounted 24-pounder long guns, it is thought that the cannon fragment most likely came from the USS Saratoga (1814).The Saratoga is known to have eight 24-pounder long guns as part of her armament. In the Spring of 2003, Craig Allen gifted the cannon fragment to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, located in Vergennes, Vermont, for the purposes of conservation and inclusion into their collection of Battle of Plattsburgh artifacts. This was done with the hopes that others may be afforded the opportunity to view the cannon fragment and perhaps gain a little insight as to the devastation that commonly occurred aboard ships during naval battles in the 18th and 19th centuries.
We are very lucky that Craig wrote this description for us, and it is always a pleasure to work with him! He is a huge asset to the local historical community! Thanks again to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for allowing us access to their collections, and for helping to make these videos possible. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Special thanks to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for access to the LCAA collection and their collaboration in making this video possible. Visit them at www.lcmm.org.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot
www.bensound.com

Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Episode 4

Today, as part of our Battle of Plattsburgh series, we will be looking at a clay pipe from the early 19th Century with a Turks Head motif.

Hi everyone, and welcome back to our Battle of Plattsburgh series of Artifact Corner. Today we will be looking at a clay pipe from the early 19th Century with a Turks Head motif. The name of the pipe refers to the turban that the figure is wearing. Clay pipes came in many shapes and designs and this Turks Head motif is very common for the early 19th Century. Tobacco smoking was ubiquitous in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. Soldiers, sailors and civilians smoked tobacco regularly, and pipes are a very common artifact at most archaeological sites. There was a huge industry around the growth and sale of tobacco, which has continued today.

So, how does one grow tobacco? Tobacco has a very technical growing process. Seeds are harvested from the previous crop, and then planted as soon after Christmas as possible. The bed for planting the seeds needs to be covered with manure and then topped with either straw or small sticks. The covering with straw or sticks is thought to be a deterrent for animals, and also a way to add warmth to the bed. As soon as the plants begin to sprout, then it is time to transplant them. This typically happens around the end of March or the beginning of April.

The plants need to be well spaced, about 3 to 4 feet between each plant. It’s best to plant them on a wet day. From this point on it’s all about tending the plants – pruning any damaged leaves, making sure none of the leaves touch the ground, and keeping the beds weed free are very important.

Given how tricky it is to grow, the average yield for a crop of tobacco is about 10 to 1. So if you want 70 plants worth of tobacco, you’ll need to grow 700 plants. Of those 70 plants, you will likely only get 8 to 10 leaves per plant. This is a finicky crop at best.

Once the crop is fully grown it is harvested and dried, this typically happens in September. The plants are hung in a dry barn for about five to six weeks, and provided the environment stays dry, the leaves will then be completely cured. The tobacco needs to dry out, but not be so dry that the leaves become brittle. This entire process was rigorous and labor intensive, and almost entirely born on the backs of enslaved peoples.

The sailor who smoked tobacco from this pipe probably didn’t consider how hard the plant was to grow. He was likely just enjoying having a seat, and taking a break from the rigors of life on a boat. This particular pipe is in fantastic condition, and the detail on the face is superb. A very special thanks to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for all of their generosity and help in making this special series. This pipe and the rest of the artifacts you will learn about this week are a part of their collections. You can learn more on their website, LCMM.org. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Special thanks to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for access to the LCAA collection and their collaboration in making this video possible. Visit them at LCMM.org. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot
www.bensound.com

Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Episode 3

As part of our Battle of Plattsburgh celebration, today we’re looking at a flacon – a small glass bottle, likely used to hold medicine.

Special thanks to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for access to the LCAA collection and their collaboration in making this video possible. Visit them at www.lcmm.org.

Hi everyone, and welcome back to our Battle of Plattsburgh series of Artifact Corner. Today we will be looking at a beautiful late 18th Century blue green French glass bottle. This bottle, along with all of the artifacts we are looking at this week came from the site of the Battle of Plattsburgh, in Lake Champlain.
This particular design of bottle is called a Flacon. A Flacon refers to a bottle that is smaller in size and has a stopper in it. Some flacons have stoppers made of the same material as the bottle, for example, a porcelain flacon with a matching porcelain stopper. The stopper for this bottle was likely cork, and has not survived the last 200 plus years. This bottle is similar to other 18th Century bottles that were used to hold oils and medicines, and so we believe it was a medicine bottle.
Any ship that was intended to travel a long distance, had to have medicine on board, and all fleets in military service would have a doctor or surgeon. For ships just traveling for commercial purposes, there were strict guidelines about provisioning for the health of the sailors. The following citation draws on the Acts of Congress for July 20, 1790, section 8. It states,
“Every vessel of one hundred and fifty tons or upwards,
navigated by ten or more persons in all, and bound on a voyage beyond the United States, and every vessel of seventy- five tons or upwards, navigated by six or more persons in the whole, and bound from the United States to any port in the West Indies, is required to have a chest of medicines, put up by an apothecary of known reputation, and accompanied by directions for administering the same. The chest must be examined at least once a year, and supplied with fresh medicines.”
The Battle of Plattsburgh was hard fought, and there were many casualties on both sides. The American’s had around 220 men killed and wounded. The British had almost 390 men killed and wounded. With so many people in need of medical care, they would have exhausted their supplies quickly. Maybe this bottle was emptied, and discarded? We don’t know why it ended up in nearly perfect condition at the bottom of the lake, but it is a beautiful example of 18th Century glass.

We are so fortunate to have been able to work with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for this series. All of the artifacts you see this week in our videos are part of their collections. If you would like to learn more about the history of Lake Champlain, check out their website, LCMM.org. Thanks for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot
https://www.bensound.com

Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Episode 2

Hi everyone, and welcome back to our Battle of Plattsburgh series of Artifact Corner. Today we will be looking at a very interesting artifact, a cannon lock. This lock is made of brass, and would have been the firing mechanism for a cannon. There is a makers mark which reads J Sherwood. J Sherwood was a cannon lock manufacturer at number 67 Upper East Smithfield Row in London in 1812, according to the Post Office Directory for London.
Our cannon lock is incomplete. We are missing the hammer piece that would have held the flint. To fire the lock, you would pull the trigger, which would cause the hammer to fall, and the flint in the hammer will strike a steel pan, which then causes the spark that will fire the cannon. This is the same mechanism used for flint lock muskets of the time. This was a big advance from previous methods of firing artillery.
In the past, the person firing the cannon used a long stick, with a length of slow match wound around it. What is slow match? It is a length of cotton, linen or hemp cording boiled in lye. Saltpeter is added, and it is left to dry. When the cording is lit, it will burn very slowly, and act as a match for the powder. In order for a person to safely fire a cannon using slow match, they need to secure the slow match to something that will allow them to be at a distance from the cannon. The stick that holds the slow match is referred to as a linstock.
With a cannon lock as the firing mechanism, the person firing the cannon would be holding a length cord, and can stand further away from the cannon. This is not to say that this method was safer. Firing a cannon is inherently dangerous.
This cannon lock is in quite good condition despite missing the hammer. This piece and all of the pieces we are featuring this week are from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s collections. We are so thankful to them for their generosity is helping to make this series happen. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Special thanks to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for access to the LCAA collection and their collaboration in making this video possible. Visit them at www.lcmm.org.

Music:
Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot
www.bensound.com

Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Episode 1

Hi everyone, and welcome back to our Battle of Plattsburgh series of Artifact Corner. Today we will be looking at two buttons found in Lake Champlain at the site of the battle. One of the buttons belonged to an American sailor, the other to a British Sailor.
The first button we will look at is an American sailor’s button. You can see that the button has an eagle with a shield, and on the shield we see an anchor. The eagle and the shield are encircled with stars. This is a solid brass, one piece button. Earlier buttons had a copper repousse top, and a bone or wooden backing. The older style were far more likely to come apart or be broken. These new buttons were cast as one solid piece, and were very durable in comparison.
Our next button is from a British soldiers uniform. This button has an anchor on the front face, and a textured border surrounding it. This is also a one piece button, but unlike its American counterpart, it is made of pewter, not brass.
As you can see, the uniforms are for the Americans and the British are very similar. The average sailor was wearing a wool coat, a wool waist coat or weskit, trousers and a water proofed or glazed hat. A British sailor recounted his ability to blend in with American sailors when he was taken prisoner when his ship, the Macedonian, was captured by the frigate United States. He was able to go out with his new friends/captors to a dinner in New York City simply by covering his anchor buttons.
This series of Artifact Corner could not have happened without the generosity and help of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum! All of artifacts you see this week are from LCMM’s collection, and they have been so helpful in making this series coming together. Please head over to their website, they are a wealth of information on anything to do with Lake Champlain. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Special thanks to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for access to the LCAA collection and their collaboration in making this video possible. Visit them at www.lcmm.org.

Music:
Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot
www.bensound.com