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Arming the Troops: the Gunsmiths Shop at Pluckemin, 1778-1779

Excavations in the Southeast Line, Knoxs Artillery Cantonment Pluckemin History & Archaeology Series, Report No. 5

John L. Seidel, Ph.D. Washington College 2012

Arming the Troops: the Gunsmiths Shop at Pluckemin, 1778-1779

Excavations in the Southeast Line, Knoxs Artillery Cantonment ARMOURER, a person who makes or deals in armour or arms (Jamess Universal Military Dictionary 1816) retain what you think our camp armourers may be able to repair..." Washington to Knox, January 1, 1779 Archaeological sites of the American Revolution have been scientifically investigated for almost a century (Seidel 1987). This work has focused on winter camps or cantonments such as Middlebrook, Morristown, Valley Forge, and New Windsor, as well as on fortifications and battlefields. Despite the wide range of archaeological work, it is odd that relatively little attention has been paid to the logistical or supply side of the American and British armies, especially the craft and industrial facilities that made the materials of war. In the 1980s, archaeologists of the non-profit Pluckemin Archaeological Project had the opportunity to explore some of these crafts through workshops built by troops under the command of General Henry Knox. These investigations took place in Bedminster Township, Somerset County, New Jersey, outside the small village of Pluckemin. For seven months during the American War for Independence, this site was home to the Continental Artillery under Knox. As the main portion of Washingtons army moved into their winter quarters around Middlebrook, New Jersey, Knoxs troops moved into Pluckemin beginning in December of 1778, and for the next seven months, the site bustled with the activity of a military city. Knoxs command included 22 companies of artillery, two companies of artificers (craftsmen), one company of armourers, and the field arm of the Military Stores Department. These soldiers built barracks, warehouses, and workshops, and created an important supply center and the nations first military academy. The story of this overlooked yet critical chapter of American history has been partially told in the first report of this series (Seidel 2012a) and several other places (Sekel 1971; Seidel 1983, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1995a, 1995b, 2012b, 2012c, 2012d). The archaeology began with a survey of the site in 1979, followed by the formation of the non-profit Pluckemin Archaeological Project in 1980 and a decade of field work carried out through 1989. While the archaeologists excavated, historical research continued, and eventually the story emerged of an ambitious plan by Brigadier General Henry Knox, with the support of his commander-in-chief, General George Washington. What Knox and his men built at Pluckemin was a remarkable complex of buildings, with Knox himself stating that he had put his troops into barracks which are comfortable and on an elegent [sic] plan (McDougall Papers: Knox to McDougall, January 10, 1779). The barracks and other buildings of the Pluckemin Cantonment were drawn by Capt. John Lillie, a company commander at Pluckemin, as shown in Figure 1. Archaeology, the Lillie drawing and other historical documents make it clear that this part of the 1

Middlebrook Cantonment was a far cry from the miserable log cabins and hovels in which the Continental Army shivered during the previous winter at Valley Forge. What occurred within those buildings and in the surrounding area was as remarkable as their construction. Officers were taught the science of gunnery and warfare, men were drilled in gun evolutions, craftsmen made and repaired everything from muskets to canteens, supplies were brought into warehouses from around the country, and the larger Continental Army quartered to the south at Middlebrook was resupplied for the campaign of 1779 (Seidel 1987). Pluckemin is a story of American success, and it is a story very much worth telling.

Figure 1. The 1778-1779 Pluckemin Cantonment, as depicted by Captain John Lillie area of investigation highlighted by the red circle

This report is the fifth in a series that tells the Pluckemin story. Its focus is on the supply side of the American story. One of the things that set the Pluckemin Cantonment apart from other winter camps is the fact the the field arm of the Military Stores Department was located there. In addition, two companies of artificers and a company of armourers were at work in the shops at Pluckemin (Sekel 1972; Seidel 1987). Artificer units were made up of skilled craftsmen, such as carpenters, blacksmiths, coopers, wheelwrights, and masons, while the company of Continental Armourers was comprised of gunsmiths and specialists in

munitions. Historical and archaeological research revealed that the industrial and supply portions of the site were located in the southeast and south, in the two long buildings depicted on the right in Figure 1. The long building at the base of the hill, facing the viewer (top right), has been referred to by archaeologists as the Southeast Line. Careful plotting of surface artifacts in the Southeast Line, and subsequent analysis, gave investigators some strong clues as to what took place in the building (Seidel 1987, 2012b). At the far right end of the building, slag, scrap metal and a variety of broken tools suggested blacksmithing. To the left of this smithy area, roughly centered in the red circle in Figure 1, lay a concentration of gun parts, indicating the probable loctation of a gunsmiths shop, part of the armourers workshops. Just to the left of the gunsmiths shop was an area defined by large quantities of sheet metal, perhaps the remains of a tinsmiths shop. In contrast, the left side held fewer industrial materials, but an abundance of the bone, shell, ceramics, glass and personal items that typically are found in living quarters. This suggested the location of barracks rooms for the artificiers and armourers, an hypothesis that was supported by subsequent historical and archaeological investigation as described in the fourth rpeort of this series (Seidel 2012d). This report focuses on excavations in one room of the Southeast Line at Pluckemin, the gunsmiths shop. It offers an exciting complement to the investigations done in the artificers living quarters, offering us an opportunity to see what these men worked on during the winter of 1778-1779.

Excavating at Pluckemin
Although the various reports in this series build upon one another, they are designed so that they may be read alone, without reference to earlier reports. This means that a certain amount of repetition is necessary in laying out the background and the methods used in the work. Those who have read previous reports and are familiar with the techniques used by the archaeologists may want to skip ahead to description of these specific investigations. Archaeological excavation is not the same as digging in the garden, nor is it at all related to the methods used by pothunters or those with metal detectors. It is instead a careful and precise approach to dissecting the layers of soil that have accumulated over time, looking for how those layers have been laid down by people and isolating the clues with which to reconstruct past ways of life. At Pluckemin, as with most sites, excavations areas were laid out inside a surveyed grid, so that every point, be it the corner of a fireplace or the location of an artifact, could be measured and recorded via precise grid coordinates. Each of these excavation areas was numbered, and then each layer of soil or identifiable feature such as a posthole, wall, or pit was given its own unique number. In the Pluckemin Project, each layer or feature was called a locus (a neutral term, simply meaning that it was something the archaeologists wanted to number and record). These layers were laid down by people and nature over time, and on a site that was occupied for a long time, the earliest deposits can be quite deep. Typically, excavators start at the surface and carefully dig or scrape away each layer of soil, gradually working their way down and back in time. As each new layer is exposed, it is photographed and drawn to scale, and the artifacts recovered are separated according to the layers or loci in which they are found.

Although these digging techniques are common to all archaeological sites, there are some aspects of the Pluckmin site and its topography that called for modifications. Perhaps the most striking difference between the Pluckemin Cantonment and many other sites is its short occupation. The bulk of the site was used for a period of only six months before it was abandoned. This meant that there had been relatively little time for its occupants to deposit multiple layers of soil and trash, or for buildings to be modified, repaired or replaced. In other words, the archaeological deposits were generally very thin. In addition, they were typically very close to the surface. Much of the site is located on a steep slope. Although the usual processes of natural soil build-up were at work there over the past 200 years falling leaves and each seasons dead vegetation being digested and processed by soil fauna to make new soil gravity and erosion constantly worked to wash away the new deposits, keeping the 18th century levels very close to the present day surface. As illustrated in the second report in this series, vast amounts of artifacts were to be found on the surface. Indeed, in some places all it took was a gentle raking away of leaves to expose a surface that might have been walked on by soldiers in 1778. On the typical site, with many, deep layers or strata, archaeologists spend a lot of time puzzling out these layers and trying to date them via the artifacts each contains. At Pluckemin, however, the short occupation and thin deposits made this less of a concern. More important than the vertical patterning of remains was the horizontal patterning of features and artifacts. The plotting and collection of surface artifacts (Seidel 2102b) was remarkably helpful in determining how the cantonment was laid out and what kinds of activities took place in various areas. It therefore seemed likely that a careful plotting and analysis of horizontal distributions of artifacts within rooms would be equally helpful, and the larger the area exposed, the better. This contrasts with a common excavation strategy of digging smaller squares of one meter or five feet. Ideally, archaeologists at Pluckemin wanted to see entire rooms exposed, all at once. Then it would be possible to plot the distribution of nails and other objects to figure out construction techniques and to reconstruct daily life and the utilization of space. That was the approach adopted in a portion of the artificers barracks, and it was very illuminating. Despite the shallow nature of the site, the excavations proved to be complex. Excavators had to trace many horizontal interfaces between loci. Often these interfaces shifted quickly as they were excavated, because they were due to the lensing of very shallow and thin levels. The lensing and many fine wash levels of erosion deposits make it difficult to follow soil changes on a site such as this. This is compounded by disturbances from tree roots, worms, and rodents, as well as the ever-present rocks. Nevertheless, careful attention to stratigraphy (the layering of the site), to horizontal patterns of debris and artifacts, detailed scaled drawings and photographs, and a focus on plotting individual artifact locations (as opposed to the common practice of lumping everything from a layer together), made it possible to tease out the story of the site.

Figure 2. Pluckemin site plan showing excavations, 1979-1989, with projected barracks (north at top of page) 5

Figure 3. Detail from the Pluckemin site plan showing the Southeast Line area 11G37 is to the left of the label Armorers (north at top; yellow grid square is 100 meters) 6

Investigations in the Gunsmiths Shop: 11G37

Documentary References to the Armourer's & Artificers Shops

One of the first of Knoxs men to arrive at Pluckemin in the fall of 1778 was Richard Frothingham, a Deputy Commissary of Military Stores. Frothingham had been charged with the task of building a shop for the armourers, and apparently began work shortly after his arrival. Although the exact date of Frothingham's arrival is uncertain, it must have been sometime in late November (Sekel 1972; Seidel 1987, 2012a). At least two kinds of forges would have been needed on site, as both blacksmiths and gunsmiths were at work. Blacksmiths at Pluckemin would presumably have worked iron and steel into a wide variety of products. They would have turned out simple items such as nails and horseshoes, as well as hardware for buildings, inluding hinges, locks, and latches. We also know that wagons were being rebuilt during this time period (see the letter of James Thompson, Wagonmaster General, to Greene, December 27, 1778 (Showman 1979, Vol. III: 162)). Presumably the wagons and gun-carriages which accompanied the artillery were also in need of repair due to the wretched state of the roads. The iron hardware holding them together might have been replaced with pieces manufactured by the Pluckemin blacksmiths. Gunsmiths, on the other hand, performed very specific and highly skilled work. They were responsible for making the parts of flintlock weapons and assembling and repairing weapons. The work they performed was more intricate than that of most blacksmiths and required different tools and skills. The kinds of small pieces which went into a flintlock are illustrated in Figures 4 and 5. Upon completion of the shops construction, the armourers would have been put to work repairing damaged weapons. That this was the intent is made clear in a January 1, 1779, letter from Washington to Knox directing that, although old cartridge boxes and arms in need of repair should be sent to the armoury at Philadelphia, "...It is not my intention that you shall send all the arms out of repair, but retain what you think our camp armourers may be able to repair..." (Fitzpatrick 1931-44, Volume 15). This letter was sent to Knox because he was responsible for overseeing elements of the Military Stores Department which accompanied the main army, a large part of which was at Pluckemin. The convenience of also having armourers at hand becomes obvious when one examines the kinds of materials coming into the department at Pluckemin. Returns from the period between December 4, 1778, and June 15, 1779, show that, along with good weapons, 589 damaged bayonets, 2,184 damaged cartridge boxes, and 1,978 damaged muskets were taken in at Pluckemin (from Sekel 1972 and Barna 1986).

Figure 4. Plate from Diderots Encyclopedia (1762-1777, Vol. I), showing flintlock mechanisms 8

Figure 5. Plate from Diderots Encyclopedia (1762-1777, Vol. I), showing flintlock mechanisms 9

The men responsible for repairing some of this equipment at Pluckemin were commanded by Captain Cornelius Austin, who had been an armourer for the state of New Jersey earlier in the war (Brown 1980 - Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-83: Monthly Muster Rolls, Continental Artillery). According to the muster rolls, Austin and his two superintendents (John Darbin and Godfrey Lowry) oversaw some twentytwo men. In addition to damaged weapons, documents show that a wide variety of tools and replacement parts were issued to the armourers. The partial listing in Table 1 gives an indication of the types of items which were delivered to the armoury between January 26 and June 15 of 1779 (from Sekel, 1972: Appendix J).

Table 1. Partial listing of materials supplied to the Pluckemin armoury Item Anvils Bayonets, damaged Binding wire, lbs. Borax, ounces Brass pipes Carbines, damaged Cocks Cock pins Files, assorted " flat " handsaw " 1/4 round " 1/2 round " round rattail Fuzee cocks Fuzee cock pins Fuzee hammer springs Hammers, large Hammer springs Locks Muskets, damaged Pinchers, pair
Pistol cocks

Number 1 296 9.5 40 480 44 144 144 70 2 46 1 6 29 24 24 24 144 144 1,488 2 24 24 3 3 31 1 144 2 2

Pistol hammers Rasps, common " 1/4 round Rifles, damaged Sear springs Small grindstones Tenent saws


This partial listing of materials supplied to the armoury gives some idea of the extent of their activities. These materials would have been supplemented by items already in possession of the workmen when they arrived, as well as shipments for which we have no documentation. The armourers continued working at Pluckemin after the artillery left for the spring campaign. Samuel Hodgdon, Field Commissary of Military Stores, left instructions for Austin on June 15, ordering him to supervise the men in the armoury and ensure that they completed the repairs on damaged muskets (Seidel 1987, 2012a). The shop must have been closed down sometime in early to mid-July, as a letter of July 6 (Hodgdon Letterbooks: Hodgdon to Sheineman) ordered teams to Pluckemin to pick up all the repaired muskets, "seven or eight hundred New Constructed Cart[ridge] Boxes, the machine for drawing fuzes, all the spare Bayonets, and scabbards, all the Drums & Fifes," and anything else the wagons would carry. Austin himself was ordered to report to the main camp, as damaged muskets were coming in quickly. Although the documents give us a good idea of the volume of repairs and the kinds of tools in use, there are still a great many unanswered questions. What, for example, was likely to go wrong with a soldier's weapon while he was in battle? Could some simple repairs be made in the field, or were guns sent back to the armourers for even minor repairs? What kinds of guns were most commonly used, and how well equipped were the troops with accoutrements and other weapons such as bayonets? The documents are often silent on these matters, and archaeology is sometimes the sole means of answering such questions.

Excavation of 11G37
Because of an increase in the frequency of gun parts in the surface collection of ten meter square SII6 (Seidel 1987, 2012b), this area was targeted for excavation. Surface mapping had already indicated the approximate location of a structure, or at least a room within a structure, in SII6. The evidence consisted primarily of a level terrace on the hill. This terrace could be traced to the north, where excavations in 11G11, 15, & 19 had already yielded structural remains of the Southeast Line (Seidel 1987, 2012d). Closer examination of the surface in SII6 showed that there were areas strongly resembling the chimney fall which overlay the fireplace in 11G19. This area was decided upon as holding the best prospect for subsurface testing. Excavation unit 11G37 was situated so as to contain within it the area which resembled the chimney fall. The area to be examined was fairly large, measuring 6.50 meters (21.3 ft) east-west by 4.00 meters (13.1 ft) northsouth. The unit and the surface features are rendered in Figure 6. These consisted of a level area extending across the center and lower (west) portion of the square, a drop in elevation along the west section, and a hump of rock and soil which protruded into the center of the level area. It was this protruding feature which had occasioned the placement of the unit in this area. We hoped that it might signify an underlying hearth or, if our hypothesis as to this area being a gunsmith or armourers shop was correct, a forge.


Figure 6. Excavation unit 11G37 prior to excavation - hachures represent sloping areas (north at left)


Without wishing to try the reader's patience with a detailed description of how the various strata were peeled back and sorted out, this particular area is best understood by examining the excavations as they proceeded through four stages of excavation. The strata in this area were somewhat complex, and an understanding of their distinctions and their stratification is crucial to the interpretation of the remains. To keep the discussion more comprehensible, the discussion of artifacts will, for the time being, be kept to a minimum. These may be examined in more detail in a later section

Stage I
The first stage in excavation was to strip off the shallow layer of topsoil across the unit. On the slope at Pluckemin, this initial stage generally had some predictable effects. Remembering that downhill portions of structures are often eroded, while uphill segments are buried under debris, the outcome is not hard to foresee. In this case, as with others, cultural levels were exposed from the outset on the downhill side (west), while slump and debris were prevalent on the upslope side. The various loci exposed after topsoil removal are shown in Figure 7. Loci 002 and 003 were natural slump and topsoil levels. Locus 004 was subsoil, but it appeared to have been water washed and contained slag, charcoal, and scrap metal. It lensed out to the west and washed over locus 005, which also resembled subsoil, but was far more compact than natural subsoil levels elsewhere on the site. As will be demonstrated shortly, this locus is actually subsoil which was placed on the hillside during construction to form a level platform.

Stage II
Locus 005, the platform material, had been exposed at such a shallow level that it was suspected that it had been subjected to a good deal of erosion. Consequently, its upper surface might be at a lower elevation than the original floor surface. Excavation therefore proceeded first on the uphill side of the unit, in loci 002 and 003. At a very shallow depth in the east end of the unit a new level was found, extending under both loci 002 and 003. With the exception of a few bits of slag on the upper surface, this level, locus 007, was devoid of artifacts and was a natural soil horizon, perhaps consistent with the original slope surface two hundred years ago. As locus 002 was peeled away from this level to the west, locus 007 abruptly terminated in a straight north-south line, and locus 002 dropped down in depth a further ten centimeters (4 inches) or so. This drop-off essentially defining a cut into the slope - can be clearly seen on Figure 8, along to the west edge of locus 007.


Figure 7. 11G37 after initial stage of excavation (Stage I)


Figure 8. 11G37 at the second stage of excavation slump and eroded material have been removed, revealing the rear of a room (Stage II)


As locus 002, the slump, was removed farther to the west over the terrace, underneath it two new loci became apparent. The first of these was locus 009, which was a clay soil mixed with rock and mounded up towards the interface with locus 007. This was a rather loose matrix, with rocks oriented at random angles, suggestive of fill. In a semicircle around this mound was a dark soil (locus 008) containing large amounts of slag and charcoal, as well as various iron artifacts. This new level was quite compact, as if it had been intentionally beaten firm. Although locus 008 obviously was the same material across its entire extent, different segments could be graded in terms of color and compaction. The darkest and most compact area is shown south of locus 009, and the compaction and color became noticeably lighter as the locus progressed around to the north side of the mound.

Stage III
By the next stage of excavation, loci 007 and 009 had been removed, and a complete occupation surface had been exposed (Figure 9). Locus 007 was excavated down to subsoil (012), which was encountered at the shallow depth of 0.15 meters (6 inches) below surface.

As locus 009 was removed, it became more compact and noticeably redder. The color and compaction was very similar to the reddened soil found underneath hearths elsewhere on the site, suggesting great heat in this area. As locus 009 was excavated, its edges retreated inward, exposing more of locus 008. Thus it was apparent that locus 009 had washed out over this underlying level. The last traces of locus 009 were removed to reveal a smaller underlying feature, locus 011. This was a reddened area measuring approximately 0.90 meters (3 feet north-south) by 1.20 meters (4 feet east-west).

Loci 009 and 011 were clearly subjected to a great deal of heat, which is consistent with the existence of a fireplace or forge. No forge or hearth base was encountered, however, so excavation of locus 008 proceeded. This quickly revealed an intensely dark and compact area south of locus 011. It was distinct enough to be treated separately, and was designated locus 010. In the southeast corner of the locus, a compact and dense cluster of rock was exposed. In addition, a concentration of artifacts was disclosed to the east, along the base of 012.


Figure 9. 11G37 at Stage III of excavation a void once occupied by the forge is designated 011, surrounded by a work surface designated 008 and 010


Figure 10. 11G37 at Stage IV of excavation; a compacted work surface south of the forge (011) is designated 016, cut into by a pit


Stage IV
In the last stage of excavation, both loci 008 and 010 were completely removed. Underneath locus 010, a more general but less intense version of locus 010 was found and designated locus 016. This second, underlying surface is shown in Figure 10.

A pit was discovered at the same time, cut down from the level of locus 016. As the pit was emptied of its contents, it was shown to be broad and shallow, and had been filled with broken tools, scrap metal, and soil littered with fine iron filings. The pit cut down into sterile subsoil (make-up for the original floor), and locus 016 was shown to rest on this level.

Figure 11. East view of 11G37 with excavation completed Figure 11 provides a view of the unit looking east, after this last stage of excavation. The ledge running from left to right in the photograph (not the edge of the excavation unit to the rear, but the area with the vertical scale in front of it) is the cut made into the subsoil by the builders for the rear wall. It is interrupted to the right by a probing excavation dug into the subsoil originally the ledge continued to the right. Most traces of the forge have been removed in this photo; it was located to the right of and behind the sign board. 19

Ultimately, the platform material itself was removed, revealing the original slope of the hill on the west side (locus 017). No fossil topsoil horizon was visible, probably due to extensive root and worm action.

The interpretation of this area is perhaps best done by examining the features in reverse order from above. It is possible to suggest a sequence of events in the construction, use, and abandonment of a structure which stood here. The first event for which we have evidence is a leveling operation on the hillside. It is clear that the builders cut into the hill on the uphill side of the room, the cut being visible both on plan as the interface between loci 012/017 and locus 016 (Figure 10). Soil from this cut, and perhaps from elsewhere, was deposited downhill as locus 005 (Figures 7-9). This displaced subsoil provided a level platform and constituted an earthen floor. Excavation showed that the builders packed larger amounts of stone into the front edge of the platform. This too is shown in section, although the degree of erosion makes it hazardous to suggest a specific location for the front wall. The distance from the uphill cut to this point suggests a room depth of approximately 4.80 meters, or 15.75 feet. A depth of between 16 and 18 feet is most likely. The kind of structure which was built must remain conjectural. In fact, there is little structural evidence to suggest that a building of any sort was erected around this area, as no evidence of sills or postholes were found. However, even in the absence of John Lillies drawing showing a structure here (Figure1), the winter occupation argues forcefully that activities which took place here were sheltered. Also, the 126 nails and 51 pieces of pane glass recovered are suggestive. Mirroring the findings in the artificers quarters to the north (Seidel 1987, 2012d), pane glass was found predominantly along the west side, or front, of the structure. Adequate light would have been necessary for smithy operations, hence the relative increase in pane glass as compared to the North Line. Subsequent to leveling the floor, a forge was installed. This is made apparent by the combination of thermal discoloration and compaction, as well as the overwhelming predominance of artifacts which can only be associated with forge work. The forge was located along the rear edge of the room and measured roughly 0.90 meters by 1.20 meters (3 feet by 3.5-4.0 feet). As it was dismantled or destroyed at some point, its original position may be traced only at its base, locus 011. Artifacts indicative of forge work include slag and charcoal, which were found in abundance (27.776 kilograms (61.23 lbs.) of slag). Discarded tongs, files, chisels, and hammer heads were also found, along with innumerable scraps of waste metal. Aside from architectural fragments, the largest single category of identifiable materials was gun parts. Gun repair must have been a dominant activity in this room. The stains and compacted areas (loci 008, 010, 016) around the forge base (loci 009, 011) are the result of smiths standing near the fire to work and scattering charcoal and debris around the forge. The bulk of the activity appears to have taken place on the south side of the fire, as this was consistently more compact and was associated with greater numbers of artifacts.


From what we know of how smiths operate, an anvil would have been located near the forge fire. The most convenient spot would be close enough so that the smith could heat his iron, remove it from the fire, and turn around to work it on the anvil. The compaction of the soil and heavy usage to the south of the fire suggests than an anvil was placed there. Usual practice seems to have been to bury a post of large diameter (one to two feet) in a hole, leaving two to three feet of the post exposed above ground as an anvil base. The pit excavated to the south of the fire was too shallow to have served as a hole for such a support, and no other post holes existed within the confines of the room. If the anvil base was installed above ground, perhaps the densely packed rock seen in both 010 and 016 (at the edge of the pit) served in some way as a base for the anvil supports. Sometime after the forge was built and put into operation, a pit was dug to the south, abutting the possible position of the anvil. This pit was broad, measuring 1.30 meters by 0.90 meters (4.3 by 3.0 ft), and shallow, extending 0.30 meters (one foot) in depth. Its purpose must remain conjectural. Although a number of explanations might be possible, it seems likely that it served as a rudimentary catchment for hot bits of scrap and scale from the anvil. If so, it may have been cleaned out on a periodic basis as it filled up with debris. The deposition of locus 010, a working floor surface, over the top of the backfilled pit makes it clear that the pit fell into disuse while the forge was still in operation. The pit fill contained gun parts, primarily pieces from musket locks, as well as fragments of tools. Particularly noticeable were pieces of files. The files, combined with the fact that the fill was impregnated with iron filings, suggest that the fill was brought in from another area. The heating and forging of metal is an operation which is different from the finish filing of repaired or manufactured pieces, which must have been done away from the forge itself. Either a separate part of the room or a different room altogether must have been used for filing and finishing. In any case, it is clear that the dominant activity around the forge was the repair of flintlocks. The smith apparently continued to work primarily on the south side of the fire after the pit was filled. The accumulation of material against the rear "ledge" (where the subsoil was cut to form the back of the building platform) shows that the broken pieces were thrown with some regularity towards the rear of the room, perhaps bouncing off the wall. The compacted soil encircling the forge to the west and north makes it clear that these areas were also utilized, although to a lesser extent. During or after abandonment of the site, the forge was dismantled. This may have been necessary to retrieve the bellows tuyere, or it could have been done by local salvors after the site's abandonment. The hump of clay and stone which overlay the "foot-print" of the forge is suggestive of the construction technique used here. It is likely that the forge took the form of a large box, enclosed with brick or stone sides, the interior was probably filled with rock rubble and clay up to the top of the sides. The top, at a convenient working height (close to waist high), would have been topped by a bed of sand for the charcoal fire. When the forge was dismantled and removed, the removal of the retaining walls resulted in the slump of the interior fill forward onto the floor of the shop, and erosion began its slow work of returning the slope to its original contours.


Artifact Frequencies from 11G37

It is now appropriate to take a closer look at the frequencies with which specific artifact types occurred in 11G37. Our hypothesis as to the function of the area seems to have been verified through excavation, but it is not yet clear how closely surface frequencies parallel those found beneath the surface. Excluding slag, charcoal, and other artifacts not falling into South's typologies (discussed in earlier reports of this series, and used as a model for artifact frequencies seen in typical domestic sites of the period), a total of 811 artifacts were recovered from 11G37. A large portion of the total consists of scrap metal which is difficult to identify, but there were a significant number of gun parts and broken tools.

Table 2. 11G37 artifact frequencies Artifact Group Kitchen Architecture Furniture Arms Clothing Personal Tobacco Activities Total Carolina Pattern % Range 51.8 69.2 19.7 31.4 0.1 0.6 0.1 1.2 0.6 5.4 0.1 0.5 1.8 13.9 0.9 2.7 11G 37 Count 17 178 - 5.5 45 5 1 565 811 % 2.1 21.9 5.5 0.6 0.1 69.7 99.9

The actual frequencies for 11G37 are presented in Table 2. The total artifact count of 811 was reached by eliminating from the sample all modern artifacts, as well as slag and charcoal. Only four fragments of bone were found and these were also excluded. Several points are worth noting about this pattern. First, the Kitchen group contains no ceramics. It consists of 16 bottle fragments and one knife blade. The bottle fragments could represent drinking on the job, but it is equally likely that bottles were used to store linseed oil, "sweet oil" and other liquids known to have been delivered to the armourers (itemized in Sekel 1972: Appendix J). The complete absence of ceramics strengthens the conclusions reached from surface collection data, which was that this area was not a living quarter, but instead served a specialized function, most likely related to weapons repair (Seidel 1987, 2012b). Note also that pane glass represents over 40% of the Architecture group. The simplest explanation for its presence is that it was used in the structure. Thus the size of this group reflects usage in construction rather than being inflated by nail manufacture or some other specialized activity. The Arms group is clearly significant in the 11G37 pattern, being almost five times the highest frequency seen in the Carolina Pattern. Skeptics might argue that 45 gunparts do not a gunsmithy make, but two points should be made. First, broken gun parts might have been recycled in an effort to maximize output, so that we should expect a much higher proportion of unrecognizable scrap than recognizable parts.


Second, it is highly likely that a forge room would have been cleaned out on a regular basis to remove both slag and waste metal. If this practice was not followed over a six month period, the accumulation of debris should have been much greater than observed. It is entirely possible that the material excavated from within the confines of the room only represents refuse from the last days of occupation. This also suggests that refuse areas exist away from the buildings that might greatly increase our data base if found and excavated.

Table 3. 11G37 pattern compared with SII6 surface collection Artifact Group Kitchen Architecture Furniture Arms Clothing Personal Tobacco Activities Total Carolina Pattern % Range 51.8 69.2 19.7 31.4 0.1 0.6 0.1 1.2 0.6 5.4 0.1 0.5 1.8 13.9 0.9 2.7 SII6 % 1.2 0.8 0.2 97.9 100.1 11G37 % 2.1 21.9 5.5 0.6 0.1 69.7 99.9

The pattern found in 11G37 is compared with that from the surface in Table 3. Aside from very small changes in the Clothing and Personal groups, and the presence of bottle glass in the Kitchen group, the biggest differences lie in the Architecture, Arms, and Activities Groups. The reason for the under-representation of nails and pane glass in the surface collection is hard to explain, but surface collection similarly underestimated the frequency of excavated architectural materials in the artificers quarters (Seidel 2012d). Surface collection again did not accurately predict the subsurface frequencies, but was nevertheless useful in distinguishing a difference in function form living quarters and even predicting the nature of that activity. The other differences are somewhat easier to explain. The decrease in the excavated Activities Group occurred at the expense of both architectural items and arms. Part of this is understandable in terms of disposal and erosion patterns. Scrap was more prevalent in the erosion-prone areas to the front of the building and behind it, so that more was exposed on the surface. Gun parts occurred in larger number towards the rear of the room itself, and were thus more likely to have been covered by erosion than exposed. The patterns seen in surface collection can therefore be expected to exhibit some variance from the excavated patterns, particularly where groups are disposed of differently.


Although by no means perfect, there does appear to be a correlation between artifact patterns found on the surface and those revealed by excavation. Particularly noticeable is the lack of ceramics in both collections and the absence or low frequency of furniture, personal, and tobacco items. More significant than the exact degree of correlation is the indication that surface patterns can have great predictive value. As demonstrated in the analysis of SII6 surface collection data by Seidel (1987, 2012b), this is particularly true if one adjusts the frequencies to remove large numbers of uninformative artifacts, such as slag and scrap metal, which may make more useful patterns. Also important is the observation that it is not so much a large percentage increase in a certain category which is informative, but the deviation from the prevalent pattern. Thus even small numbers of artifacts not seen elsewhere, such as the five gun parts collected from the surface in SII6, can be significant.

Gun Parts from the Shop

The recovery of materials from the armourer's shop promises illuminating information on how the troops were equipped and how their weapons broke and were repaired. The analysis of these materials, however, has been a time-consuming process. All of the metal recovered from this area was in need of some form of conservation. Much of it was badly corroded and required attention before identification was possible, and this process continues. Although a general identification, such as what part of a gun a piece came from, often was possible, the precise type of weapon was not always so obvious. Although the stylistic differences between French, English, and German weapons are often identifiable, this is not always the case with American made replacement parts. The most accurate means of identification is through a comparison of artifact measurements with those taken from original weapons. Unfortunately, these kinds of precise measurements have never been catalogued for original weapons, so that this becomes a necessary first step. Although this initial step is currently under way, it will be some time before this aspect of analysis is complete. Fortunately, it is not central to this study, as it does not bear on the predictive qualities of surface collection or the general results of excavation. It is more properly addressed in the comprehensive site report; however, some general observations about the materials may be made. This general discussion may be useful because no other armouries run by the Continental Army in the field have ever been excavated, making this the only assemblage of its kind.

Types of Weapons in Use During the War Early in the war, British muskets were most common in the American army. Many had been taken from royal armouries in the colonies or had been obtained during early wars with the French and the Indians. Others were manufactured by American gunsmiths and copied from British guns. These were often made on contract for local Committees of Safety, organizations set up in part to coordinate colonial efforts early in the war, or by manufactories set up by states such as Virginia.


One of the biggest problems in the early years must have been a lack of standardization, particularly in bore sizes. So many different types of weapons were in use within a given regiment that it must have been impossible to supply them with adequate amounts of properly sized shot.

The Pluckemin Evidence

The pieces recovered from the Pluckemin armoury show that a wide variety of weapons were still in use at this point during the war, although non-standard weapons may not have been used in very large numbers. Many pieces are readily identifiable as British, but parts of German guns, possibly captured from Hessian mercenaries, have been excavated. In addition, fragments of fowling pieces, not usually associated with the military, have been dug up, along with some pistol parts. Many of the gun parts, however, are French. This fits what we know from the documentary record, which shows that French arms gradually became the mainstay of the Continental Army. America's ambassadors to France, Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane, managed with loans to purchase 80,000 muskets from the French in 1777. Other shipments came in periodically, until a total of some 102,000 French arms reached the country (Brown 1980). Many of the weapons were engraved with the name "Charleville" on the lock, and American soldiers seem to have applied the term to every French gun in use. The name indicates that the guns came from the royal arms manufactory in Charleville, France, although many actually came from other manufactories. Because many of the excavated parts are broken, they hold the promise of showing us what parts of the flintlock weapons failed most often. It appears, not surprisingly, from the analysis done so far, that the springs which powered the flintlocks broke most frequently. Each flintlock had three springs on it: a mainspring which powered the hammer or cock; a sear spring against which the trigger pulled; and a frizzen spring on the outside of the lock (parts "a", "b", and "c", respectively in Figures 4 & 5). Flintlocks used a much bulkier firing mechanism than today's guns. The ignition for a flintlock was provided by a spark from a flint and black powder. The flint was held in a vice on a large hammer or "cock" ("d" in Figure 4). This was pulled back before firing in the same matter as a modern single action pistol, and could be released by pulling the trigger. When released, the cock and flint flew forward with enormous force, striking a flat piece of steel called a frizzen or batter ("e" on Figure 4). Underneath the frizzen was a small pan containing a charge of black powder ("f" in Figure 4). As the flint hit the frizzen, it flipped it forward, exposing the powder and chipping small bits of molten steel off the frizzen. These sparks fell into the pan, ignited the powder, and the flame travelled through a small hole into the barrel, where it ignited a larger charge of powder behind a large caliber lead ball. The sequence of events was as follows: after cocking the piece, the trigger was pulled, releasing the cock; the cock and flint struck the frizzen, knocking sparks into the pan; the powder in the pan ignited and the flame travelled through the touch-hole into the barrel, igniting the main charge, and propelling the ball out of the barrel. It was a sequence in which plenty of things could go wrong. The flint could break or not release any spark; the hole through which the spark travelled could be blocked up with burned powder; or the powder


could be wet, in which case nothing at all happened. Worst of all, one of the springs or another part of the mechanism could break. Broken examples of all three spring types (main, sear, and frizzen) have been found. With hard usage, a variety of other parts might also break or wear out. Experience with old weapons and modern reproductions has shown that with use, the cock can become too loose to function effectively. The method of attaching a cock to the lock was relatively simple. A square projection from the lock (part of the tumbler "g" in Figure 5) was fit into a square hole in cock ("h" in Figure 4) and a small bolt held the assembly in place. With use, the cock is continually pulled back and then propelled forward. The problem arises when either the square hole or the tumbler shaft wears and loosens up. An example of this is shown in Figure 12.

Figure 12. Cock modified to narrow the tumbler hole exterior surface on the left; reverse on the right

In this instance, an expedient used by some modern gunsmiths (William Kennedy, Mathias Koppinger, personal communications) was apparently attempted to remedy the situation without the use of new parts. The solution was to remove the cock, flip it over onto and anvil or other hard surface, place a chisel next to the hole on each side, and strike it a number of times. The blows forced the metal out, effectively narrowing the hole, so that it would fit more the tumbler more tightly and could be reused. A variety of other parts could break as well. Frizzens and sears occasionally broke, necessitating replacement. The threads on the top jaw screw or cock pin sometimes stripped, so that a variety of these have been found. In addition, ramrods bent or broke, screws and bolts sheared off, and cocks broke in two.


Figure 13. Cock blank, never fitted to a weapon

Not all of the pieces recovered were broken. A number of pieces were apparently new when lost or discarded. They show no evidence of ever having been used or put on guns. These pieces, such as the 144 cocks, cock pins, hammers, and springs shipped to the Pluckemin armoury, must have been turned out as blanks in armouries such as Easton and Springfield for shipment to armourers in the field. Inventories of such parts for British or French flintlocks could be kept on hand by field armourers and quickly fitted to individual guns when needed. The cock illustrated in Figure 13 is probably an American-made piece designed to fit on a British "Brown Bess." It may have been formed in a die, rather than forged "free-hand," a technique not adequately documented for pieces of American manufacture (Brumfield 1985). A small hole was started on the inside face of the piece, but was never completely drilled through. Armourers in the field would have completed the hole and squared it off to fit the tumbler. This could not be done before-hand because the position of the tumbler to the frizzen might be slightly different from lock to lock. A proper fit was crucial to ensuring a good spark and ignition. Unmodified pieces, particularly in combination with repaired and unrepairable items and experimental archaeology such as that done by smiths at Colonial Williamsburg (Brumfield 1985), promise a much better understanding of smithing techniques. Some of these blanks must have been lost, while others were unsatisfactory for one reason or another. A clip, for example, designed to hold in place a band around the barrel of a French musket was recovered. As shown in a schematic drawing Figure 14, the band was designed to slide down the barrel to the left. A hole on the band (marked 1) was designed to be retained by a spring clip fit into the stock (2). A clip found in 11G37 (Figure 15) was perfect in all respects but one. Perhaps because he was tired after a day 27

of turning out large numbers of these clips, the gunsmith simply made a mistake - he put a pin on the wrong side of the clip so that it became useless (Figures 15 & 16). Disgusted, no doubt, he simply threw it out. Barrel bands from French weapons have also been recovered (Figure 16).

Figure 14. Schematic of French musket forestock

Figure 15. Retaining clip for barrel band (French style) recovered from 11G37 the tang is on the wrong side


Figure 16. French design barrel band

In addition to blanks, a number of modified pieces have been recovered. The reasons behind these modifications are sometimes obscure and difficult to explain. One peculiar artifact which provides an example is a small iron ring or portion of a tube (Figure 17). Several of these were found during surface collection, and more turned up in excavation at Pluckemin (as well as in the collections at Morristown National Historical Park). They were identified rather quickly as coming from the end of the sockets on British bayonets. Although the identification was relatively straight-forward, the reason for finding them was somewhat more difficult to determine. This was not a part of a bayonet which would seem prone to breakage, and is, in fact, one of the stronger portions of the piece. More easily broken would be the blade and shank.

The answers to such puzzles can occasionally come from unexpected quarters. Like some other archaeologists, the author took to shooting replicas of Revolutionary war guns in order to become familiar with the weapons, and how they operated, broke, and were repaired. A plausible answer to the bayonet puzzle was supplied when trying to find a bayonet to fit a French Charleville. Unable to find the proper bayonet, the only solution appeared to lie in modifying a more readily available British bayonet to fit the gun. To make it fit, it was necessary to shorten the socket by cutting off the ring at the base (see Figure 18). The piece left over from the modification was identical to the excavated fragments. A logical explanation for this peculiar find is that armourers at Pluckemin were modifying British bayonets to fit the newly arrived French muskets.


Figure 17. Collar or base of bayonet socket (British type (scale in centimeters and millimeters)

Figure 18. Modifying a British bayonet


The excavations described here provide only a glimpse at the activities of the armourers at Plucekimn. The contents of one room, at most, were recovered during the 11G37 operations. It is difficult to imagine the twenty-five officers and men of Austin's company of armourers all operating within the confines of a single 18 by 18 foot room. There must be other rooms which were also used by the gunsmiths; perhaps individual rooms were used for specific tasks, such as forging, filing, stock inletting, and bayonet repair. In addition to these resources, it is likely that additional discards are deposited elsewhere on the site, perhaps in refuse pits. Although both the excavation and the analysis presented are in some ways preliminary, they serve to illustrate the potential of such study. More detailed examination, especially in consultation with weapons experts and modern craftsmen who practice the older trade of gunsmithing at sites such as Colonial Williamsburg, would almost certainly provide additional insights into the breakage and repair of weapons, and no doubt bring to light additional field expedients used to keep the army armed and accoutred. In spite of the long standing interest of collectors and military historians in firearms, our understanding of the raw materials, tools, and technology used by 18th century armourers is in its early stages. Closely dated assemblages such as that from Pluckemin may prove highly valuable to the study of American gun manufacture in general.


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