Archaeology of Savannah’s Revolutionary Past

PRESS RELEASE

COASTAL HERITAGE SOCIETY

For release Friday, March 21, 2008

Archaeologists Discover Artifacts from 1779 Battle of Savannah in Madison Square

Today Coastal Heritage Society archaeologists unearthed several artifacts from the October 1779 Battle of Savannah in Madison Square in downtown Savannah. Lead archaeologist Rita Elliott and her team discovered two musket balls—one French, the other British—as well as a shoe buckle, a brass ring, and lots of loose brick fragments, in the northeast corner of Madison Square (the corner sandwiched between the DeSoto Hilton Hotel and E. Shaver, Bookseller). The discoveries come on the fifth and final day of a series of digs that began in Emmett Park on East Bay Street.

Elliott believes the site occupies the location of a French and American false attack on British lines, designed to distract attention away from the main attack on the Spring Hill Redoubt—now the site of Battlefield Memorial Park on MLK and Louisville Road. The brick fragments may be remnants of a former military barracks which were torn down prior to the battle to provide cover for British troops defending the city. Ironically, today’s discoveries took place in the shadow of a monument to Sgt. William Jasper, who died in the 1779 battle.

Quick facts:

  • The work is funded by a $37,857 American Battlefield Protection Program grant from the National Park Service.
  • The team used computer software to match modern maps with more than a dozen historical maps, and pinpoint the most likely place to find artifacts.
  • The team is headed by CHS Archaeologist Rita Elliott, who also headed the CHS team that found artifacts and fortifications on Battlefield Memorial Park in 2005. archaeologists Dan Elliott and Laura Seifert round out the team, along with veteran volunteer archaeologist Carl Arndt.
  • This is a year-long project with multiple phases of research, field work, lab work, and report writing.
  • Between 8,000 and 12,000 troops took part in the October 1779 battle. The British forces defeated a combined French and American army, and roughly 800 soldiers were killed or wounded.

This material is based upon work assisted by a grant from the Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Interior.

UPDATE: 04/20/2008.

Since this past Monday our crew dug up six feet of Revolutionary 
War dirt, actually only 5 feet as the top 1 foot covered the period from 1783-
2008.  In the top 3 feet of it was the backfill dirt that was put there in late 
1782 by Major General Anthony Wayne (fellow PA guy) and his men. Beneath that 
is 2 more feet covering the period from September 1779-mid 1782. The very 
bottom 6 inches or so is the Siege of Savannah layer, September and October 
1779. It had small lead musket balls, possibly from Pulaski's Legion. We were 
in a British ditch outside of an earthen fort. We discovered it about a month 
ago and returned this week for a bigger sample. We found it through several 
means including historical map research, GPR survey, and dumb luck. Our 2 meter 
by 2 meter test unit came down on the edge of it perfectly so that we also have 
a good idea of its orientation. This part of the Savannah battlefield was lost 
since soon after General Wayne's men filled it in. Oh, and in the level just 
above the battle, which had lots of post-battle debris, we found a single lead 
musket ball that was made into a die. Lucky seven, lucky seven. 
It was in great condition. 
The British troops that garrisoned this part 
of the defenses were "Armed negroes and pickets", or the enslaved people 
belonging to Loyalist jerks and some watchful sharpshooters. The crack British 
troops were kept safe from harm, about a half mile to the northeast.

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