Archaeologists seeking to solve Kettle Creek puzzles, asking for local folks’ help
A group of archaeologists and historians have spent several days recently looking for missing pieces of the Battle of Kettle Creek puzzle, and they think the public can help them with the puzzle, too.
A team of archaeologists, historians, and students braved heat, thick woods, and impassable stands of thistles to explore the land around War Hill on a four-day fieldwork session June 12-17, hoping to locate artifacts from the Revolutionary War battle and, piece by piece, expand their knowledge of the battle.
On a previous visit to War Hill, archaeologist Dan Elliott of the Lamar Institute, Inc., and his teams had used metal detectors to find bullets and other metal objects that might have been left during the 1779 battle. They found some 32 possible battle relics, including round balls of smaller caliber bullets – buck-and ball load for non-military muskets. They also found, and recycled, modern artifacts including 15 pounds of shotgun shells, .22 shells, and beer cans.
“The way those battle relics were distributed on one particular side of the hill gave us a direction to search,” Elliott said Saturday as he examined the day’s first finds. “Based on that distribution, we got access from adjacent landowners so we could come back this week and explore areas we would expect to find the Patriot positions as they attacked the Loyalists.”
They have indeed found more bullets, and a distinctive shoe buckle from that period, part of a brass bell, and other objects. But the real value of the object is in the information that it gives about how it got there. “Each object tells us a little bit of the puzzle,” said Charles B. Baxley, editor and publisher of Southern Campaigns of the Revolution. “Dan Elliott is helping geo-reference with formal archaeology the history that has been passed down.”
Geo-referencing locates exactly the fall of bullets, for example, shot and unshot, to map exactly where the militia soldiers actually were during the battle.
That data will be combined with historical research, looking in library collections, deeds and plats, veterans pension applications and muster lists to form the most accurate history of the battle possible. “We’ll gather up all that archaeology and history can tell us,” Baxley said, “and hope that we have enough to tell the story.”
And neighbors in Wilkes County who have explored the area for years can help document the battle’s history. “We know folks have been out here with metal detectors for 40 years,” Elliott said, “and we’re not looking to prosecute anybody and we sure don’t need another bullet. But what we do need is information. We’d just like to know what you found, and where you found it, best you can recall. That information is what’s important to us, and any information could really be a great deal of help.”
To share information on old Kettle Creek finds, contact the City of Washington’s Main Street Manager David Jenkins in the City Hall Annex, or call 706-678-4654.
[EDITING NOTE: Elliott, not Elliot]