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SCCHC 2012 PluckeminRpt 1 History

SCCHC 2012 PluckeminRpt 1 History

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Published by jvanderveerhouse
The Continental Artillery at Pluckemin & Middlebrook, 1778-1779 - History & Archaeology - This report is the first in the series, and it relates the history of the site as we know it today. Like the other reports in the series, it is written to be publicly accessible, but it has a level of detail that will be of use to professional archaeologists and historians.

This report takes the reader through the planning for the winter camps of 1778-1779, the experiences of that winter, the later history of the site, and the development of modern archaeology at Pluckemin.
The Continental Artillery at Pluckemin & Middlebrook, 1778-1779 - History & Archaeology - This report is the first in the series, and it relates the history of the site as we know it today. Like the other reports in the series, it is written to be publicly accessible, but it has a level of detail that will be of use to professional archaeologists and historians.

This report takes the reader through the planning for the winter camps of 1778-1779, the experiences of that winter, the later history of the site, and the development of modern archaeology at Pluckemin.

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Published by: jvanderveerhouse on Jul 06, 2012
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07/03/2014

 
 
 The Continental Artillery at Pluckemin & Middlebrook, 1778-1779
History & ArchaeologyPluckemin History & Archaeology Series, Report No. 1 John L. Seidel, Ph.D.Washington College2012
 
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 The Continental Artillery at Pluckemin & Middlebrook, 1778-1779History & ArchaeologyIntroduction
In late November of 1778, the residents of the sleepy New Jersey village of Pluckemin must have beencurious about a newcomer to town. While military men came and went all the time, this one stuck around,peering into buildings, roaming fields and pastures, and climbing the slopes of the Watchung Mountains abovePluckemin. His name was Benjamin Frothingham, a Deputy Commissary of Military Stores, and he was theadvance guard of an invasion that would shortly follow. The invading troops were friendly, however; they werethe Brigade of Continental Artillery under Henry Knox, and they would make Pluckemin their home for the winter. Throughout the course of the American Revolution, Washington’s army was forced to depart from theconventions of “civilized” warfare and keep to the field each winter, maintaining a watchful eye on the Britishand denying them food and support. But housing and feeding an army was difficult enough during the warmercampaign months. Taking care of their needs during the winter was no simple task. Although we tend tothink of the Revolution in terms of battles and marches, in fact much of the important work was carried outduring the six or seven months when the troops were in winter quarters. Supplies were gathered for the nextcampaign, arms and accoutrements were repaired, new troops were raised, equipped, and trained, and even the veterans benefited from both rest and renewed drill. From an historical standpoint, these winter camps are of great importance, despite that fact that they have often been overlooked.In the winter of 17789-1779, the main American force under Washington’s command settled intopositions around Middlebrook, New Jersey. Middlebrook has been overshadowed by Valley Forge, occupiedby the Americans the previous winter, with its harsh weather, miserable supply, and human hardship.Middlebrook also has received less notice than the following winter of 1779-1780, when the army movedfarther north to Morristown, New Jersey. They were at Morristown several times during the war, and its laterdevelopment as a national park secured its place in history and in the public eye. But Middlebrook was in somesenses more important than either Valley Forge or Morristown. It was a time when the war entered a new phase, developing into a more global conflict with the entry of the French into the fray. And as the reports inthis series will argue, 1778-1779 also was a time when the Continental Army pulled itself together, instituting new training regimens and an increasingly effective supply system. It is a truism that armies fight on theirstomachs and that without supplies they are impotent. Important parts of this reorganization took place atMiddlebrook, and a prime example of the success lies in the Pluckemin portion of the Middlebrook cantonment. Located on the slopes of the Watchung Mountain above Pluckemin, the 1778-1779 Continental Artillery cantonment is in today’s Bedminster Township, Somerset County. Today its physical remains are as well hidden as its historical significance.In 1979, spurred by historical research on the Pluckemin site conducted by Clifford Sekel (Sekel 1972),archaeologists began to take a serious look at the Pluckemin artillery cantonment. The site was threatened by logging and possible residential development, but an accommodation was reached with the developer, and thenon-profit Pluckemin Archaeological Project was formed by Sekel, local historian and TownshipCommitteewoman Anne O’Brien, and the author. This launched a decade of intensive archaeological andhistorical investigation. The field work set a new standard for methodology, with careful surface mapping, new overhead camera systems, and precision plotting of the locations of individual artifacts in three-dimensions.
 
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.For reasons that are complex, the work came to a halt in 1989, when funding began to dry up, and some of theprincipals moved to new positions or projects. Although several master’s theses, a PhD dissertation, andarticles in professional journals have been written about the work (Sekel 1971, 1982; Seidel 1980, 1983, 1987,1990, 1993, 1995a, 1995b), these are not easily accessible to the public, and no comprehensive publication onthe project was completed. Indeed, the analysis of the extensive artifact collection, which may be the mostextensive collection from a single Revolutionary War site in the country, was not completed, and it languished instorage for many years.In 2007, the author (as the director of the project in the 1980s) and Washington College joined forces with the Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House (Knox’s headquarters during the winter of ’78-’79), HunterResearch (a cultural resource consulting firm in Trenton) and Monmouth University to reinvigorate the project. The intent was re-examine the entire artifact collection in stages, creating a comprehensive data base, a GIS(geographic information system, a technology that was in its infancy when the work was done in the 1980s), toprepare series of reports on the work, and to bring the site into wider historical and public notice. The Vanderveer House will ultimately be the repository for the artifact collections and the associated field andlaboratory records, and it will serve as a interpretive center for the Middlebrook cantonment and its Continental Artillery cantonment at Pluckemin. The first phase of the analysis project was funded by the Somerset County Historic Preservation GrantProgram of the Cultural & Heritage Commission of Somerset County. The focus of this work was toaccomplish the following:
 
 Assess the artifact collection and records, and prepare curation guidelines
 
Prepare recommendations for the preservation of the archaeological site
 
 Analyze artifacts from several parts of the site, including:
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Materials found during controlled surface collection
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 A refuse scatter behind the officers’ quarters
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Excavations carried out in the artificers’ quarters
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Excavations in a gunsmiths’ shop, part of the industrial component of the site
 
Design an artifact database and enter into it the results of the analyses noted above
 
Create a project web site
 
Produce a preliminary three-dimensional computer model of the site (this was added to theproject after it began)
 
Initiate an outreach program to inform the public of the project and the Pluckemin story 
 
Prepare five reports as the first in a series, the first covering the history of the Pluckemincantonment and the other four addressing the areas analyzed, as noted above This report is the first in the series, and it relates the history of the site as we know it today. Like theother reports in the series, it is written to be publicly accessible, but it has a level of detail that will be of use toprofessional archaeologists and historians. This report takes the reader through the planning for the wintercamps of 1778-1779, the experiences of that winter, the later history of the site, and the development of modernarchaeology at Pluckemin.

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