Barracks “on an Elegant Plan”

Excavations in the Artificers’ Quarters, Southeast Line, Knox’s Artillery Cantonment of 1778-1779

Pluckemin History & Archaeology Series, Report No. 4

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

Barracks “on an Elegant Plan” Excavations in the Artificers’ Quarters, Southeast Line, Knox’s Artillery Cantonment of 1778-1779     ARTIFICERS, in a military sense, are those who make all kinds of fireworks, and prepare all the different laboratory stores … also, smiths, collar-makers, carpenters, wheel-wrights, gunsmiths, locksmiths, ropemakers, &c (Smith’s Universal Military Dictionary 1779:274-275)     Some of the most ambitious and productive excavations at the Pluckemin Revolutionary War Cantonment took place in the southeast corner of the site, in a long building that is thought to have been dedicated to the repair and manufacture of military supplies in the winter of 1778-1779. For seven months during the American War for Independence, this site was home to the Continental Artillery under General Henry Knox. Located on a hillside overlooking the village of Pluckemin, New Jersey, it bustled with the activity of a small town, as artillery units and support troops moved in. They built barracks, warehouses, and workshops, and created an important supply center and the nation’s 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 2012) and several other places (Sekel 1971; Seidel 1983, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1995a, 1995b). Nevertheless, it can be quickly summarized for those who might not have read these other works.. 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. 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). And what occurred within those buildings and in the surrounding area was equally remarkable. 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 worth telling. 1   

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 fourth in a series that tells the story of Pluckemin, and it focuses on a particulalry fascinating part of that 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 armorers were at work in the shops at Plucmein (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. Careful plotting of surface artifacts and subsequent analysis strongly suggested that the artificers and armorers were probably quatered in rooms marked by the red circle, with their workshops located to the right. The chance to investigate both the living conditions for these craftsmen and to also explore their workshops, was particulalry exciting. This report focuses on the living quarters of these specialized workers, about whom the 2   

logistical genius General Nathanael Greene said, “[a man] can as well feed himself without hands as an Army move without Artificers” (Greene to Jonathan Trumbull, July 20, 1779, quoted in Risch 1981:155).

Excavating at Pluckemin
Although the reports in this series are meant to be read in sequence, it is possible to read them on their own. But this requires some repetition of basic methodologies in each report. Those readers who have read other reports in the series and are familiar with the excavation techniques used at this site may wish to skip ahead to page 5. 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 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 into 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 season’s 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 3   

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 one meter or five foot squares. Ideally, archaeologists at Pluckemin wanted to see entire rooms exposed, all at once. Then it would be possible tplot the distribution of nails to figure out construction techniques and other objects 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.


The Artificers’ Quarters Excavations: Units 11G9, 11G11, 11G15 & 11G19

Figures 2-4 show the area investigated, beginning in 1983, with the slope running uphill to the top of the figure. The Southeast Line runs from left to right on the right hand side of the drawing. Solid lines represent probable wall lines, as mapped in 1979, and these enclosed a series of rooms running from north to south. The hachured line represents a drop in elevation, presumably marking the front of the building. In order to build on this relatively steep slope, the troops dug into the hillside, pulling excavated soil downhill to form a level bench or terrace running along the hill. A stone retaining wall held this dirt in place, and structures were then erected on top of the terrace. The excavation areas in the Southeast Line (11G9, 11, 15, and 19) are shown as shaded rectangles running uphill, placed to cross the building at its widest or deepest point. The Southeast Line to the south (right on Figure 4) is comprised of a series of roughly square rooms, measuring about 5.5 meters (18 feet) square. To the left, it was interrupted by a cleared area that extended uphill to the east. Stones piled along the east edge of this clearing gave some indication of having been a dry-laid wall, and it was evident that this clearing was not natural. The excavation strategy was to lay out a long excavation unit that would start outside and below the terrace to the west, cross over the terrace and into the structure, run across the cleared area, and intersect the piled stones at the base of the steep slope. This would mean excavating an area close to 20 meters (65.6 ft) in length (east-west), and it was felt that a minimum north-south exposure of three to four meters (roughly 10 to 13 ft). This approach would provide a cross-section through the building at its widest extent and hopefully provide enough exposure to understand the interior layout of at least one room in the barracks. It was obvious that such a large area could not possibly be excavated in a single season, so it was divided into several discrete units and labeled 11G9, 11G11 and 11G15. These individual units, separated from each other by a narrow wall (or balk) of earth eventually opened up an area 17.0 meters (55.8 ft) from east to west, the majority of it extending 3.5 meters (11.5 ft) to the north would be required to see the desired horizontal patterning. An additional area, measuring 3.0 by 4.5 meters (9.8 by 13.1 ft) was excavated to the north, allowing a room interior to be more fully explored. The total area exposed was 77.25 meters (831.5 square feet), and the excavations in each of these four areas are summarized below.


Figure 2. Site plan of Pluckemin excavations, 1979-1989, with barrack projections (north at top of page) 6   

Figure 3. Detail from the Pluckemin site plan, the location of the Academy Line (left) and the Southeast Line and artificers’ barracks (bottom)

Figure 4. Site plan showing location of excavations in the Artificers’ Barracks, Southeast Line 7   

Excavations in 11G15
Starting with 11G15 is good for several reasons. First, it is the westernmost unit and encompasses the front wall of the building. Also, unlike some of the other units in this area, a few clear and unambiguous features related to construction were uncovered. The plan view (Figure 5) illustrates the various features uncovered as seen from above. Detailed, scaled drawings such as this were done in the field at each stage of excavation, and those depicted in this report show exposures of what are interpreted as the 18th century living surfaces, insofar as they still exist. The first of these was a faint soil difference (locus 009) which emerged from the east balk separating this unit from 11G11. Visible first as a slightly darker area than the surrounding soils, it extended in a westerly direction for approximately 3.75 meters (12.2 ft) and was 70 to 90 centimeters (2.3 to 3.0 ft) wide. The feature extended all the way to the terrace lip that presumably marked the front of the building. As it was excavated, locus 009 was easily traced as an extremely hard and compact strip characterized by far more stones, mostly small, than the areas to the north and south. It was very similar to compact strips found on other parts of the site, usually beneath projected wall lines, and the function of locus 009 seems to have been as a base for a wall or timber sill. As the top of locus 009 was removed, larger stones, also embedded in a hard, compact matrix, were encountered and recorded as locus 018, but these two designators 009 and 018 clearly denote parts of a single construction feature. When the balk or earth wall separating 11G11 and 11G15 was removed, these two loci were found to extend under it, connecting with the similarly compacted subsoil found in the northwest corner of 11G11. These are all part of the same feature. In the approximate center of the presumed footing (1.70 meters from the east section) was an oblong concentration or pad of compact yellow clay, measuring 25 by 40 centimeters (roughly 8 by 16 inches). A very similar clay feature was found to the east in 11G11, 4.20 meters (13.8 feet) away. Soils to the north of loci 009 and 018 were looser than these loci, but after the topsoil had been removed they were found to resemble the natural subsoils in the area. Subsequent excavations have shown that this was indeed subsoil, but that it had been placed there to build up the slope and provide a level platform for construction. This technique has been seen in many parts of the Pluckemin cantonment, and was especially visible in the armourer's shop (Seidel 2012e). These redeposited, fill subsoils initially covered the entire northern half of the unit. As excavation proceeded, however, a line of stones began to emerge along the west terrace edge, bisecting this northern area in a north-south line (Figure 8). These stones turned out to be a wall footing or retainer (locus 016) for the subsoil fill of the building platform. Only one course was present, forming a lip averaging 20 centimeters (8 inches) high (Figure 9). On top and in front of this footing were scatters of nails, bits of ceramic, as well as buttons and a breeches buckle.


Figure 5. Plan view of 11G15 – the ground slopes up to the top of the figure


Figure 6. Tops of footing stones emerging from beneath slumped fill (looking east)


The retaining stones extended from the north section 2.20 meters (7.2 ft) to the south, upon which they abruptly terminated. Excavations to the south instead encountered a concentration of rubble (017) tightly packed into the hillside (Figure5, 7, & 8). This rubble and its subsoil matrix form an incline from what is presumably the parade ground level in the west up to the terrace, or building platform.

Figure 7. Retaining wall or footer in 11G15, locus 016 (looking east)


Figure 8. Retaining wall with ramp (locus 017) to terrace visible on right side (looking east)

Excavations in 11G11
Unit 11G11 extended the excavations to the east of Unit 11G15, which was interpreted as the front of a building. 11G11 therefore was surmised to be (at least in part) inside the building. Over its 4.50 meter (13.8 ft) east-west length, 11G11 dropped approximately 1.75 meters (5.74 ft) in elevation due to the slope. The drop was steepest on the eastern half of the area (uphill), after which it slightly leveled out. The slope also trended down from the northeast to the southwest. Very little was visible on the surface to indicate the presences of a structure aside from the unnaturally level terrace. It should be pointed out that the use of the term "level" here is relative. The slope was still steep enough that a good deal of erosion had probably occurred. Topsoil on the steeper sections was predictably shallow, in most places a centimeter or less in depth. In the west half of the unit, topsoil was about twice that depth. The features uncovered in this unit can be summarized rather quickly. A plan of the unit showing the various features and their relationships appears as Figure 9. As noted in the discussion of 11G15, in this plan view and others for the artificers’ quarters investigation, the view is of the phase of excavation that revealed what is assumed to be the best indication of the late 18th century surface.


In 11G15, a compact soil deposit (locus 009) was interpreted as an earthen footing for a sill related to the building, and this east-west feature continued into 11G11. It can be seen in the lower center of Figure 9 as a stippled area that fades out, as did the real feature, about 1.5 meters (4.9 ft) from the downhill, or western edge of the excavation unit. From this line south, the unit had consistently fewer rocks and was, in general, less complex. The only feature of any significance was a dark stain (locus 004) which appeared in the southeast quadrant. Running roughly north-south, this stain was approximately six centimeters deep on the uphill side. Upon removal, it appeared to sit in a small, level cut running perpendicular to the slope. When the stain was first seen, it was thought that it might be a sill mold, and was carefully excavated. There is no way to confirm this interpretation at this point, but this seems the most likely explanation for the feature. The steep slope required the builders to create a series of terraces on which to build, and retaining walls of either wood or stone would have been necessary. We will return to this feature later in the discussion. At its north extremity, the stain abutted a large piece of basalt. This was the largest of several such stones which extended in a westerly direction. No stones were found under these, nor were there traces of mortar or any other indications that the stones were laid. Just to the west of these stones a small clay stain was noticed, very similar to the oblong clay pad recorded in 11G15 (seen along the south edge of footing 009/018). This was roughly circular and 30 to 40 centimeters in diameter (roughly a foot to one and a quarter feet). Although similar to a modern post-hole, the dimension was too large and no traces of it had been found in an upper stratum. When excavated, this clay, which had some small rocks embedded in it, was found to be relatively thin, on the order of one to three centimeters (a half to just over one inch). A very similar feature was found to the northeast (locus 012). This was first visible as a small circle of stones protruding through the overburden. When the overlying soil was removed, clay was found on the interior. The interior dimensions of this locus are identical to the previous feature, 30 to 40 centimeters (1 to 1.25 feet). The clay was equally shallow, and the rocks were set around it superficially, extending to no depth. These were clearly not post-holes and were not a type of locus which was expected. More than anything, they resembled the pads which were often laid for the posts of above ground medieval buildings in Europe. These structures were framed and constructed with no real foundations, the "box" simply resting on the ground. Pads such as these served to keep moisture from the posts and presumably aided in preventing sinking (similar features are discussed in Barker 1969). At this point this is merely a comparison of similar features, not a suggestion of similar identity. The likely purpose of these features will be discussed later, in an interpretation of all the units in this area. An almost circular feature of similar size showed up on the west edge of the unit as well, within the compacted footing. This anomaly was filled with dark earth, and was traced to a depth of ten to eleven centimeters. It is possible that a post sat in this depression and rotted in place, but a natural origin is also possible. Next to this pit, in the north, was a concentration of stone which was tightly wedged into the surrounding soil and lay flat. Underlying this stone and extending slightly further south was a stratum of compact subsoil mixed with small rock.


Figure 9. Plan view of 11G11


Excavations in 11G19
The exposure across Units 11G11 and 11G15 provided a good start at examining the artificers’ barracks, but a wider view was needed. Additional excavation to the east would explore the cleared level area that presumably lay behind the building, and an exposure to the north or the south would presumably open up the interior of a room inside the building. The assumption was that the compact soil of loci 009/018 in 11G15 and 11G11 marked the location of a sill for an interior wall, dividing the long building into two spaces. This feature formed a right angle with the stone retaining wall (locus 016 in 11G15) that presumably marked the front of the building. It seemed likely that inside this angle, either to the northeast or to the southeast, we might find the interior of a room. Whether to dig to the north or to the south therefore became the next decision. In addition to the absence of a front retaining wall to the south, two other factors argued against proceeding in that direction. First, the soils to the south were extremely loose and showed some evidence of having been disturbed. Second, a slight mound was visible on the terrace to the north, suggesting the possibility that chimney had fallen here, perhaps on top of and concealing a fireplace. Consequently, 11G19 was laid out over this mound, expanding the excavations to the north of 11G1 and 11G15 (Figure 4). The prediction of the fireplace proved correct, and the hearth shown in Figure 10 was exposed after excavation through an overburden of collapsed chimney. The matrix of this overburden was clay and the local subsoil, mixed with small amounts of charcoal and ash. The undersides of rocks often exhibited fire-hardened clay fragments, supporting the interpretation that the chimney stones were laid with clay, rather than lime mortar. As the upper levels of this fall were removed, the outlines of the chimney back and the wings on either side of the hearth became distinct (Figure 11). When the last of the overburden was taken out, a thin and discontinuous layer of white ash could be seen, almost as a dusting over the hearth stones. At the rear of the hearth lay fragments of a charred log (Figures 11 & 12). The upper most stones of the rear had slumped forward towards the interior of the room. Soil at the rear of the hearth had to be left in place as a support, and is visible beneath the uppermost stones in the rear. The stones which were still in place were mortared together with the same subsoil that is prevalent across the site, a mottled orange soil with a substantial clay content. The stones ranged in size from relatively large, measuring 45 by 35 by 30 centimeters (18 x 14 x 12 inches), to small stones used to chink the interstices. One meter (3.3 ft) wide at the rear, the wings flared out to an opening of 1.30 meters (4.3 ft) wide, forming a hearth roughly 60 centimeters (2.0 ft) deep. The flat hearth stones continued into the room somewhat beyond this, as the plan (Figure 10) and overhead photo (Figure 13) show. Several small pieces of brick were used to chink gaps in the hearth floor, but no whole bricks were used.


Figure 10. Plan view of 11G19, fireplace in center 16   

Figure 11. 11G19 fireplace; white arrow in the center points to the top of a charred log (looking east)

Figure 12. 11G19 fireplace and hearth, fully excavated (looking east) 17   

Figure 13. 11G19, overhead photo of hearth and paving stones to the south (right)

Figure 14. 11G19 fireplace, showing clay and rubble footing (looking south) 18   

Figure 15. 11G19 fireplace elevation looking east

Figure 16. Elevations of south and north wings of fireplace 19   

At the sides of the wings it was possible to see the footings on which the chimney was laid (Figures 10 & 14). Protruding from the sides was a compact mass of subsoil in which small stones were thickly imbedded. This matrix was identical to that seen in 11G15 as locus 009 and elsewhere on the site, such as in the Academy Line excavations (Seidel 1987). A chimney stack of stone would have been heavy compared to the weight of the structural walls, but this kind of footing apparently was considered adequate by the builders. The use of this type of footing under a heavy installation such as a chimney provides strong support for the interpretation of the compact subsoil and stone concentrations seen elsewhere as footings for walls (e.g. loci 009 & 018 in 11G15). Elevation drawings showing the hearth are shown in Figures 15 & 16. Figure 16 is important in interpreting the architecture and floor of the room, because it shows the elevation of the base of the hearth, which presumably would have been at roughly the same level as the flooring. Although the hearth elevation where it abutted the back of the chimney was conjectural, the rest of the hearth elevations are precise. The ground surface to the west, in the interior of the room, lay several centimeters below the level of the hearth when the chimney fell. This was made clear by the chimney fall which overlay this level. Once the chimney fall was removed, there was a notable lack of compaction in the exposed surface, so there was no evidence that a beaten earth floor was used. There is no way to know how much time elapsed between abandonment and the collapse, so it is possible that a beaten earth floor could have been subjected to erosion during the interval. It seems probable, however, that the underlying soil would still exhibit some compaction (as is evident in the footings not far away), had it in fact been an earthen floor. The drop in elevation at the end of the hearth stones, as well as the fact that they projected into the room might be construed as evidence for a wood floor. This hypothesis was supported by the presence of many L- and T-headed, flooring type nails in the room (see below). To either side of the fireplace, deposits of refuse were found. Along the south side, the bulk of the material consisted of nails and kitchen related items, such as ceramics, a fork and the base of a cast-iron kettle (Figures 17-19). A few buttons and numerous chunks of lime and burned clay were also recovered. In the north the materials were somewhat similar, but were underlain by a dark soil containing large pieces of nondescript metal, as well as charcoal. This deposit was below the base of the hearth, and it is possible that it extended underneath. Fire pits were sometimes used prior to chimney construction at huts at Morristown (Edward Rutsch, personal communication), and would have left remains similar to this. It would have been necessary to move the hearth in order to confidently assess this deposit, but it seemed preferable to retain the fireplace for possible interpretation to visitors in the future.


Figure 17. Nails from 11G19

Figure 18. 11G19 excavation of cast iron kettle


Figure 19. Forks from 11G19


Figure 20. North section drawing of 11G19 23   

East of the fireplace, undisturbed subsoil was encountered at a higher elevation than to the west. In other words, it is obvious that the hill was cut into to reduce the slope, creating a terrace, and the fireplace and chimney were placed almost flush with the back of this cut. This argues for a rear wall at this juncture, but no evidence of a sill mold was seen, nor was there any real evidence of the kind of compact footing seen elsewhere. The drop in elevation can be seen to some degree in the north section drawing, Figure 20. Chimney fall is visible in the section as locus 005, and locus 009 is the displaced subsoil used to form the building platform. These drawings were done to scale, recording the side walls of every excavation unit, and they offer a cross-section of the layers that made up the area. The concentrations of debris (lime, bone, etc) between loci 005 and 009 in the center of the section were presumably deposited during the period of occupation. This section drawing is included in part to demonstrate the difficulties in recording sections or soil profiles on such a shallow site. Although this is a relatively deep section, as it cuts through some chimney fall, it was originally drawn at a scale of 1:10, the only scale at which differences would be visible. Even so, the amount of detail and useful stratigraphic information here is limited. The flat stone surface which forms the hearth projects not only to the west but to the south as well. This was not evident at first because of the balk which separated 11G11 and 11G15. Once this balk was removed, the only whole bricks seen in situ in this area were revealed. These separated the south end of the hearth extension from the east end of the side wall footing (Figure 13).

Excavations in 11G9
To the rear of the barracks, uphill to the east of the excavations in 11G11, Unit 11G9 was laid out to explore a rectangular area that was unusually clear of stone. The rear (east) side of this clearing was defined by rocks that were loosely piled into a low wall or berm. The area investigated measured 6.0 meters (19.7 ft) by 4.50 meters (14.8 ft). Excavations quickly resolved the questions about this area. After removing only 2 to 5 centimeters of topsoil (1 to 2 inches), a compact subsoil was revealed that obviously had been exposed during the 18th century. Nails were found lying flat on this surface, and numerous small bits of ceramic and glass, also lying flat, had been ground into it. A sectional cut through the rock piles showed them to have been placed in no particular pattern over the top of a dark organic soil that was probably the original topsoil. It is clear that there was no real structure in this eastern area. It must have functioned instead as a cleared area behind the main building, a place where outdoor activities could take place. During the winter occupation, the slope was cleared of rocks, which were simply thrown uphill to the east. No postholes were found, nor was there any other evidence that the clearing had been covered or enclosed by a structure. Careful examination revealed no true sense of what the area was used for, and there appeared to be no pattern to artifact distributions. The bulk of the artifacts were nails (125), while ceramics (32), bottle glass (20), and pane glass (20) also were found. The 21 small and unidentifiable fragments of metal that were recovered were of no additional help in determining function. The most that can be said is that this was an outdoor area where a variety of activities could have taken place. 24   

Figure 21. Composite plan of Units 11G11, 15 & 19; solid dots represent locations of excavated nails 25   

Figure 22. Composite plan of Units 11G11, 15 & 19, with walls projected 26   


Front and Rear Walls of the Southeast Line
The relative positions of the fireplace and front retaining wall make it clear that the level area between them was a room. Behind the cut excavated into the hill for the hearth, the natural subsoil rises sharply. This indicates that the rear wall of the structure was located along the back of the chimney. It is difficult to envision a free-standing chimney in the center of a room at this site. We may therefore place the rear wall along the chimney with reasonable confidence. The front retaining wall suggests the location of the front wall. This wall could have been located directly over these stones, or it could have been set back from the edge. The latter possibility seems unlikely. The distance from these rocks to the rear of the chimney measures 5.4 meters (17.72 feet), a reasonable depth for the structure and a common 18th century building dimension.

The evidence strongly points to a side wall having been underlaid by a footing which showed up as loci 009 and 018 in 11G15, and continuing into 11G11. This footing meets the front retaining wall to the west and terminated at the rear of the chimney to the east. This correlates nicely with the hypothesis on the placement of the rear wall. If lines are drawn though the center of this footing and along the rear of the chimney (Figure 22), their intersection suggests the southeast corner of a room. Measuring from this corner to a line drawn through the central axis at the hearth, we obtain a measurement of 2.7 meters. The fact that this is precisely half of the room's depth (5.4 meters) may simply be coincidence, but it suggests a symmetrically planned room in the form of a square. This would have measured close to 18 feet on a side, with the fireplace centrally placed along the rear wall of the room. The only way to test this hypothesis would have been to excavate farther to the north and demonstrate the presence or absence of a footing 2.7 meters north of the axial line. This was impossible, as a large tree stood in precisely this spot and almost certainly obliterated any traces that might have remained.

Additional Room Details
The elevation of floors is sometimes hard to determine, but in this case may be provided by the hearth surface. The average elevation of the hearth surface is 103.63 meters (all elevations at Pluckemin were taken relative to a central benchmark or datum that was given an arbitrary elevation of 100 meters above sea level). A floor would presumably have been placed relatively close to that elevation, whether of earth or wood. The top 27   

of the stones in the front wall are at an average elevation of only 103.10 meters, 53 centimeters (1.7 ft) below the hearth. Either the floor must have sloped, dropping over half a meter in five and a half meters, or there is at least one course of stone missing from the wall. The latter seems the most likely. One additional course of stone the same size as those in the base course would bring the elevation up to 103.40 meters. Another course may have been added to this to bring it level with the hearth. However, the highest elevation of the side wall footing, at its east end, is only 103.50 meters. This is below the hearth level by 13 centimeters. It therefore seems most likely that, instead of a third course of stone in the front foundation, a sill sat on top of the second course. The top of an eight to ten inch sill (20 to 26 centimeters) would be approximately level with the hearth, and an 8x8 or 10x10 sill seems reasonable. The side wall sill, which would presumably bear less weight, could have been a smaller dimension, five to six inches (approximately 13 centimeters) in height. Sills of these dimensions would not be inconsistent with the dimensions used in other architecture of the period. These dimensions fit rather well with the elevations recorded for the various features. Construction such as this would also have made possible the installation of wood floors. The soil in the interior of the room was subsoil, displaced from the slope for leveling purposes. Our experience with this subsoil is that it becomes extremely compact when subjected to foot traffic or weight. It is this very characteristic that made it an ideal material for use in footings. The subsoil here, however, was uncharacteristically loose. There was no compaction apparent during excavation. Even if a significant amount of erosion had occurred and removed the upper levels, compaction of the base material should have been in evidence if an earthen floor was used. This provides a powerful argument that beaten earth floors were not used in this room. Archaeologists who have excavated under wood floors know that the soil is generally quite loose (the planking having acted in a similar manner to mulch in a garden, protecting the soil from the compacting effects of weather and traffic). Combined with the prevalence in this area of the "T-headed" nails often used in flooring, wood floors seem the most logical interpretation. Wood flooring would also serve to explain the refuse deposits found on either side of the fireplace. The almost uniform presence of refuse under the floorboards of old houses, particularly around hearths, is a phenomenon which most historical archaeologists have encountered, but no one has though important enough to discuss. There nonetheless seems to be a regular pattern of behavior behind this kind of disposal. Whether due to laziness or some other factor, this kind of disposal, under the floorboards and out of sight, is easier to support in a military structure (with regulations on cleanliness) than the idea that trash was regularly swept into the corners and simply left there. The 1.50 meter (5 ft) extension of the hearth paving stones to the south provides the only suggestion as to the internal layout of the room. The two bricks at the south end perhaps suggest that the interior edge of the wall or sill abutted them. The stones may have been used as a walkway to an opening in the south wall. This is conjectural, however, if the hole in the west edge of 11G11 (within the sill footing) is taken as evidence of a possible door post, the distance to the west edge of the pavers and brick is precisely one meter, about the correct width for a door (three feet wide). As will be seen shortly, there would have been an advantage to having a doorway in this spot.


Areas to the South and East
To the south of the presumed south interior wall, almost nothing in the way of structural features was found. This is at first puzzling, as Lillie's drawing leads us to expect an adjacent room to the south. The stones that underlay the front wall, however, stop, and there is no surface evidence of a fireplace and associated chimney fall to the south. The presence of an intentionally built incline or ramp (017) up to the terrace suggests that a passageway may have existed here. This would have provided access to the rear of the building and the cleared area uphill to the east. In fact, Lillie's drawing does show such a passageway, although he leaves the impression that it was located somewhat farther south. It may be that the arched gap he shows in the Southeast Line was situated in the south portions of 11G11 and 15. A door in the south wall of the adjacent room, as proposed above, would have provided convenient access to both the front and rear of the structure. There is as yet no satisfactory explanation for the circular clay features encountered in both of these units. They may well have served as post supports, but their location is confusing. The clay circle in 11G15 (the westernmost) is only 1.65 meters (less than five feet) away from the front wall. It would not seem sensible to posit a sill interrupted by a post at such a short interval. It may be, however, that it supported a post situated just outside the wall (it is on the south side of locus 009). In this case it may have supported the arched covering Lillie shows over the passage, along with the similar feature located to the east in 11G11. This interpretation does not help us to understand the identity of locus 012 in 11G11, the third such clay feature. The crew that excavated this area felt certain that there was a shed appended to the rear of the structure, behind the fireplace. They suggested that this feature served as a post support for the shed. It is difficult to prove such a hypothesis with the evidence currently available. It is possible, but additional excavation would be necessary behind the fireplace to demonstrate this. The most likely explanation for locus 004, the dark stain in 11G11, is that a heavy wood sill was placed there as a retainer for the uphill platform located behind the building in 11G9. Alternatively, perhaps the large stone at the north end is the only remaining piece of a retaining wall like that seen in the front of the structure. After the stones were removed, the depressions may have been filled with organic debris. These are purely speculative notions, and it must be admitted that its identity may never be resolved.

Artifact Distributions & Frequencies
Nails were the single most prevalent artifact recovered in these three units, a total of 709 being recorded. This far exceeds the number seen in similarly sized areas on other winter cantonments. At Valley Forge, for example, a total of 731 nails have been reported as coming not from one area, but from the combined inventory of Wayne's, Maxwell's, Conway's, and the Virginia Brigade excavations (Parrington, Schenck, and Thibaut 1984: Tables 1-4). The large number seen in this small area at Pluckemin suggests that log construction was not used, at least in this building. The conjunction of nails with architectural features indicates that frame buildings with plank siding were erected here. It is also worth remembering that an unusually high frequency of architectural


items was recovered during surface collection, leading us to predict that architecture would not be of the crude type seen elsewhere (Seidel 1987, 2012b). A plot of nail distributions is presented as Figure 21. It shows that although nails are fairly widely distributed across the excavation units, several concentrations may be seen. Large numbers were found on either side of the chimney, as well as around the two exposed corners of the room. If siding was nailed into the posts and studs, this distribution makes sense. Major posts would have been located at the corners, and studs may have been placed alongside the chimney. With wall planking fastened at the posts, larger numbers of nails would be expected at these locations. An alternative explanation for their presence might be nail manufacture in the room. That this was not the case is made clear by the large number of bent and clenched nails, which were obviously used and driven into wood. It seems equally unlikely that the troops were simply burning scrap lumber which contained nails, due to the large numbers and their wide distributions. Another concentration of nails may be seen in 11G11, near the clay features and the north end of 004. This may provide support for the rear shed theory. A comparatively large amount of pane glass was also recovered from these units (146 fragments). Only four fragments of flat glass are recorded in the Valley Forge tabulations done by Parrington, Schenck and Thibaut (1984). In conjunction with our fragments, a number of small, triangular pieces of sheet metal have been found (Figure 23). These are glazier's points, used to secure glass panes in a window frame. It is likely that this building had glazed windows, probably along the front, where the bulk of these items were found.

Figure 23. Glazier’s point, 11G15 (scale in millimeters)


Although individual plots are not shown here, larger numbers of ceramic sherds were in evidence along the front wall and on the surface below it to the west. This is a similar pattern of disposal to that seen in the Academy Line excavations, with ceramics discarded in the front of buildings (Seidel 1987). If so, we may predict that an expansion of excavations to the west would reveal further scatters of ceramics out the front of the building.

Artifact Frequency Patterns
The artifacts from Units 11, 15 and 19 provide an opportunity to compare the frequencies from a large excavated sample to the frequencies obtained from surface collection of the same area. Readers of other reports in this series (Seidel 2012b, 2012b) will remember that in order to figure out what people did on part of a site, it sometimes is helpful to separate materials into different functional classes of objects as first proposed by Stanley South (1977). South excavated a wide variety of historic sites along the Atlantic seaboard, especially in the Carolinas, ranging from long-settled domestic sites to forts and frontier settlements. He divided artifacts from these sites into eight categories that he believed would allow him to analyze function and see some important patterns in past human behavior. These types, which broke artifacts down into groups such as kitchen-related items, architectural objects, furniture remains, and so on, can be seen in Table 1. As South excavated and analyzed site after site, he began to recognize recurring patterns, some characteristic of almost all domestic sites n the settled Eastern seaboard (the “Carolina Pattern”), and others that seemed to characterize frontier sites or sites with more specialized functions. South’s Carolina Pattern, as shown in the left half of Table 1, makes sense when one considers the way in which artifacts were used on a domestic house site that was occupied for decades, or perhaps even longer. A large number of items such as nails, hinges, bricks, and pane glass would have been used in construction, but not on an everyday basis in the way that pottery or food was utilized. So on a dwelling site, one would expect large numbers of the architectural artifacts that were used in construction, but an even larger amount of material related to the kitchen, items used for food preparation, storage, and consumption. On the average site examined by South, the percentage of kitchen-related artifacts in the entire artifact assemblage was 63.1%, while architectural material comprised 25.5% (and the percentages of other artifact groups also can be seen in the table). By contrast, short-lived sites on the frontier typically have a much higher percentage of architectural objects - although the number of nails and other construction items would be the same as on sites back in more settled areas (how many nails does it take to build one house?), the short duration of occupation left far less time for kitchen debris to accumulate. So the relative frequency, or percentage, of artifacts in the kitchen and architecture groups might be reversed on a frontier site, as compared to a settled site of the Carolina Pattern. An industrial site, or a place with another very different function, could be expected to show quite different artifact patterns than either the Caroline or Frontier patterns. In essence, the Caroline Pattern reflects normal, everyday behavior on domestic sites of the 18th century. Variations from South’s generally are the result of some difference in function or activity at a site, and they therefore offer important clues about human behavior.


Kitchen Architecture Furniture Arms Clothing Personal Tobacco Activities Total

Carolina Mean % 63.1 25.5 0.2 0.5 3.0 0.2 5.8 1.7 100.0

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

Frontier Pattern Mean % % Range 27.6 22.7 – 34.5 52.0 43.0 – 57.5 0.2 0.1 – 0.3 5.4 1.4 – 8.4 1.7 0.3 – 3.8 0.2 0.1 – 0.4 9.1 1.9 – 14.0 3.7 0.7 – 6.4 100.0

11G11, Count 577 866 4 19 26 2 28 290 1,798

15 & 19 % 31.8 47.8 0.2 1.0 1.4 0.1 1.5 16.0 99.8

Table 1. 11G11, 15, & 19 artifact frequencies compared to the Carolina & Frontier Patterns

Table 1 compares the functional groupings from 11G11, 15 and 19 with the Carolina and Frontier Patterns. The pattern in the artificers’ quarters is closer to the of the Frontier Pattern, reflecting the short duration of occupation, but they also differ in some interesting ways that may highlight different behaviors or activities. The Kitchen and Architecture groups fall squarely in range of South’s Frontier pattern, as does the Furniture Group. The lower Arms Group is more in line with the Carolina Pattern, which might seem strange on a military site. However troops did not typically carry firearms in winter quarters except when they were drilling, or on guard duty. And of course the residents of this barrack are presumed to be craftsmen, rather than typical soldiers. The Personal Group in thee barracks is at the low end of both patterns, probably reflecting the fact that these are men on the move, with fewer personal possessions. The Tobacco Group seems to be an anomaly, as one would assume that smoking was a common past-time in a mostly male environment. The single most prevalent artifact in the Tobacco Group, however, is usually pipe stem or bowl fragments, and the low number here may simply mean a different kind of pipe. Pipes with ceramic bowls and reed stems are more durable than the long, kaolin “church warden” pipes that might be found in civilian settings, and therefore might be favored by the mobile troops as less likely to break – and therefore less likely to contribute to the artifact assemblage (Seidel 1987, 2012b). Finally, the Activity Group in these barracks is much higher than either of South’s patterns. This is predictable on a military site, as it includes military hardware and accoutrements, miscellaneous materials scavenged while on the march, tools, and many other specialized items. Because it has been assumed that the surface collection patterns at Pluckemin are a good indicator of what lies below the ground, it is worth comparing the surface collection data from the surface units in this area, 10 meter squares designated SII44, 45, and 46, with the excavation data. Table 2 shows that architectural materials were under-represented in the surface collection, which fell just within the Carolina Pattern. But the increase in the Architectural Group should not be taken as an indication that our interpretation of this area as barracks is incorrect. Clearly the proportion of food-related items is still large, particularly when contrasted with the areas to the south. Large quantities of bone, which have not yet been weighed and analyzed, were also recovered, particularly from 11G19.


Artifact Group Kitchen Architecture Furniture Arms Clothing Personal Tobacco Activities

SII44-46 (Surface Collection) % 43.0 37.7 0.9 1.8 16.7 Count 577 866 4 19 26 2 28 290 1,812

11G11, 15 & 19 % 31.8 47.8 0.2 1.0 1.4 0.1 1.5 16.7 99.8

Table 2. 11G11, 15, & 19 artifact frequencies compared to SII 44-46 surface frequencies

Artifact Group Kitchen Architecture Furniture Arms Clothing Personal Tobacco Activities

11G 11 Count 49 72 0 0 3 0 1 27 152 % 32.2 47.4 2.0 0.7 17.8 100.1 Count 414 457 2 14 16 0 24 159 1,086

11G 15 % 38.1 42.1 0.2 1.3 1.5 2.2 14.6 100.0 Count 114 337 2 5 7 2 3 104 574

11G 19 % 19.9 58.7 0.3 0.9 1.2 0.3 0.5 18.1 99.9

Table 3. Artifact frequencies from individual excavation units compared

A comparison of the individual unit frequencies helps to isolate some differences in the horizontal distribution of remains, for example from the front of the building to the rear. Although there are a few slight anomalies such as the high Tobacco group in 11G15, most of the groups above are largely similar from unit to unit. The glaring exceptions are again the Kitchen and Architecture groups. There is a marked contrast between 11G19 and the other units in these groups. This comparison highlights the differences one may expect from different areas of excavation, particularly between the interior and exterior of the building. The vast majority of the artifacts from 11G19 were found within the confines of the room. The other units contain a substantial amount of material found outside the room. The warning here is that architectural materials may tend to be concentrated within buildings. Excavations which are restricted to the interior of a structure, or a very small area around it, will not necessarily be representative of the entire range of artifacts associated with the building. Refuse, particularly kitchen refuse, is scattered to the outside of this building. The large Kitchen 33   

Group for 11G15 is due primarily to the quantity of ceramics found, a total of 383 sherds. These contrasts are particularly apparent when ceramic, bottle, and nail percentages are calculated for these areas.

Artifact Type Ceramics Bottle glass Nails Total artifact in unit

11G 11 Count 16 32 55 152

% 10.5 21.0 53.4

11G 15 Count 383 28 346 1,086

% 50.6 2.6 31.9

11G 19 Count 87 22 308 574

% 20.1 5.3 73.9

Table 4. Ceramic, bottle glass and nail frequencies

Keeping in mind that 11G11 includes the rear of the building, 11G15 includes the front, and 11G19 is the interior, the percentages reveal an interesting pattern. It is very clear that far more ceramics are found in the front of the building (50.6% in 11G15, vs. 10.5% and 20.1% elsewhere), indicating an intentional pattern of disposal. Bottle glass, on the other hand, was primarily thrown to the rear of the building (and the glass from 11G9 further reinforces this conclusion). This differentiation in the disposal of glass vs. ceramics was seen in both the surface collection data and in barracks elsewhere on the site, and it must reflect a conscious behavior. The answer may be two-fold. First, bottles often held alcohol. This was not always legal, so disposal to the rear, out of site of the prying eyes of officers, was safer. Second, one could argue that there would be more foot traffic in front of a barrack, and broken pottery is less hard on the shoes than broken glass. Nail patterns are less striking, but it is very clear that a higher percentage was located within the room (in 11G19, 73.9% of that unit’s total number of artifacts was nails).

Ceramic Profiles for 11G11, 15, & 19
It may also be useful to look more closely at the ceramics themselves, through a quick examination of the ceramic profile of these various units. The table below gives the sherd counts for each of five categories of ceramics found in each unit. Ceramic Type Porcelain Refined earthenware Unrefined earthenware Stonewares Totals 11G11 1 5 8 2 16 11G15 17 221 125 20 383 11G19 22 28 22 15 87 Total 40 254 155 37 486 % 8.2 52.3 31.9 7.6 100.0

Table 4. Ceramic types in 11G11, 15, & 19 34   

When the original research design for the Pluckemin investigations was drawn up, it was hypothesized that there would be at least three distinct status groups within the camp, and perhaps more (Seidel 1987), and the results outlined above bear on this question. The third report in this series (Seidel 2012c) outlined some of the differences between officers and enlisted men, a distinction that is both obvious and expected. But we also felt that it likely that the artificers and armourers would have been perceived differently by soldiers, and that they would have perceived themselves as different in the social hierarchy. We know that the skills of artificers were in high demand. We also know that they were better paid than artillery matrosses (privates) and enlisted men. Artillery artificers were paid $20 per month (if they enlisted for three years), as opposed to $8 1/3 (from the 21st century perspective, these divisions of the dollar seem strange, but they were typical of the period) for matrosses and $6 2/3 for infantry privates (Barna 1984: 44-45). Artillery officers earned from $33 30/90ths to $100 per month depending upon their rank (Sekel 1972: 96). Pay rates do not necessarily reflect social status, and in the case of artificers, higher pay reflects their highly sought skills rather than high military rank. But higher pay brings certain perquisites, and also access to materials goods and perhaps a consequent shift in standing relative to others. It certainly is likely that better pay translated into improved access to nonessentials such as creamware. These refined earthenwares were clearly more prevalent among the artificers in this area than in the barracks of enlisted men (see Seidel’s 1987 analysis of the North and Academy Lines). More importantly, the large quantity of ceramics seen in these barracks, when treen and tinware might have been expected, reflects a common desire to conform to eating habits acquired in civilian life whenever possible, a behavioral trend which may be exhibited in other activities as well. We should expect to see these behavioral patterns emerge whenever the constraints of discipline or logistics are weakened or do not apply.

Additional Remarks on Artifact Frequencies
The interpretation of this room as quarters for artificers is strengthened by the absence of any Continental Artillery buttons, a phenomenon noted during surface collection. In fact, only three buttons of the fifteen recovered here bore any military insignia. The first of these gives no clue as to the identity of the occupants, as it is a button from the British 10th Regiment, which departed for England from New York in October of 1778 (Calver and Bolton 1950: 28). The other two buttons bear the "USA" device. It is unclear what uniforms, if any, these artificers wore, but it is known that wagoners (as well as some infantry) were to wear coats with white metal buttons marked "USA" similar to these. The other buttons were either plain small-clothes buttons or buttons with geometric, basket weave, or floral designs (Figure 24). One of the striking aspects of the artifact inventory lies in the sheer quantity of remains, including not only food remains, ceramics, glass, clothing items and nails, but items such as a tea kettle, a lock and key (Figures 25, 26) and a brass spigot and key (Figure 27). There are few quantified inventories available from winter cantonments which might serve as comparisons, but Parrington, Schenck, and Thibaut (1984: Tables 1-4) have made a start with their tabulation of some of the Valley Forge materials. Although different collection procedures and other problems make detailed statistical comparisons dangerous, one can compare the totals.


Figure 24. Civilian buttons, white metal (scale in millimeters)

Figure 25. Key


Figure 26. Lock plate Of the four brigade sites tabulated at Valley Forge (Wayne, Maxwell, Conway, and Virginia) only one comes close to equaling the number of artifacts recovered in this relatively small area at Pluckemin. This is the Wayne's Brigade area which has seen the most extensive investigation. The total count from this entire brigade area is 1,507 objects, as compared with 1,812 artifacts from units11G11, 15, and 19 alone at Pluckemin, presumably representing the contents of but one room. The total tabulation from the four brigades at Valley Forge comes to only 2,630 artifacts (the aboriginal points have been excluded from the total). Admittedly, this Valley Forge total omits some lead sprue and perhaps several hundred glass sherds which were not individually counted. It is also probable that artifacts are missing from the Valley Forge collections. Yet these two factors do little to lessen the disparity between the frequencies from Valley Forge and Pluckemin, particularly when one adds the totals from 11G8 (the refuse scatter behind the officers’ barracks) into the comparison (yielding a total count of 3,305 artifacts from units 11G8, 11, 15, and 19).


Figure 27. Brass spigot and spigot key

This comparison is not intended as a qualitative statement about the relative worth of the two collections, but is intended rather to point out the great contrast that exists between the two sites. It is difficult to jump from artifact counts to inferences about logistics and supply, but it is hard not to see this disparity as an indication that supply was far better at Pluckemin. In terms of food, it has been suggested that, although bone and shell would be the best measure of supply, ceramics may indirectly measure this variable. It is also likely that ceramic frequencies reflect the access troops had to sutlers and local merchants, as well as the ability of those suppliers to provide such commodities. The number of ceramic sherds recovered from the Pluckemin excavations discussed so far (1,369 from 11G11, 11G15, 11G19 and the refuse scatter 11G8), far exceeds the total at Valley Forge (361). If our inferences about the architecture at Pluckemin are correct, then this is but another aspect of the improved logistical situation. Historical documents clearly show that this progress extended to ordnance supply as well, and it may be possible to demonstrate this archaeologically in the investigation of the southern end of the Southeast Line.



Excavations in the northern end of Southeast Line at Pluckemin focused on an area in which artificers were thought to have been quartered. Lying on a terrace cut into the side of the hill, features such as rectangular enclosures formed by rock lines and possible chimney mounds had been mapped in 1979 (Seidel 1983, 1987). These suggested a long building oriented north-south, consistent with John Lillie’s contemporary drawing of the camp. Three excavations units crossed the length of this structure: 11G15, 11G19, and 11G9 (moving from the front, or west, to the rear, or east), exposing a swath that was 17 meter (55.77 ft) long from west to east (front to rear) and 3.5 meter wide (11.5 ft) from north to south. Once a probable room had been exposed, the excavations were expanded (11G19) another 4.5 meters (14.76 ft) to the north, over a 3.0 meter (9.8 ft) east-west area, concentrating on the interior of the room. The work here confirmed that the terrace along the base of the steep slope was built by Knox’s troops to create a level building platform. The cut into the rear slope was revealed, and the excavated dirt was used as fill to create the front of the terrace, held in place by a stone retaining wall. This probably doubled as a foundation for the front wall of the barracks. Only one course of this retaining wall remained, and a probable second course had been displaced by erosion or other means. The depth of the platform was 5.4 meters, or 18 feet, a common building unit in the late 18th century, and this was almost certainly the depth of the building. On the terrace itself, a hard, compact area of soil was discerned running east to west for the depth of the platform, and this seems to have functioned as a footing or base for an interior wall, with a wood sill resting on the footer. To the north of the footer was the interior of a room, where a stone fireplace was uncovered. Located on the rear wall of the barrack and facing into the room, the fireplace probably was centered in the room. The distance from the center of the interior wall footer to the center of the chimney was 2.7 meters, or 9 feet, suggesting room that was 18 ft square. To the south, no structural evidence of an adjoining room was found, and the front, stone retaining wall was not in evidence. Instead, a compacted rubble ramp was revealed, running from the parade ground in the west up onto the terrace. It is likely that this ran up to and through the arched passageway shown by Lillie on his drawing of the barracks. This accessed a cleared area to the rear of the barrack, probably an outdoor work area. Several circular clay pads were found that may have served as footings or bases for posts supporting the north side of the arch. In addition, there is some evidence that there may have been a shed to the rear of the room (as opposed to the passageway). Further evidence of construction techniques comes from the 709 nails that were recovered around and in the room, in units 11G11, 15 and 19. Their locations were recorded in three-dimensions during excavation, using grid coordinates and elevations. This allowed a spatial analysis of their distribution. Clusters were found in the corners of the room and on either side of the fireplace, allowing us to draw several conclusions. The presence of so many nails, far more than have been found around Valley Forge and Morristown cantonment hut sites, suggests that something other than log construction was used at Pluckemin. The clustering of nails in corners suggests a frame building, with plank siding nailed into the corner posts. The rear wall must have been interrupted by the fireplace and chimney, and if posts or studs ran up the side of the chimney, siding would have been fastened there as well. Evidence that this was the case comes from the many nails found on either side of the fireplace. 39   

Nails also were found in the interior of the room. Although these could have eroded down into the room from an uphill location along the rear wall or fallen out of the roof, the presence of many nails of the type used in wood flooring suggests just that – that the room had wood flooring. This conclusion is supported by the absence of any compacted soils of the type associated with earthen floors, as well as the absence of small artifacts such as ceramic sherds lying flat on a surface inside the room. Pane glass fragments and glazier’s points found along the front wall of the barracks suggest glass windows. The presence of headless nails, or brads, might even be used to argue for molding on the building’s interior. The stone pavers in front of the hearth extended to the south, toward the side wall, and small fragments of brick edged these pavers, probably abutting the wood sill of the side wall. Evidence for a possible post in the sidewall area, combined with the pavers, suggests the possibility of a side door exiting into the passageway, but this is conjectural. The sheer quantity of material remains recovered in this area is startling, compared to the assemblages excavated at other Revolutionary War winter camps. Not only was the architecture much more substantial and sophisticated, but it appears that the Pluckemin troops were far better supplied than their Valley Forge counterparts. In particular, the presence of a wide range of ceramic types belies the conventional wisdom that poor soldiers, constantly on the move, had to make do with wood or tin ware (Peterson 1968; Neumann and Kravic 1975). This suggests several things. First, when not constrained by supply, troops sought to replicate in their barracks the comforts of home, not bowing to the constraints of a life on the move for much of the year. Second, it seems that supply was much more effective during the winter of 1778-1779. The kinds of ceramics found in these excavations also tell us something about relative status on the site, indicating the artificers occupied a middle ground between high status officers and the lower ranks. From a modern vantage point this is appropriate, as the sophistication and “elegance” of their winter home, as described by contemporaries and confirmed by archaeology, was in large part thanks to their skills as craftsmen.


References Cited

Barker, P. A. 1969 Some Aspects of the Excavation of Timber buildings. World Archaeology I, 2:220-235.

Barna, Frank Carl 1984 A Most Intricate Department: The Commissary General of Military Stores or Ordnance Department Under Benjamin Flower and Samuel Hodgdon, 1777-1782. Master's Thesis, University of Maryland.

Calver, William L. and Reginald Pelham Bolton 1950 History Written with Pick and Shovel. The New York Historical Society, New York.

Neumann, George C., and Frank J. Kravic 1975 Collector’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

McDougall Papers n.d. Alexander McDougall Papers. New York Historical Society, New York.

Parrington, Schenck & Thibaut 1984 The Material World of the Revolutionary War Soldier at Valley Forge. The Scope of Historical Archaeology. Edited by David G. Orr and Daniel G. Crozier. The Laboratory of Anthropology, Temple University, Philadelphia.

Peterson, Harold 1968 Risch, Erna 1981 Rutsch, Edward 1986 Seidel, John L. 1983 "Archaeological Research at the 1778-1779 Winter Cantonment of the Continental Artillery, Pluckemin, New Jersey", Northeast Historical Archaeology, Vol. 12: 7-14. 41    Personal communication. July 26, 1986. Supplying Washington’s Army. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. The Book of the Continental Soldier. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.


The Archaeology of the American Revolution: A Reappraisal & Case Study at the Continental Artillery Cantonment of 1778-1779, Pluckemin, New Jersey. Ph.D. dissertation. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. "'China Glaze' Wares on Sites from the American Revolution: Pearlware Before Wedgwood?" in Historical Archaeology Vol. 24, No. 1:82-95. "The Winter of 1778-1779 at Pluckemin" in Flintlock and Powderhorn, Vol. 11, No. 1:4-11.

1990 1993

1995a "Military Industry in the New Nation" in Invisible America, ed. by Mark Leone & Neil Silberman. Henry Holt & Company, New York. 1995b "'Class Warfare': The American Militia System", in Invisible America, ed. by Mark Leone & Neil Silberman. Henry Holt & Company, New York. 2012a The Continental Artillery at Pluckemin & Middlebrook, 1778-1779. Report submitted to the Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House, Bedminster, New Jersey. Washington College Public Archaeology Laboratory, Chestertown, Maryland. 2012b Patterns on the Ground: Surface Archaeology at the 1778-1779 Pluckemin Cantonment. Report submitted to the Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House, Bedminster, New Jersey. Washington College Public Archaeology Laboratory, Chestertown, Maryland. 2012c Trash & Tea: Gleanings from a Revolutionary War Refuse Dump. Report submitted to the Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House, Bedminster, New Jersey. Washington College Public Archaeology Laboratory, Chestertown, Maryland. 2012d Arming the Troops: the Gunsmith’s Shop at Pluckemin, 1778-1779. Report submitted to the Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House, Bedminster, New Jersey. Washington College Public Archaeology Laboratory, Chestertown, Maryland. Sekel, Clifford, Jr. 1972 South, Stanley 1977 Method & Theory in Historical Archaeology. Academic Press, New York. The Continental Artillery in Winter Encampment at Pluckemin, New Jersey, December, 1778 – June 1779. Master of Arts thesis. Wagner College, Staten Island, New York.


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