Press-Republican

Local News

March 30, 2012

Dig at Pike's Cantonment proves successful

PLATTSBURGH — Artifacts recovered last summer from an archaeological dig at the purported location of Pike's Cantonment offered solid evidence of a military encampment.

And recently released details of structures on the site add a new layer of confirmation.

ENCAMPMENT

Pike's Cantonment was the location of a military encampment during the War of 1812, when nearly 2,000 American soldiers hunkered down for the winter of 1812-13. Although those troops moved out of the area well before the Sept. 11, 1814, Battle of Plattsburgh, the site of the cantonment would play a major role that day as the spot where British troops crossed the Saranac River in an attempt to circle American soldiers defending Plattsburgh.

The fate of that battle — and the importance it played in America's victory in the War of 1812 — is now a solid part of American history, but the exact location of Pike's Cantonment has been debated for decades with no clear-cut evidence surfacing from that harsh winter nearly 200 years ago.

Until now.

EARLIER STUDIES

"We started excavating (last summer) with goals to find evidence of military activity and evidence of intact features," said Dr. Timothy Abel, an archaeologist specializing in the War of 1812 who supervised the summer 2011 excavation activities.

The site, located on property formerly owned by the Plattsburgh Air Force Base, was the subject of an archaeology study in the mid-1990s when the Air Base was slated for closure.

"They found historical deposits, including nails, glass, clay pipes and brick, but still had not found anything Army-like," Abel said during a presentation at Clinton Community College.

"During a subsequent assessment in 1997, they recovered a similar assembly of artifacts, but still nothing of a military nature."

'TREASURE TROVE'

Those activities paved the way to place the location on the New York State Registry of Historic Places.

But placement on the National Registry requires much stronger evidence of a military presence, and the confirmed location of Pike's Cantonment was placed in limbo, Abel noted.

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