PLATTSBURGH — Researchers at Pike’s Cantonment continue to uncover clues that not only verify the location of the winter home of American troops during the War of 1812 but also reveal what life was like for those soldiers.
Led by noted War of 1812 archaeologist Dr. Timothy Abel and local Battle of Plattsburgh expert Keith Herkalo, several North Country teachers as well as students from an archaeological field class at Clinton Community College are uncovering the remains of a hut on the historical site.
“We don’t know a lot about how the common foot soldiers lived (during the war),” Abel said recently, as the group completed its second week of activity on site.
“So much of history focuses on the battles and the generals who led the battles. This (archaeological dig) is so important because it gives us a glimpse of how the individual foot soldiers lived.”
Most of a soldier’s activities were centered around camp life, Abel added, and most casualties occurred in camp and not on the battlefield.
Approximately 2,000 soldiers wintered at Pike’s Cantonment, and about 200 died while there, mostly during the first month when shelters were being built and sanitary conditions were inadequate, he said.
Activity during last year’s dig focused on verifying that Pike’s Cantonment was indeed located on land adjacent to Plattsburgh International Airport along Route 22. This year, activity is much more focused.
“The goal for this year is to try to get a sense of how a single hut was structured,” Herkalo said.
Although much of the cantonment was disturbed by the construction of Route 22 and the Air Force Base, the location now being uncovered is remarkably untouched.
“There has never been any other layer of human activity on top of this location,” Herkalo said. “It’s fabulous.”