Press-Republican

History

July 31, 2013

Pike's Cantonment dig unveils new evidence

PLATTSBURGH — An archaeological dig at an American War of 1812 encampment continues to uncover evidence during a second year of activity.

More than 2,000 American soldiers spent the winter of 1812-13 at Pike’s Cantonment, a temporary military camp dug out of the forest along the Saranac River near Plattsburgh International Airport.

About 200 of those men perished from illness and the harsh winter environment, but those who survived were ordered from the area in the spring, leaving the cantonment abandoned. 

The wooden huts were all burned to the ground months later by a force of invading British troops.

OFFICER QUARTERS

The exact location of Pike’s Cantonment remained a mystery until archaeologist Dr. Timothy Abel confirmed the presence of the military encampment with some preliminary investigations in 2011.

Since then, he has offered a credit-bearing workshop through Clinton Community College as students and other volunteers have helped uncover the specific location of one of the former huts.

“Last year, we excavated one end of a soldier’s cabin,” Abel said this week as workers continued searching through the remains for more evidence. 

“This year, we’ve expanded the excavation to get the extended floor plan of the cabin.”

Their efforts revealed a cabin that was 12 by 16 feet and included two fireplaces, Abel noted.

“Based on its size, this was probably occupied by one or several officers,” he said.

Troop cabins, he added, were usually much larger since they held more people. Also, the hut was located at the top of a hill, the traditional location of officer quarters in such military encampments.

COMFORT ITEMS

Workers also uncovered the remains of oriental porcelain at the site, a suggestion that its occupant held a position of importance, Abel added.

“Officers often brought in a lot of comfort items from home to make their stay more enjoyable,” he said.

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