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Larry James Notes


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"Hidden Vestiges: An approach to recognizing an 18th-century historic landscape within an urban environment"
Larry B James
University of West Florida

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Larry James Notes

  1. 1. #1 TITLE SLIDE: Buried beneath the city of Pensacola, Florida are the remains of an extensive network of earthworks and archaeological deposits from a 1781 Revolutionary War battle known as the Siege of Pensacola. A non-invasive approach to understanding this battlefield landscape is one way to reconcile the modern landscape with an old and complex urban landscape. Maps and documents provide additional information, along with an extensive record from landowners and previous archaeological investigations related to the event. Results from this study will reveal conclusions about how this historic landscape that was once overlooked or deemed unapproachable, can now be recognized as a setting worthy of study and preservation. CLICK #2 TREATY OF PARIS `At the culmination of the Seven Years War in 1763, the outcome of the Treaty of Paris re-designed much of the Colonial territory in North America. The remaining region known as “La Florida” was ceded to England by Spain in return for the Island of Cuba. Along with the southern portions of Alabama, Mississippi, and a fraction of southeastern Louisiana, West Florida was named as one of four new colonies for Great Britain. Pensacola was selected as the capitol of the new territory.
  2. 2. Due to her alliance with France during the War, Spain was granted the former French territory of Louisiana, including the bustling port city of New Orleans. Not long after this territorial swap, trade disputes erupted along the Mississippi River between Spain and England. CLICK #3 Siege of Pensacola In the Spring of 1781, with re-enforced troop support from Mobile, Havana, and New Orleans, Spanish Governor General Don Bernardo de Galvez prepared his forces for an assault against Pensacola’s British stronghold Fort George and its surrounding redoubts, the Queens Redoubt and the Prince of Wales Redoubt. Over the next few months, Galvez moved his troops from Santa Rosa Island to the outskirts of the colonial town of Pensacola. A combined force of French and Spanish troops dug trenches and laid siege to the British redoubts surrounding Fort George. After weathering weeks of guerrilla-style warfare from British and Indian forces, the Spanish army gained the advantage when, on the 8th of May, a mortar shell struck the door of the powder magazine in the Queen’s Redoubt, which caused a large explosion, killing numerous British soldiers. Galvez’s troops captured the Queen’s Redoubt and used it as a fortification to bombard Fort George which was located only a few hundred meters away. After several hours of bombardment, the British surrendered. On 10th of
  3. 3. May 1781, General John Campbell signed a formal surrender of Pensacola and the Colony of West Florida to Spain. CLICK #4 Landscape of Conflict During the Siege of Pensacola, the elevated heights known as Gage Hill was identified as an advantage point for a defensive position above the colonial town. Elevated between 79-100 feet above sea level, this commanding hilltop is part of a relict marine terrace that was formed over 40,000 years ago during a series of glacial episodes, in which sediments of the Citronelle Formation shaped the modern day coastline of Florida. The hill’s crest was well-defined by eroded streams on both east and west edges which formed a “Y-shaped” deep valley floor. CLICK Beginning in 1779 and lasting through the 1860s, this hilltop location has seen extensive military modifications and occupations. CLICK This elevated crest above Pensacola has served as a proving ground of military engineering CLICK and conflict through the several colonial occupations leading up to the Early American period, representing one of the Gulf Coast’s primary sites of human conflict. CLICK #5 Antebellum Pensacola Antebellum Pensacola saw an economic boom associated with the expansion of the railroad, shipping, fishing, and lumber Industries, which brought new wealth and urban sprawl to the city’s undeveloped districts.
  4. 4. This 1886 postcard displays the new city in transition. The circled area is believed to be the remains of earthworks located on the elevated hill. CLICK # 6 HERRON HOUSE One of the more photographed dwellings of the Victorian American Period, is the Dr. J.S. Herron House, located at the corner of La Rua and Palafox Streets in the turn-of-the-century development called the Belmont Tract. This house was unique to Pensacolians not only for its architecture but also for, how the landscaped yard concealed the former earthworks that were locally identified as the ruins of the Fort George. CLICK # 7 MORE HERRON HOUSE As we view this more recent photograph of the Herron house, we not only see urban growth and a more developed city, but we reveal how a cultural shift eradicates the former fortifications and a portion of Pensacola’s military heritage for sidewalks, streetlights and paved streets. CLICK # 8 FORT GEORGE PARK By the 1970s, the Herron house had been torn down and the front lot abandoned. In order to preserve and commemorate the Siege of Pensacola, the city acquired the undeveloped parcel for the purpose of building an interpretive park as seen here. Prior to the parks construction, State Archaeologists were employed to reveal the exact location of the original
  5. 5. British principal fortification for the purpose of constructing a true representation of British Fort George. CLICK #9 Archaeology of Fort George: In 1974, excavations on a city owned empty lot were conducted by the Florida Bureau of Historic Sites and Archaeological Research. This report uncovered the exact location of the principal British fortification and provides evidence towards discovering associated works: the Queen’s Redoubt and the Prince of Wales Redoubt. Senior Archaeologist, Henry Baker’s interpretation of the site’s subterranean features revealed three structural elements of Fort George. These include the fort’s moat and palisade wall, powder magazine warehouse, and a vaulted 4-room brick enclosure. In 2007, the Fort George collection was graciously loaned by the Bureau for further study to the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN). The main purpose of their interest in this collection was to provide an archaeological teaching aid for a project funded by History Channel’s Save Our History. The artifacts excavated from 8ES46 included a vast array of deposited materials which supported Baker’s interpretations and encompassed the fort’s extensive military history including
  6. 6. CLICK 1. a brass uniform button with the insignia “Royal Marines” inscribed on the front and “W & R Smith” on the back. This particular item of military clothing dates to the period of 1810-1816. Soldiers serving with the British Royal Marines during this time were separated into provisional battalions that traveled throughout the Gulf Coast. Prior to the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, a company sized detachment functioned independently out of Pensacola (Nicolas, 1845). CLICK: In addition, bullets called “minie balls” were noticed in several proveniences within the collection. Dating from the 19th-century, these minie balls include various calibers such as .30, .56, and .45. Smaller arms bullets were also found, including several .44 inch caliber bullets from an 1860 Colt revolver model distributed to Union cavalrymen during the American Civil War. These 19th century bullets showed no particular concentration in any one area of the site. CLICK #10 Historical Record In 1974, Archaeologists utilized these maps in order to facilitate the exact location of the Fort’s interior structures. Based upon its 1780 square design with demi-bastions at each corner, dry moat and extended Hornwork, Archaeologist were able to delineate the size and general dimensions of the fort’s composition. CLICK
  7. 7. #12 8ES1367 Fort San Bernardo Site 8ES1367 is located on the southeast and northeast corners of Brainerd and Barcelona Streets in the North Hill District of Pensacola. Preserved in a mound-like state, the site is currently situated underneath the Holsberry house built in the 1950s. CLICK #13 Historical Record The fort’s history includes two very distinct occupations which reveal several changes and expansions throughout time. Initially built as a supportive redoubt or advanced position, the British fort was expanded with extended parapets forming a crescent-shaped redan to mitigate the progress of the Spanish trenches. CLICK During the 2nd Spanish occupation the Fort was christened “Fort San Bernardo” in honor of the victorious general and was expanded to include barracks, several warehouses and a dry moat which enclosed the fortification. #14 Dr Bense Excavation CLICK > Seven test units and one auger test were excavated during the 1987 Pensacola Archaeological Survey by the University of West Florida. Field work objectives were to investigate the nature of the fortifications deposits and surrounding area.
  8. 8. Although no intact colonial midden was recovered, artifacts unearthed included a creamware sherd recovered mixed with Victorian and modern debris. This collage of mixed period artifacts was determined to be associated with the street and house construction and so it was believed that a large amount of disturbance had occurred at this location. CLICK. In the 1920s, construction of a neighboring house by Dr. W.C. Payne, unearthed an assortment of military items directly related to both occupations of the fort. Donated to the local historical society, the Payne Collection consists of 55 hand collected artifacts, including CLICK artillery fragments, and CLICK an officer’s saber. Recently conserved by graduate students working in the UWF Archaeology lab, the sword was identified by graduate student Kad Henderson as a Pattern Light Cavalry British Officer Sword with a manufacture date of 1796. This possibly confirms the presence of the British military in more than one Gage Hill fortification during the 1814 British occupation of Pensacola. CLICK #15 Topo Map of Bernardo The fort’s remains measure over 5 meters high and over 11 meters wide at its base. The area occupies the highest point of the upland marine terrace. The earthen mound is located on the Southern descending slope of the eroded knoll.
  9. 9. CLICK In 2008, a new topographic study was conducted by graduate students from the University of West Florida. These maps, created by UWF graduate student Roc Jarvis, reveal that the identity of the mound is still in a condition of debate. Although historically identified as the remains of the old fort, no conclusive evidence has been revealed at this site refuting the mound was not the result of backfill from nearby house construction or from grading of the streets. CLICK #18: Contemporary Sites Over the past several decades, numerous contemporary sites have been recorded throughout downtown Pensacola. CLICK This intact artillery mortar bomb was recovered from the North Baylen Street survey, site number 8ES1373, only 100 meters from site 8ES1367. When unearthed, the bomb’s fuse was exposed revealing the presence of intact gunpowder. Seen as a possible threat, local Police requested the military’s bomb squad to diffuse the shell. Once safely disarmed, the bomb became a unique display piece at the T.T. Wentworth Museum in downtown Pensacola. This event had a lasting impression on residence awareness, resulting in a movement to alter local ordinances that addressed archaeological deposits on right-of-ways in historic districts. Since then, cannonball fragments and
  10. 10. iron shot have been reported by local residents in nearby gardens surrounding the North Hill District. CLICK #19 Public Survey of North Hill The purpose of my research was to develop and evaluate a model for approaching archaeological sites in urban environments. Based upon these historic maps and archaeological descriptions, the North Hill District of the City of Pensacola encompasses the highest area of probability for containing cultural evidence from the battlefield. My methodology included a public survey reconnaissance of North Hill as well as the surrounding outlying streets which may yield positive results. 125 Residential homes were selected based upon their location within the targeted North Hill area, as well as their proximity to known contemporary cultural landmarks. The research included a resident questionnaire which was presented to the homeowner which asked three explicit questions: 1. Do you know that a part of the American Revolution took part in Pensacola? 2. Have you changed the landscape of your property? AND 3. Have you ever found any historic relics on your property?
  11. 11. Preliminary Results include:  For Question number 1 > 92 out of 125 > had prior knowledge of the events of the Siege of Pensacola. For Question number 2 > 47 out of 125 > had altered their landscape by the construction of a pool, driveway, porch or home addition.  For Question number 3 > 36 out of 125 > had unearthed an artifact while gardening or some form of landscaping. CLICK > in over 20 of these 36 positive results, military-type artifacts were documented. For the purpose of this study, I created this map which exhibits the relation between the military-related artifacts and the actual location of known Archaeological sites contemporary with the Siege of Pensacola. The majority of the artifacts documented still in the possession of the homeowners included cast iron hollow shell fragments and various caliber round shot which are believed to be related to the Spanish laying Siege to the British fortifications. This information provides new insight about understanding the previously defined boundaries of this battlefield and may shed further information on how it is studied. In the future, this non-invasive approach may provide archaeologist with an alternative opportunity to investigate archaeological sites in urban landscapes. More importantly, it allows further investigations into areas
  12. 12. written-off or classified as un-approachable because of an urban environment. CLICK > #20 Conclusions I hope this study will reveal how historic features within urban landscapes can serve as modern cultural and temporal markers, and how public archaeology can enhance social identity and awareness within a metropolitan environment. In addition, this study will provide opportunities for neighborhoods located outside of traditionally bounded historic districts to embrace their possibly unknown or un-documented heritage. This type of awareness can help shape community consciousness and identity, which often is lost in the sprawling urban growth that threatens cultural development in today’s American cities. CLICK # 20 THANK YOU VERY MUCH