Continuing my professional journey at this historic place, the home of James Madison, is a tremendous honor. Madison restored himself on these lands before returning to the Herculean task of creating a new nation. I, too, feel restored in returning home to Virginia, to the rolling Piedmont hills, and to the red earth of Orange County.
During the 2012 season, the Montpelier Archaeology Department has been excavating a set of quarters for field slaves within a larger late 18th/early 19th century farm complex site. These excavations are part of a larger research project funded by NEH to examine three different sets of slave quarters at James Madison’s plantation dating to the early 19th century.
Last week the Montpelier Archaeology Department hosted our annual Work Study program with this year’s participants focusing on a trash deposit that we have located east of the Madison Temple. On Saturday, we made an exciting find that has started to clarify the exact provenience for the deposits. We located a fragment of the Nast china (the china Madison ordered in 1806 while Secretary of State).
While the department’s archaeologists have been working in the South Yard with the students of the James Madison University field school, Lance Crosby, our resident Civil War enthusiast, has been searching the woods for more evidence of Civil War encampments. By means of a systematic survey, with all finds marked and plotted using GPS, he’s made some exciting finds that we thought we would share with our readers, even if they are but the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.
Our surveys in the east woods of Montpelier (behind the Constitutional Center) have been very successful in terms of locating a series of small Civil War camps. What has made these discoveries possible is the excellent work by our newest staff member, Lance Crosby. Lance, a long-time resident of Orange, has a passion for and knowledge of Civil War sites and artifacts that makes him invaluable for locating sites in areas slated for timbering. We are using Lance’s discoveries to not only protect the Civil War camps he has found, but also to interpret them through a walking trail.
All archaeologists have worked upon sites where it seems that you never find any artifacts, and those where you cannot move your trowel for fear of breaking one of thousands of artifacts. In the Front Yard it might be a good day to find 12 artifacts, whereas in Dolley’s Midden it would have been a bad day to find anything less than 120 artifacts (or sometimes even 1,200 artifacts!).
The first section is an introduction, while the second part, accessed by the “Read more” link, goes into greater detail.As you may notice from the title, I’m no longer just referring to the “South Yard” in its entirety. For month of October the Montpelier Archaeology Department has expanded the excavations to encompass the smoke house (structure 2), as well as to chase out the paling face and the formal fence that defined the end of the Madison formal yard.
Winter for much of the Montpelier Archaeology Department has been spent in extensive Phase I (”shovel test pit,” or “STP”) survey of the areas of Montpelier in conjuction with developing long-range plans for the property. These surveys have revealed a new site--a slave quarter dating to the late antebellum period.
In the depths of winter, Civil War soldiers have returned to Montpelier to build hut sites in the woods behind the Gilmore Farm. No, this is not the story of a long-lost regiment of Confederate troops who have found their way back to Montpelier, but the story of a group of reenactors from the 3rd Regiment of the Army of Northern Virginia who used January 24, 2009 as the kick-off to recreate a set of winter huts.