Friday, February 24, 2017

At Gettysburg: Archaeologists will survey parts of Little Round Top, George Spangler farm

Little Round Top (NPS photo)
George Spangler farm (Courtesy of Gettysburg Foundation)

A National Park Service archaeological team at Gettysburg will survey Little Round Top’s western slope and the George Spangler farm to ensure historic features are protected during two projects.

The Little Round Top metal detector survey – taking place over the next several days – is in preparation of a 52-acre prescribed burn at Gettysburg National Military Park. The fire aims to reduce woody vegetation and maintain open fields and meadows.

The goal is to build on previous studies from Western states where the effects of fire on battlefields have been studied, the park said. Data will help the park protect archaeological resources.

Volunteers on the team will catalog each recovered item. Locations will be entered into a GIS system.

“Location is the critical element of battlefield archaeology that enables us to expand our understanding of a battle. When the project is complete and the map is compiled, the distribution of artifacts can show fields of fire, areas of engagement, and unit positions,” the park said in a news release. “All artifacts recovered during the project will be analyzed in a lab and returned to Gettysburg National Military Park.”

Historic view of Little Round Top (Library of Congress)

Little Round Top is the location of some of the most famous fighting of the battle. Rising 164 feet above the Plum Run Valley to the west, Little Round Top became the anchor of the Union’s left flank and a focal point of Confederate attacks on the afternoon of July 2, 1863.

Katie Lawhon, senior adviser at the Pennsylvania park, told the Picket that a cultural landscape report identifies two major historical time periods that are most likely to have archaeological deposits within the Little Round Top area: the pre-colonial period and the Battle of Gettysburg.

“An analysis of the topography of 52 pre-colonial archaeological sites in Adams County indicated that the landscape settings most associated with recorded archaeological sites included stream benches, lower hill slopes, floodplains, middle slopes and terraces that were located close to flowing water,” she said. Some parts of Little Round Top may have archaeological “potential,” despite disturbance from an electric railroad more than a century ago.

The team also will work at the George Spangler Farm Civil War Field Hospital site, where the Gettysburg Foundation is re-establishing an orchard. Officials want to protect archaeological resources at that part of the farm, which will open to visitors on June 9 for the summer season. The barn and smokehouse have been restored.

Well in Spangler summer kitchen (courtesy of Gettysburg Foundation)

Cindy Small, chief marketing officer with the foundation, told the Picket that an archaeologist has been on the site three times.

In 2013, we were digging under the floor of the summer kitchen and we found an old well that we didn’t know existed. In 2014, we dug the basement of the house to supply fire suppression to the barn and we didn’t find anything. We also dug a trench from the house to the electric substation and nothing was found,” she said.

The Spangler farm was transformed “into a place of chaos and crisis” as the property was converted to a field hospital for the 2nd Division of the Union 11th Corps. It later became the main hospital for all units.

Confederate Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armistead, who fell while leading troops during Pickett’s Charge, died of his wounds on July 5, 1863, in the farm’s summer kitchen.

The park reminds visitors they are not allowed to use metal detectors within its boundaries.

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