Discussion Material Culture

Initially, the relative sparsity of artifacts concerned us.  However, other researchers have commented that Confederate camps commonly contain few artifacts due to the frugality of the Confederate army (Geier et al. 2006; Smith 1971).  The artifacts recovered from the recent data recovery excavations included burned brick, sandstone, ceramics, and melted glass, which, presumably, was caused by the intentional burning of the encampment upon the Confederate retreat.

Further support for the presence of relatively substantial structures (as opposed to tents) are the artifacts recovered during our excavations.  Log huts, such as is described by Billings (1993), feature construction materials including brick for chimneys and mud chinking used for insulation.  All of the debris mounds contained brick.  These materials are believed to have been used in the construction of chimneys attached to the structures.

Nails are the most common artifact recovered during this excavation.  Of those that were deemed to be complete enough to measure, the nail assemblage contains 42 10-penny nails, four 8-penny nails, three 6-penny nails, and two 4-penny nails.  Figure 35 shows the different sizes of the cut nails recovered from the excavation area.  Five spikes were also recovered.  These spikes include one that is 16-penny nail size and two each that are 20- and 30-penny nail size.  The prevalence of 10-penny nails is strongly suggestive of a fairly substantial structure.  Six- and 8-penny nails are generally associated with siding, framing, and flooring (McBride and McBride 2006), and larger 10-penny nails would presumably also be used for similar purposes.  Figure 36 shows a nail recovered from Feature 601 that exhibits chinking or mortar on its head.  This nail could have been used for siding when chinking or mortar became attached to the head.   Four-penny nails can be associated with shingle roofs or with supply and ammunition boxes (McBride and McBride 2006).  Billings (1993) noted that hardtack boxes were sometimes used to create a door for a log hut, shelving for cookware, or made into tables or stools.  However, this was not the norm and was described as “high toned,” and many did without such conveniences (Billings 1993:76).  Of particular interest is the fact that the vast majority of the measurable nails were recovered from Feature 601.  The Feature 601 mound also yielded the most brick and an edged plate.  The eastern depression at Feature 602 yielded a hand painted porcelain shaving mug lid.  These items would not have been standard army issue, and may be indicative of an officers’ quarters, rather than enlisted soldiers’ quarters.

The limited focus of this data recovery prevents us from comparing the artifact assemblage from the data recovery area with artifacts from other debris mounds in the preserved portion of site 44IW0204.  On the surface, it appears that the limited artifacts do not leave much for comparison.  Reeves and Geier (2006) conducted excavation on a Confederate encampment in Montpelier, Virginia and found similar conditions at that site.  The deposits at their encampment were also ephemeral; however, the excavation of different huts at the site indicated material disparities between the different structures.  “While these differences are not surprising given the rigorous hierarchy built into any military organization, what is exciting is how this hierarchy manifests itself in the material record” (Reeves and Geier 2006:214).  A larger sampling of the debris mounds at site 44IW0204 could help determine the relative rank (higher or lower) of the soldier(s) associated with each hut throughout the site..

No data recovery excavations were conducted in the remainder of site 44IW0204, but several artifacts were recovered from the site during the Lawnes Point Development tract survey (Reid et al. 2004).  These artifacts are similar in nature and include melted glass, bottle glass (olive green, light blue, and blue-green), historic ceramics, cut nails, UID metal, brick, and bone.  The historic ceramics include one piece of gray salt glazed stoneware with a brown interior and 34 pieces of ginger beer bottle stoneware.  Some of the ginger beer bottle sherds are burned, and they have a manufacturing range of 1820 to 1925.  Some mammal and bird comprise the faunal remains, and most of them were calcined.  The fragmentary nature of the bone does not allow for species identification.

The artifacts recovered during the survey have manufacturing ranges consistent with the artifacts from the data recovery excavations.  The presence of melted glass, burned ceramics, and calcined bone indicate other areas of the site were subjected to fire, presumably when the Confederate burned their encampment upon retreat.  Many of the nails and all the historic ceramics were recovered approximately 30 meters away from the nearest identified debris pile.  The presence of so many artifacts found in relation to one another (i.e., 34 ginger beer bottle fragments recovered from one shovel test) suggests the deposition of these artifacts is not due to displacement by land disturbing activities (i.e. logging, plowing).  It is possible, however, that land disturbance has reduced the remains of a structure to the point where it could not be identified on the ground surface.  If this is the case, there may have been more structures present in the encampment than is evidenced by the remaining debris piles.  Further investigations of into the  preserved portion of the site, however, could add data on living conditions (i.e., living quarters, diet) as well as provide valuable comparative data with that recovered during the current investigation.

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