Visitor Center Grand Opening:
When the members of BRAVO began working at Monmouth Battlefield State Park in 1990, there was a Visitor's Center but no museum. The Park had no artifacts at all associated with the June 28, 1778 battle. By 2013, BRAVO has excavated over 11,000 artifacts dating from 10,000 BC to modern farming. Over 2,100 artifacts have been recovered that can be directly associated with the battle. Some of the artifacts were put on display in the old dimly lit Visitor's Center in second hand display cases. Thanks to the efforts of Garry Wheeler Stone, PhD, the State of NJ spent over $8 million in building a new museum and renovating the old center. It was opened on June 13, 2013 with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
From left to right: David Martin, President of the Friends of Monmouth Battlefield, Dan Sivilich, President of BRAVO, NJ DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, Garry Stone, Historic Interpretive Specialist.
The new museum has numerous artifacts on display from Native American habitation sites, the Battle of Monmouth and Camp Vredenburg, a Civil War training camp that were all within the bounds of the State Park. The battle is interpreted through document research and archaeological discoveries. A spectacular video describing the events leading up to the battle and the battle itself is shown in the new theater/auditorium. There is a new electronic map of the battle and even an interactive computer game with the objective of finding where Molly Pitcher's cannon was located. You use your finger on a touch screen as a metal detector to find artifacts that are clues to the location. The new Museum at Monmouth Battlefield State Park, Route 33 west, Manalapan, NJ is an absolute MUST SEE.
Discovery at Valley Forge
On December 8, 2012 members of BRAVO met with Dr. David Orr of Temple University and Jesse West-Rosenthal, a doctoral candidate working with Dr. Orr, at the Washington Memorial Chapel at Valley Forge, PA. BRAVO has been assisting Dave Orr, who was formerly the chief archaeologist at Valley Forge National Park, at this site since 2006 when we discovered it was an encampment area from the 1777 - 1778 winter cantonment for the Continental Army. Using metal detectors, members of BRAVO have recovered many artifacts at this site. The artifacts are mapped on a site map, giving the archaeologists a picture of where the "hot spots" are. Then using conventional archaeological techniques, the graduate students have been able to concentrate their efforts, which has resulted in the discovery of several hut sites, a camp kitchen (very rare) and trash pits.
December 8th was cold and wet, having rained the night before. We had been at the site numerous times, but it seems that something interesting has been recovered nearly every time. Within minute, Jim Barnett of BRAVO approached Jesse with a large muddy clump of rusted iron and asked "Is this what I think it is?"
Our responses were those of excitement. I pointed out the gun flint still in place. Jim had found a complete lock to a musket! Jesse (left in the photo) and Jim (right in the photo) just could not stop grinning all day.
Now the questions become - what type of gun did it come from and why was it left behind? It was too encrusted to identify on the spot and too fragile to attempt to clean so it was decided to have it professionally conserved. Having a quorum available at the site, the members of BRAVO took an immediate vote to cover the costs. The artifact was taken to the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory for preservation where it was also x-rayed:
The style of the cock is very distinct and appears to be British. Here is a photo of a Tower-marked model 1777 military British Brown Bess musket (photograph provided by and reproduced with permission by Bill Ahearn). For more detailed information on muskets, one of the best books on this topic is Muskets of the Revolution and the French & Indian Wars by Bill Ahearn.
We will not know for sure until the artifacts is totally conserved, but it poses many more questions such as how did it get there.
During the early years of the Revolutionary War, the Americans had very little in the way of standardized weapons. Many of the muskets and rifles were the guns that the farmer-soldier brought with him from home. They lacked bayonets and did not use standard size musket balls and the British knew this. The following was taken from an account of the Battle of Princeton, NJ on January 3, 1777 (Dodsley 1778:19):
"It cannot escape the observation of any person who has attended to the circumstances of this war, that the number slain on the side of the Americans, has in general greatly exceeded that in the royal army. Though every defect in military skill, experience, judgment, conduct, and mechanical habit, will in some degree account for this circumstance, yet perhaps it may be more particularly attributed to the imperfect loading of their pieces in the hurry of action, than to any other cause; a defect, of all others, the most fatal; the most difficult to be remedied in a new army; and to which even veterans are not sufficiently attentive. To this may also be added the various make of their small arms, which being procured, as chance or opportunity favoured them, from remote and different quarters, were equally different in size and bore, which rendered their being fitted with ball upon any general scale impracticable."
Some of the American guns were old Brown Bess Committee of Safety muskets left over from the French and Indian Wars. Others were captured British weapons. Archaeological work done by John Seidel at the Pluckemin, NJ encampment discovered that captured British bayonets were having their sockets cut and rewelded to fit American muskets.
In 1777 France began shipping large quantities of standard muskets called "Charleville's" after the name of the Charleville Armory from which most were being shipped. They came with standardized 15" bayonets , another important commodity that the Americans were in very short supply.
At the same time "Baron" Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand von Steuben was hired by Washington to train the troops. When everyone hears the name von Steuben, they usually get a mental image of troops being taught how to march and they were. However, they were also taught how to fight. They learned how to form in three ranks for effective volley fire. While the front line is firing, the rear ranks are in various stages of loading. In my opinion, more importantly they learned how to fix bayonets, charge and parry and thrust when engaged with the enemy!
It is speculated that with the arrival of standardized arms, the older weapons were no longer needed and some were probably discarded. We might learn more about this lock after it is thoroughly conserved. Congratulations Jim Barnett for a job well done!
The site is currently an active archaeological site. Temple University and BRAVO have exclusive permissions to excavate and remove artifacts for analysis and documentation. All artifacts found belong to the property owner, some of which are now being put on display in the Chapel gift shop. Persons disturbing the site will be prosecuted.