—Battle of Helena —
Four maps drawn during the Civil War show Battery C. On each, the size and
shape of the battery is different. Archaeological investigations conducted in
2011 and 2013 uncovered some surprising facts about this battery.
Calling in the Professionals
Professional archaeologists had never investigated this site.
Nothing of Battery C was visible on the surface, and the historic
maps raised more questions than they answered. There were
plans to interpret and make the site accessible to visitors, which
required earth moving and construction. It was time to do
archaeology to see if any subsurface remains of Battery C existed
and what they might reveal.
Scientific Methods Yield Results
The archaeologists used investigative techniques ranging from
systematic metal detector surveys to hand excavation to backhoe
trenching. They mapped the location and depth of each artifact
recovered and recorded the soils in each trench. An intriguing discovery
of subtle differences in soil color and texture led to the definition of the
ditch in front of Battery C. The distribution of Civil War-era nails defined the revetment—the wooden retaining wall that held the earth in place. Perhaps the most interesting discovery was the shape of Battery C, which was different
than shown on any of the historic maps.
The vine-covered mesh structure duplicates the height and width of Battery C. The wood represents the revetment.
Archaeologists under the direction of Dr. W.
Stephen McBride, McBride Preservation Services,
Lexington, Kentucky, conducted the field work.
Above: The archaeologists employed a backhoe to
Upper right: Careful hand excavation was used
to explore features-differences in soil color and
texture or concentrations of artifacts.
Lower right: An archaeologist screens soil to
Slight differences in soil color and texture indicated the location of the
parapet-the wall of the earthwork-and the ditch in front of Battery C.
The most common of artifacts have value for the information they hold.
The distribution of cut nails, below, indicated the location of the revetment.