More than objects shot from muskets and cannons were discovered this month by military veterans digging and sifting through clumps of earth at a Revolutionary War battleground in New York. The careful field labour provided a familiar sense of camaraderie and mission to the veterans, some of whom were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and physical ailments.
Veterans find friendship during a Revolutionary War battlefield dig
While the archaeological dig at Saratoga National Historical Park yielded evidence from the pivotal Second Battle of Saratoga, the veterans profited from the collaborative effort. During a recent cloudy morning, Bjorn Bruckshaw, of Laconia, New Hampshire, said, “We can all get together, share your battle tales, your deployment memories, and share your enthusiasm for the history of what you’re digging.” Bruckshaw, 38, was part of a three-person team that spent the morning excavating small holes where metal detectors went off, then combing through the moist clumps for… largely rusted nails. Bruckshaw, an Army veteran who was injured in a roadside bombing in Iraq, is one of 15 veterans participating in the dig with American Veterans Archaeological Recovery, a non-profit that assists service members in reintegrating into civilian life. While the organisation mostly works with disabled veterans, Stephen Humphreys of AVAR says the group’s focus is on what participants can do in the field rather than any injuries. “You’re trained to be on time for everything in the military,” Bruckshaw remarked. “As a result, for many people, the adjustment to civilian life is a little more difficult. It was difficult for me to cope with TBI (traumatic brain injury) and PTSD as a result of my military injuries. However, you have support groups such as these.” Archaeologist William Griswold of the National Park Service said the team is looking for items that can help them learn more about the Battle of Bemis Heights, also known as the Second Battle of Saratoga, which took place on Oct. 7, 1777.
The triumph of American soldiers over British and German troops is credited with encouraging France to offer essential backing to the independence movement. The battle also boosted the reputation of future traitor Benedict Arnold, who was injured in the leg and is commemorated with a monument to his boot. Artifacts can pinpoint troop movements and give a reality check, while maps and journal records from the time reveal military movements during that crucial conflict. For example, historians believe the British at Saratoga filled their guns with tin canisters containing iron balls, known as “case shot,” which spread out like shotgun blasts. The locations of the buried iron balls discovered here are being utilised to determine where the cannons shot from more precisely. “It’s a good method to double-check a lot of these textual sources because individuals often make mistakes or embellish things in the fog of battle,” Griswold said. The first fieldwork here was place in 2019, under the direction of the National Park Service’s regional archaeology programme. The American Battlefield Trust is one of the event’s sponsors. Last year’s work was halted by the epidemic, but employees with shovels and metal detectors returned this month and finished this week. Megan Lukaszeski, a veteran, remarked, “It’s partly about the chase.” “You never know what you’ll come across. You may dig and find nothing, or you could dig and discover incredible things.” Lukaszeski went to school to study archaeology after retiring from the Air Force. Through AVAR’s relationship with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the 36-year-old from New York has already participated in AVAR excavations to recover remains at WWII crash sites in England and Sicily.
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