Saturday, April 4, 2009

James E. Poindexter

At the beginning of March I wrote a brief blog about the Reverend James E. Poindexter.  What I didn't have was much to say.  That has now changed as we received a comment on the blog from his great great grandson Douglas Pugh III.  After some email communication, we have some more information on the good Reverend.  Here's a brief synopsis of what we know.

James Edward Poindexter was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, the eldest son of good family.  He was well educated and highly articulate and like many before him chose a scholarly and religious vocation.  He attended the seminary in Alexandria Va. and became a minister.

As a true son of Virginia he laid aside his religious studies and answered the Confederate call to arms after the guns were fired at Ft. Sumter.  In June 1861 he was a 2nd Lieutenant of the 38th Virginia Infantry.  in 1862 he was promoted to Captain and was also wounded.  In July of 1863 he was in the battle of Gettysburg under the command of General George Pickett.

Three days after Gettysburg he was listed as confined at Ft. McHenry in Baltimore.  He was then transfered to Johnson Island in Sandusky Ohio (the same one that our interns from Heidelberg University work on!) for two years and then finally transferred to Point Lookout in St. Mary's Maryland.  *my how it is such a small world*

Not much is known of his life after the war other than he served as a minister in several parishes in Maryland and Virginia.  He married and was ordained an Episcopal minister in 1871.  James Edward Poindexter died in 1911.

I would like to sincerely thank Douglass Pugh for his help in furthering our understanding of the townsfolk of Port Tobacco.
- Peter

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pushing the Limits of Sampling

Apropos April's comment about yesterday's blog, all sampling techniques have their strengths and weaknesses. Shovel testing is an effective tool in many, but not all cases. (It isn't very effective, for example, in identifying battle sites, cemeteries, and mills.) Our close-interval (25 ft) sampling in Port Tobacco, complemented by controlled surface collecting in the plowed fields, has led to the identification of many historic and prehistoric sites.

One might wonder, however, what we would have found if we employed other methods as well; e.g., metal detecting in the plowed fields might have identified outbuildings based on clusters of nails which are easily missed in surface collecting. Geophysical techniques such as magnetometry and ground penetrating radar in the town core might have revealed many distinct building footprints. Infrared photography undertaken in 1970 produced potentially useful results, identifying building sites. Unfortunately, the original photographic slides have been lost, so the original data are no longer available.

There are limitations to what we can do with the resources at hand, but the PTAP team will always use whatever we have to the extent possible. We'll also experiment with new methods and use old methods in new ways.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sampling Military Sites

For those of you who caught Pete's blog yesterday, you were treated to one of those maps that looks like a heavily used dart board. Over the next few weeks we will look for patterns and, hopefully, make sense of the jumble of specks.

One readily apparent finding is that metal detecting proved to be a far more effective method for exploring the site than shovel testing. The latter approach, widely applied on all kinds of sites in the eastern United States, produced not a single military related artifact. Scott and I had the same kind of success at Antietam National Battlefield several years ago...shovel testing produced a few ceramic and glass sherds, but metal detecting revealed the distributions of various military artifacts; e.g., lead projectiles, artillery shell fragments, and equestrian hardware.

I suppose the important point here is that shovel testing on military sites--whether battlefields or encampments--should not be abandoned. It does recover important components of a military event that would be missed by metal detecting. Not all trash left in the wake of a unit derives from service-issued materials. Metal detecting is indispensable, but insufficient to understanding these kinds of sites.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Union Encampment Map

Here is the first map of the Union Encampment #1. You can clearly see the ridge line as it goes down hill on all sides. STP's are marked in black, our metal detector hits are in red, datum points in blue and the road cut in brown. There are some clustering of hits on the higher grounds of the ridge and we will explore those in our analysis with results to be posted later. April and her crew in Ohio are working on the artifact catalog and once we have that with the map, we will be able to analyze it all together.

- Peter

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Collections Facility

Yesterday, Pete and I met with Cathy Hardy of the Charles County Department of Planning and Growth Management. We looked over the Burch House and decided that the second floor would be appropriate for the Port Tobacco Archaeological Project's collections facility.

We plan to build storage shelves on the second floor after the installation of insulation between the rafters and a security system.

Development of an appropriate collections facility is integral to the creation of a viable, sustainable archaeological research program.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Union Encampment

Today, Pete and I successfully collected the topographic data that we needed from the Union encampment. In doing so we mapped a sunken road that extends along the south side of the site, leading from the encampment to lower elevations to the west.

I suspect that this road existed during the Civil War and was one of the landscape features that led to the selection of this location as a camp. Certainly the high ground above Port Tobacco also made sense from the perspectives of defense and observation of the surrounding countryside. The military advantages of this position are not readily apparent today because of 20th-century reforestation, but the largely open landscape of the mid-19th century would have allowed ready observation and rapid response to invasion, espionage, and insurrection.

We'll have a map ready soon.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Preliminary Assessment of Union Encampment

Although the analysis has not yet been completed, my preliminary impression of what we found at the Union encampment outside of Port Tobacco is that there were one or more structures present, suggesting a stay of more than a few nights. It is possible that the soldiers constructed a temporary corral for their horses, both carpentry nails and equestrian hardware (horseshoes, horseshoe nails, and a buckle or two) seemingly clustered in the western portion of the site.

Ordnance (minie balls, caps) appeared to be clustered in the eastern portion of the site, suggesting tent locations for officers or enlisted men.

We still aren't sure what kind of unit bivouacked at this location. Currently, it looks to be a cavalry unit, but we'll see.

This is just one of several Union encampments in the area and, as the PTAP crew noted in an earlier blog, Union soldiers also were billeted in town, occupying the courthouse and the Indian King Hotel.