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For information, contact Adam Kane, Nautical Archaeology Project Manager, (802) 475-2022, ext 116

Revolutionary War Artifacts to be Recovered from Lake Champlain

On June 30th, over 100 Revolutionary War artifacts will be recovered from the bottom of Valcour Bay, Lake Champlain. The project is being conducted by nautical archaeologists from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in partnership with the Clinton County Historical Museum. The artifacts will be displayed at the Valcour Educational Conference Center in Peru, New York for the press between 11am and 1pm and for the general public between 2pm and 7pm.

These artifacts are the remains from one of the most important naval engagements of the American Revolution. In 1776, the British planned to invade the colonies via Lake Champlain. In an attempt to halt this invasion, an American fleet commanded by General Benedict Arnold engaged a superior British force on October 11, 1776, near Valcour Island, New York. The two sides fought furiously, devastating the American fleet. After dark, the crippled American fleet escaped by passing along the western shore of the lake. In the morning the British pursued. Over the next two days nearly the entire American fleet was either captured by the British or burned by the Americans to prevent its capture. Tactically, the battle was a decisive British victory, but strategically the Americans prevailed, causing sufficient damage to the British force to affect a yearlong delay in their invasion plans. The British returned to Canada for the winter, and regrouped American forces thwarted Burgoyne’s Army at Saratoga the following year.

The artifact recovery is part of the Valcour Bay Research Project (VBRP), a systematic archaeological examination of the artifact scatter left behind from the battle. The survey is being conducted by volunteer divers with the assistance of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Since the start of the VBRP in 1999 approximately 227,500 square feet (equivalent to nearly eight football fields) of the battlefield have been examined. The project has been funded by a several organizations including the American Battlefield Protection Program, Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program, the Lake Champlain Basin Program, and the Freeman Foundation.

In 2001, thirty artifacts were recovered from the site, including three fragments of a broken cannon that exploded aboard the American gunboat New York, killing Lieutenant Thomas Rogers of Westford, Massachusetts. Three additional fragments of the same cannon are among the artifacts to be recovered on June 30, 2006. Other artifacts include a brass powder scoop, a sword fragment, a pair of spectacles, and numerous cannon balls. These items represent a tangible link to Lake Champlain’s crucial role in the American Revolution. The recovery is being undertaken with a permit from the New York State Museum and with oversight from the Naval Historical Center.

The artifacts can be viewed at the Conservation Laboratory at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Basin Harbor, Vermont between July 1 and October 15, 2006 while undergoing treatment to be cleaned and stabilized. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. The artifacts and accompanying exhibit “Valcour Bay Research Project: Rediscovering a Moment in Time” will travel to a New York venue in the fall.