British Sloop Boscawen (NYSM 11684)
The British Sloop Boscawen was discovered in 1983 when the Champlain Maritime Society (CMS), a predecessor of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, surveyed the bottom of the Lake Champlain between Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. The goal of this survey project was to locate the "Great Bridge” that spanned this section of the lake in 1776 and connected these two formidable American fortifications. It was during this survey that Boscawen, as well as two other 18th century vessels, were first discovered. These three shipwrecks became the focus of the 1984 field season.
The three unknown shipwrecks were first each assigned a number. Hull #1 was believed to be an unidentified French colonial vessel renamed after its capture by the British in 1759. Hull #2 was the largest of the three and believed to be the 115-ton sloop Boscawen built in 1759 at Ticonderoga. It was substantial, measuring over 70ft (21.3m) long even in its deteriorated condition. Hull #3 was a mystery and could not be positively identified as to type of vessel or national origin. Because the identity of Hull #2 was known and it was the most easily accessible from the shore, it was decided that it, Boscawen, would be the first vessel studied.
At the beginning of the project it was anticipated that only a small number of artifacts would be recovered from Boscawen, as it was believed that the ship would have been stripped of anything useable before it sank. Early in the excavation process, however, the archeologists realized that this was not going to be the case. In fact, excavations had to be halted in order to allow time to catch up with the large number of artifact being recovered. Before long it was clear that only half of the ship could be excavated in the first season. By the end of this first season over 1,100 artifacts had been processed and over 600 were selected for complete and costly conservation.
The artifact collection is astounding and represents one of the earliest and finest collections of naval artifacts from a military vessel recovered in American waters. The collection is diverse and represents nearly all aspects of life aboard a British naval vessel on Lake Champlain during the eighteenth century. It includes rigging elements such as wooden blocks, many still retaining their original red paint, along with iron hooks and fragments of rope. Clothing related artifacts including dozens of metal, leather and wood buttons were recovered as well as shoe and knee buckles. Numerous complete and partial shoes were also recovered. Glass wine bottles and fragments of drinking vessels along with numerous wooden gaming pieces are indicative of leisure time and entertainment. Fragments of pewter plates, pewter and wooden spoons and animal bones and seeds document food preparation and the soldiers’ diets. Cannon shot, grenades and numerous gun parts reflect the armament of Boscawen. In all, the collection is a unique record of the lives of the men who served aboard the ship at the close of the French and Indian War in the Champlain Valley.
Adam I. Kane, A. Peter Barranco, Joanne M. DellaSalla, Sarah E. Lyman and Christopher R. Sabick, Lake Champlain Underwater Cultural Resources Survey, Volume VIII: 2003 Results and Volume IX: 2004 Results. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, 2007.
Arthur B. Cohn, “The Fort Ticonderoga King’s Shipyard Excavation: 1984 Field-Season Report,” Bulletin of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum, Vol. XIV (6) (1985), 337.