The location of a camp in Pennsylvania that housed British soldiers during the American Revolutionary War has been identified following many decades of searching.
Camp Security, in the city of York in the south of the state, was already thought to have been on land acquired a decade ago by the local government, but it was not until late October last year that a team of archaeologists uncovered remnants of the stockade – the camp’s exterior security fence.
The camp housed hundreds of English, Scottish, and Canadian privates and non-commissioned officers during the Revolutionary War of 1775-1783. Many of them were combatants in some of the conflict’s most significant battles, including Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781.
The latter was the last major land battle of the war, and saw the surrender of British forces to the American Continental Army following a month-long siege. The British subsequently began peace negotiations.
Hundreds of women and children were also housed at the camp, which was closed in 1783, in the same year that the Treaty of Paris – recognising the independence of the United States – was ratified by the British government.
Fieldwork at the site, including at the nearby lower-security Camp Indulgence, has been taking place for decades. But its exact location was unknown until recently, when rounds of metal-detection, survey collections, and trench excavations narrowed it down.
According to lead archaeologist John Crawmer, it was the discovery of a pattern of holes and a stockade trench that matches stockades at other 18th-century military sites that confirmed the find.
This spring, Crawmer and his team are hoping to determine the full size of the stockade and perform a focused search for artefacts within and around it.
‘As we do that,’ Crawmer explained, ‘we’re going to start finding those 18th-century artefacts, the trash pits.’
‘We’ll be able to start answering questions about where people were sleeping, where they were living, where they were throwing things away, where the privies are,’ he added.
A contemporary account of camp life by a British surgeon’s mate reported that there was a ‘camp fever’ that may have killed some of the prisoners. However, no human remains have been found at the site.
‘This has been a long project, and to see it finally come to fruition, or at least know you’re not nuts, that’s wonderful,’ said Carol Tanzola, president of Friends of Camp Security, which organised fundraising for the project.