WCSU students literally dig up history dating back to the Revolutionary War in Dr. Laurie Weinstein’s archaeology course
Students piece together the winter of 1778-79 with musket balls and buckles

At Western Connecticut State University, learning doesn’t always come from a textbook — a point that Dr. Laurie Weinstein proved this summer.

Students in Weinstein’s archaeological field methods course got their hands dirty to find out more about Gen. Israel Putnam and his 3,000-man army, who camped in the Redding/Bethel area during the Revolutionary War.

This summer Weinstein’s students spent three weeks in the field surveying and excavating and then moving into the laboratory where they analyzed and interpreted their findings. Weinstein said the Revolutionary War site was set up during the harsh winter of 1778-79 into three encampments. The group looked for features, including the stone remains of a camp site, which indicated the presence of soldiers.

“We found besides the stone remains of the chimneys, the remains of food indicated by bones,” she said. “We found lead pieces that they used to make pencils and form musket balls. We also found musket balls, buckles from shoes and glass from rations of rum, and horse and oxen shoes. It’s not as much as you would think given how many men that were there.”

The group also found a lot of nails, which Weinstein surmises were used to build the huts using shingles and timbers. “We have to investigate the use of nails because we were told they didn’t use many nails. We have to figure that out by consulting with other archaeologists who worked at Valley Forge or Putnam Park.”

Weinstein, a social sciences professor, has been working on this ongoing project since 2007 with WCSU adjunct instructors Dr. Bethany Morrison and Dr. Cosimo Sgarlata.

Weinstein was also an integral part of obtaining designation this summer of the Redding park as a recognized “Archaeology Preserve Designation for the Middle Encampment.”

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