Featured Project





2017



Archaeological Excavations at
Fort Griswold in Groton, CT





In 2017, the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT-DEEP) approached Heritage Consultants with a preservation partnering arrangement to complete archaeological and historical investigations related to upgrades to Fort Griswold, a Revolutionary War era fortification in Groton, Connecticut. Over the last few decades, the southwest bastion of the fort had been experiencing soil loss and erosion due to park patrons climbing on the rampart to view the Thames River area below. In response to this ongoing problem, the CT-DEEP and the Friends of Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park proposed the construction of an observation deck within the southwest bastion of Fort Griswold. Understanding the potential impacts to archaeological deposits in that area and working in concert with CT-DEEP and the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office, Heritage Consultants completed a program of archaeological excavations in the proposed observation deck area, which was completed at no charge to CT-DEEP.


As is commonly known, Fort Griswold was the site of the Battle of Groton Heights and the ensuing massacre of Revolutionary soldiers by the British army during the Revolutionary War in 1781. The fort has since become a symbol of American resilience, as memorialized by the 127 ft-tall obelisk completed in 1830 as a memorial to the massacre victims. Fort Griswold continued to be an active military installment until 1902, when the United States Congress transferred the property to the State of Connecticut to be use as a public park.


The project excavations consisted of the placement of a series of 50 x 50 cm (19.7 x 19.7 in) shovel test pits at each of the 23 proposed piers that would support the observation deck. Excavation of the shovel test pits resulted in the recovery of 710 artifacts. The recovered cultural material included personal items, domestic items, and an artifact related to firearms used at Fort Griswold. The personal items included a brass button and a clay marble, while the domestic items included a wide variety of ceramic sherds dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as glass from bottles and drinking glasses. The firearm related item consisted of a gunflint that was made from flint transported to America by the French, possibly as a supply item or as ship's ballast material.


The excavations also revealed a fairly large feature in the southern half of the bastion. This feature contained large amounts of broken bricks and mortar. The exact origin of the feature is unknown, but it is possible that it is the remnants of a historic period repair to the fort's powder magazine, which is located immediately to the east of the southwest bastion of Fort Griswold.


In addition, the soil layering (i.e., stratigraphy) in the project area demonstrated that the bastion has undergone several repair and maintenance events since its construction in 1775. Fill layers were noted during the excavation and they were typically localized in various parts of the southwest bastion and they contained materials from different time periods.


Heritage Consultants was honored to have participated in the improvement project and we are grateful to have worked with members of the CT-DEEP who oversaw the project, as well as members of the Friends of Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park, some of whom provided important historical data from which to interpret the archaeological results.