Charleston Museum

riley_visit_last_day.jpgWednesday was an overcast, chilly day at South Adger’s Wharf, and in the late afternoon we all said a bittersweet goodbye to the redan wall that we’ve come to know so well over the past two weeks. Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. paid another visit to the site today and expressed to Katherine Saunders his great satisfaction with our discoveries and the enthusiastic public attention the dig has garnered. Beyond this executive visit, most of the day was spent wrapping up loose ends—measuring, surveying, sketching, and photographing. Nevertheless, we still managed to make a few very exciting discoveries.

redan_transition_1.jpgredan_transition_2.jpgredan_transition_3.jpg Several of us took turns shoveling out the slurry of mud in front of the redan’s northeastern face. Despite working right at the water table, we were determined to get a better view of the point where the outer face of the wall makes a transition from five feet wide with a sloped face to three and a half feet wide with no slope. After a couple of hours, we had removed enough of the ballast stones and brick rubble to reveal the outline of the transition, which you can clearly see in the photos here. Although the grey brick drain slices right through the middle of our exposed redan wall, you can see that the five-foot wide wall makes a ninety degree turn, then goes west for 1.5 feet, then makes another ninety degree turn towards the northwest. The lowest courses of this brick transition are still present, but unfortunately the upper courses have been demolished. Although it’s not visible here, the wall continues downward, with an outward slope, for several more feet below the water line in these photos. We weren’t able to get all the way to the foundation, but we have enough data to create some good three-dimensional images in the future.

redan_fragment_removal.jpgThanks to the well-skilled backhoe crew from Charleston Water System, several large fragments of the redan’s uppermost or parapet walls were pulled out of the dirt for safekeeping. These fragments, which were knocked into the mud during the redan’s demolition ca. 1785, can be useful teaching tools in the future, and they will certainly help us to create a visual reconstruction of Charleston colonial fortifications. The Charleston Museum will receive one or two large pieces for potential display, and one will be at the Historic Charleston Foundation.

Until today, two of the large fragments of the redan wall were lodged in the earth just in front of the redan’s northern flank, blocking our view of that five-feet-wide sloping face. Once they were removed, however, we finally had a chance to trowel away the dirt from the exposed brick face. mortise_in_redan.jpgWithin a few minutes, we discovered another small square cavity in the outer face, almost identical to the two cavities found earlier in the northwestern-most part of the exposed redan. Doug Scott, a master mason visiting the site, said he’s encountered these sorts of cavities in other colonial-era buildings in Charleston. He confirmed what we’ve suspected all along–that these cavities are mortises for wooden scaffolding used by bricklayers during the construction of the redan’s upper walls. After their completion, the wooden timbers inserted into the cavities would have been sawed off flush with the surface of the wall. Suspecting, then, that we might find another square cavity at the extreme southern edge of the exposed redan, we dug for a few minutes and found a fourth cavity in the wall’s outer face. The exposed portion of the redan is so small in that corner, however, that I couldn’t get a good photograph. poplin_total_station.jpgMeasuring along the exposed outer face of the redan, these square mortises are almost exactly six feet apart and roughly on the same horizontal level. The crew from Brockington and Associates recorded this and other data for their “total station” digital mapping of the site, which will help us create three-dimensional representations of all of these features in the future.

refilling_trenches_1.jpg As the winter sun sank in the sky, the call came to cease work and evacuate the trenches. The shovels and other equipment were gathered up and the crew stood back to take one last admiring look at the results of our two-week dig. refilling_trenches_2.jpgMoments later, the backhoe lurched into action and began pushing recently-removed soil back into the trenches. In what seemed like an instant (but really more like a bone-chilling couple of hours), the western end of South Adger’s Wharf began to resemble the street on which we first gathered on January 3d. The old redan is now out of sight, but for those of us who had the opportunity to witness its brief appearance, it will never be out of mind.

It was picture day at South Adger’s Wharf today. That is, the archaeologists did their best trowel and brush work this morning to make the exposed brickwork look as neat as possible for their “official” photographic record. This careful, detail-oriented work took most of the day, and despite deep shadows created by the low winter sun, they got some good images. My photos here aren’t the greatest, but I spent most of the day swinging a shovel and trying to stay out of their way!

redan_face_looking_southeast.jpg This is my favorite shot—a view of the outer face of the north flank of the brick redan, looking southeast. In the foreground you see the exposed brickwork (facing the Cooper River) with a small square cavity, the purpose of which is yet unknown. In the mid-ground you see the mid-nineteenth-century arched brick drain running east-west through the remnants of the redan. redan_vs_drain.jpg Also in the mid-ground, and continuing into the background, you see the face of the redan make a curving transition to a wider and sloping dimension just before the drain, a profile that is more clearly seen on the far side of the drain. The intersection of the 300-year-old redan and the 150-year-old drain is complicated, but here’s another photo of the cleaned-up intersection of those two features, looking in the opposite or northwest direction, that may help clarify their juncture.

second_cavity.jpgagha_and_2d_cavity.jpgWhile troweling a newly-exposed part of the outer face of the redan, at the northernmost edge of Trench 3, Ron Anthony discovered another small, shallow, square cavity in the face of the wall. This one closely resembles the cavity described a few days ago (and pictured above), but is almost exactly six feet on center to the northwest of the first cavity. I reported the other day that the first cavity appears to have been chiseled out of the brick, but the base of this second cavity appears to have been purposely left open when the bricks were laid. Like the first cavity, the northern or right face of the second is angled so as to make the void wider in the back than the front. You’ll notice in these pictures that the bricks above the once-square cavity have been cut out, leaving a cone-shaped void. This work was probably done ca. 1786, when the Lower Market, a shed structure with wooden piers, was extended over the remnants of the old redan.

jackson_and_zierden.jpg Damon Jackson of Brockington and Associates continued the careful excavation of Unit 4, at the easternmost end of Trench 2. Damon was also on site most of yesterday, too, when he did most of the “total station” mapping for the entire dig site. This careful surveying of the site and its historical features will later be compiled into a comprehensive map of the site that will be invaluable once the redan is covered over.

scott_masonry_expert.jpgDoug Scott, a masonry expert from the American College of the Building Arts, visited the site today and offered some very interesting insight into the redan brickwork. He noticed that there is sand impregnated deep into the mortar of the lowest exposed courses of brickwork on the back (land side) of the redan, suggesting that this area was being backfilled almost immediately after the bricks were laid some three hundred years ago. We’re definitely going to be picking Doug’s brain further about this historical brickwork!

embrasure_fragment.jpg Last but not least, here’s a photo of a brick fragment of the redan wall that I dug out of the backhoe fill today. I noticed that it appears to have two finished faces, forming about a 100-degree angle, as you can see in the photo at left. I suspect that this is part of one of the embrasures from the redan—that is, one of the openings in the redan wall through which the cannon protruded. In this photo, the outer face of the brick is face down in the wheelbarrow, and the inside of the embrasure is at the far left. Imagine that a cannon might have once pointed from the top left of this picture towards the bottom left.

This fragment of the redan (a remnant of the 1785 demolition) is headed to the Charleston Museum, where it will hopefully be on display one day.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the last full day of work on this dig. Stay tuned for more details!

Thanks in large part to Robert Behre’s article in today’s issue of the Charleston Post and Courier, we saw a large number of visitors at the South Adger’s Wharf dig on Monday. As I write this posting, nearly 900 people have looked at this blog today. I speak for the entire Walled City Task Force when I say “thank you” to everyone who has expressed their enthusiasm and support for this project. Now, there are several developments to tell you about today:

falls_new_unit.jpg First, Martha Zierden initiated a new controlled unit near the southeast corner of the dig site (actually an eastward extension of Trench 2), which Brian Falls of Brockington and Associates continued to work for the rest of the afternoon. The primary purpose of this unit, which is far removed from the redan brickwork, is to establish as complete a record of the soil strata as possible in order to help date the features elsewhere in the site.

row_of_pilings.jpgSecond, Jimmy Lefebre continued to trowel the controlled unit in Trench 1 in which Blair Stec uncovered a row of wooden pilings last Friday. As seen in the photo here, they’ve carefully uncovered a row—perhaps a double row—of pilings in situ, which runs in a line parallel to the face of the redan. We know from the colonial legislative journals that the redan (and the entire length of the brick curtain line along East Bay Street) was protected from the surf and storms by a double row of piles. We don’t know, however, if the piles were supposed to be right next to the wall or placed at a distance. From these newly-uncovered artifacts, we’re inclined to believe that the row of piles might have been as much as sixteen feet away from the wall. The moat that existed on the outside of the redan between 1745 and 1764, therefore, may have been on the outside of this row of pilings.

redan_north_face.jpgThird, we’re working hard to carefully remove the earth around the base of the exposed brick redan wall. zierden_anthony_agha.jpgAndrew Agha continues to trowel through the soil behind the wall (on the street side), and is on the verge of a very old and exciting layer. Meanwhile, we started clearing more soil away from the front or river side of the redan. In the process of doing that, Ron Anthony noticed that the deep soil layer contains a rich amount of pottery sherds, so that area will be more carefully mapped and the soil screened by volunteers. These areas around the footing of the exposed redan will undoubtedly receive the bulk of our attention for the remainder of the dig.

volunteer_screeners.jpgFinally, a large number of volunteers screened artifacts today, and they continue to find scores of pottery sherds and butchered bone fragments. zierden_with_artifacts.jpgSo many artifacts have been found, in fact, that Martha Zierden had to purchase additional storage containers to transport the bagged materials back to the Charleston Museum! Way to go, folks—now we just need funds for Martha and her staff to perform the necessary lab work to identify and curate the artifacts.

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