Skip to comments.Button is clue to sunken ship's history
Posted on 07/24/2012 6:03:20 PM PDT by Pharmboy
A ships bell from a wreck found off St. Augustine has yielded another clue to the possible identify of the ship that may date from the American Revolution.
The clue: a button found in the concretion still attached to the bronze bell that was discovered in 2010 by archaeologists with the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program.
Its in rough shape, Sam Turner, director of archaeology at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, said of the button.
Even so, the top part of a crown can be seen on the button and similar crowns are found on Royal Provincial buttons plus the initials RP. Those were on the uniforms of men in the Loyalist regiments, the colonists who remained loyal to the Crown during the American Revolution.
When our button is cleaned you hope to find RP or part of one (of the letters), Turner said.
That would be a big step forward in identifying the wreck discovered a few miles off the St. Augustine Inlet in the summer of 2009.
One of the hypotheses archaeologists have been working under is that the ship could be part of a fleet carrying Loyalists to St. Augustine after the fall of Charleston to the Americans. Over a two-day period 16 ships were reported wrecked off the sandbar in December of 1782.
Lots of lives and property were lost, Turner said.
Its estimated about one-third of South Carolinas population remained loyal to the British Crown. St. Augustine was under British rule from 1763 to 1784 and served as the capital of East Florida. It became a refuge for Loyalists.
This colonial uniform button opens doors to possible units that could have occupied Storm Wreck, Turner said. Storm Wreck is the working name given the shipwreck found in the summer of 2009.
Turner also has hopes for a musket, known as a Brown Bess, recovered at the site recently.
The muskets often have stamps and marks of regiments. The button and musket could pinpoint a regiment.
Last June two cannons were raised from the wreck. One was a carronade, invented during the Revolution by a firm in Scotland. Dating to around 1780, its the second oldest example known to exist. The oldest is circa 1778 and is in the Tower of London.
The fascinating thing is this vessel could have been carrying regimental or Loyalist militia men.
If we could identify the Loyalist unit then we can paint a larger historical picture, Turner said.
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