Skip to comments.Skeletons found at Army Ranger site
Posted on 06/08/2006 10:46:48 AM PDT by Pharmboy
FORT EDWARD, N.Y. - A husband and wife team of amateur archaeologists have unearthed human skeletons, believed to be about 250 years old, at a burial site here on the Hudson River island that's considered the birthplace of today's U.S. Army Rangers.
AP - Mon Jun 5, 1:18 PM ET JoAnne Fuller unearths a skeleton on Rogers Island at Fort
Edward, N.Y., Thursday, June 1, 2006 . The Fullers, a husband and wife team of
amateur archaeologists, have unearthed human skeletons on the Hudson River island
that's considered the birthplace of today's U.S. Army Rangers. (AP Photo/ Jim McKnight)
Richard and JoAnne Fuller said it's very likely the remains found on private property date back to the French and Indian War, when Rogers' Rangers earned a place in American military lore while operating out of Fort Edward. The couple said the skeletons appear to be buried in an unmarked cemetery that doesn't appear on any colonial or contemporary maps. No other cemeteries are known to have existed on the island over the past 200 years.
"Everyone knows there's something on Rogers Island. Nobody knew where the cemetery was," said Richard Fuller as he showed a reporter the gravesites last week.
He said buttons found among the bones could give clues to whether the remains are those of some of the 15,000 soldiers and civilians who lived here in the late 1750s, when Fort Edward was the largest British military outpost in North America. It was also the base of operations for the guerrilla fighters known as Rogers' Rangers.
"Are they red coats? Are they Rangers? Are they colonial militia? Are they Native Americans enlisted in the service of the king? Were they blacks? Were they camp followers?" Richard Fuller said.
The Fullers said the discovery may have solved a mystery that has perplexed professional and amateur archaeologists for decades. Many have tried to locate the final resting place of the hundreds of soldiers knoSwn to have been buried here during the French and Indian War. Some died of battle wounds, but most are believe to have succumbed to illness or diseases such as small pox.
However, there are concerns that the Fullers' activities could jeopardize what one archaeologist called "quite a significant discovery."
"You don't just rush out there and start digging because you think it's interesting," said David Starbuck, who spent more than a decade conducting extensive excavations on Rogers Island and at nearby sites but didn't uncover any cemeteries. "It's important to proceed very cautiously."
While he and his wife aren't professional archaeologists, Richard Fuller said they're "well-versed in archaeology techniques" from their previous work with an Albany-area archaeological firm. The Fullers and some friends are painstakingly excavating the graves, removing dirt layer by layer using garden hoes, paint brushes and dental tools.
There are no plans to give professional archaeologists access to the site, although Richard Fuller said he has talked with an anthropologist about having the skeletons analyzed and studied.
Their work at the site is being questioned by some local officials who have been at odds with the couple over development plans for the island.
"It's certainly a major concern," said Town of Fort Edward Supervisor Merrilyn Pulver, adding that "all digging should cease immediately."
Most of Rogers Island, named for French and Indian War hero Maj. Robert Rogers, is private land owned by Frank Nastasi, a retired Long Island construction executive. He owns 33 acres on the 42-acre island, including the site where the skeletons were found. Nastasi is a fellow French and Indian War buff and Rogers' Rangers aficionado, said Richard Fuller, who works for Nastasi as caretaker of the Rogers Island property.
Nastasi has abandoned plans to build a marina and hotel on the island and is instead considering building a park dedicated to Rogers and the Rangers, or selling the site to New York state, which is eyeing the parcel as a possible park.
It was on the island, in 1757, where Rogers wrote his "Rules of Ranging," a manual on guerrilla warfare that became a blueprint for modern Army Ranger fighting tactics. His original 28 rules have been boiled down over the years into the 19 "Standing Orders" taught to today's Army commandos.
Fuller said he discovered the first skeleton late last fall while looking for other artifacts, and reported the find to local police. Village Police Chief Walter Sandford said the county coroner's office determined the remains were of a historical nature and not from a recent crime.
The burial site was protected by several feet of dirt dredged from the river 90 years ago and deposited on the island. Nastasi had the dirt removed several years ago, Richard Fuller said.
In one of the uncovered graves, a full skeleton lay on its back, its hands folded on its pelvis. The skull, which contained a full set of teeth, was caved in on the left side. Other partial skeletons were lined up in 18-inch-deep plots nearby, with another set off a few feet away. Blue tarps covered the graves to protect the remains from the elements.
JoAnne Fuller has given the remains names such as Caleb and Sammy, taken from the actual colonial militia rosters the Fullers have among the extensive French and Indian War collection that fills their nearby home.
"You always read about the heroes," said JoAnne Fuller, 54, a former tourism director for Washington County. "You never read about the regular soldiers."
I have had a personal experience with this - an 11-15KY old stone tool - not flint - along with several others - including a flint/chert mine - that I refuse to give them the location of.
What is it about RIP that some people don't understand? This is a good reason for being cremated. I wouldn't want someone digging me up in a couple hundred years. Go dig up dinosaurs or trilobites if you want to dig up the dead.
Actually, he tried to sell his services to the Americans, but they didn't trust him because he had been loyal to the King during the French and Indian War. The English would not trust him because he had served with, commanded and advocated for, the American Colonists during the French and Idian War. In the end, he was caught between two worlds.
Back to this article. It is my hope that the State of New York or some philanthropist will buy the island and surrounding land and rebuild the actual fort as a historical re-construction at the "Great Carrying Place."
For a second there, I thought they had found Jimmy Hoffa.
Death by snu-snu?
Kudos to owner Nastasi for abandoning development plans and considering a park instead. While there might be some professional jealousy in Starbuck's comments, he does have a point. Congrats to the Fullers for finding the cemetery; now leave it the hell alone. Use ground-penetrating radar to determine its extent and perhaps one or two sanctioned exhumations (with reburial in exactly the same place) to confirm its date, but let our dead rest in peace. I might have relatives buried there!
When he dies, he starts voting Democratic.
original Abu Graib found? Secret CIA Jail?
The best book on the history of this period is Alan Ekert's "Wilderness Empire." He gives some great details on Roger's Rangers and on this very area in question.
Eckert is probably the most readable real historian I've ever run across.
Incidentally, his history on the frontier with Simon Kenton in a starring role should be of interest to anyone named "Kenton." It is another absolutely gripping history. "The Frontiersman."
I find that hard to believe. After all, George Washington was "loyal to the King" during the French and Indian War as well and was still allowed to serve later for the Revolution. There was something else going on.
Agreed, I dont have a major problem with them excavating the site so long as they dont remove or disturb any remains. When finished they should appropriately mark the graves.
What's with all the pics of Ann Coulter on this thread?
You're most welcome. Nice topic.
"I have had a personal experience with this - an 11-15KY old stone tool - not flint - along with several others - including a flint/chert mine - that I refuse to give them the location of."
Yep, you are a criminal if you find anything, but they can rape any burial site they find then build a road over it leaving behind the less interesting items. And if you are walking along that new road and find anything they left behind, don't pick it up! You will get a free trip to jail for destroying historical information. Georgia Laws, you got to love'em.
Yes, I've read the book. I'm also a living history reenactor, and every September I go take part in the Simon Kenton Fronier Festival in Maysville, Kentucky. I've been fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of a number of both Simon Kenton's and Simon Girty's present-day descendants.
Here's a link to a review I wrote about it back in 1997, along with some pics of me "time-tripping".