Casemates and Cannonballs
Archeological Investigations at Fort Stanwix National Monument
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It is known that a large number of troops died in 1758 during the construction of Fort Stanwix and that there were other deaths after that time. While some bodies may have been shipped home it is certain that some were buried in the vicinity of the fort (Dorr, 1970).

In reference to some buildings erected ca. 1844 on the northeast corner of James and Dominick Streets, it has been noted that: "In excavating for the foundation of the Merrill Block, or while digging near there, the skeletons of three or four Indians were found." (Wager, 1896, p. 54). The Rome Daily Sentinel (Anon. 1872) reported a number of human skulls and bones dug up in front of its office on North James Street, about 200 feet north of the Merrill Block. In 1972, backhoe excavations for sewer and telephone lines in James Street uncovered eight more skeletons (fig. 79). We were able to determine burial position and salvage a few bones from each. In all cases they were adult males laid in an extended position. One was definitely Caucasian and the others probably were since one was buried in a coffin, two had brass sleeve links associated and one had a garment with at least nine plain pewter buttons. We suspect that the "Indians" dug up in 1844 also were Caucasian.

Figure 79. Location of a fort cemetery.

The burials did not appear to be oriented in any particular direction, although the heads were generally north-northeast to northwest. They were not placed in neat rows but it should be noted that the amount of disturbance in the area probably removed or dislocated a number of burials. Some of the burials we recovered had been cut through by utility lines prior to 1972.

Stature estimates could be obtained from only three of the interments. These were approximately 5' 8", 5' 10-1/2" and 5'11", estimated from the long bones and using the Trotter and Gleser tables (Bass, 1971, p. 24).

Reportedly, other human bones were dug up north of the site at the rectory of a large church but these accounts could not be verified.*

*During fort construction the presence of this second cemetery was confirmed by the recovery of two more skeletons.

In 1758, an Oneida Indian was buried in the southeast bastion of the fort (Dorr, 1970), but his remains were not uncovered. If he was in the center of the bastion his remains were probably destroyed with the building of the bakehouse, and if he was anywhere else in the bastion his remains were probably destroyed through erosion or landscaping in the early 19th century.

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Last Updated: 02-Dec-2008