Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Civil War Archaeological Dig Open to the Public - Will You Take This Historic Missouri Fight For Freedom Into Your Own Hands?

Public invited to archaeological dig
at Civil War site June 18

            JEFFERSON CITY, MO., JUNE 10, 2011 – Have you ever wanted to witness important Missouri history being uncovered at an archaeological excavation? This rare opportunity will be possible June 18 at a Civil War site near Butler in Bates County.
            The site, owned by Missouri State Parks, is associated with the Battle of Island Mound where black soldiers fought for freedom for the first time in the Civil War. An archaeological excavation is being conducted at the site to answer important research questions about the events that took place at this historic location in 1862.
            On June 18, the public is invited to visit the site during a public archaeology day from 10 a.m. to noon. The day will include a visit to an archaeological lab followed by a tour of the actual excavation site. Visitors are asked to meet at 10 a.m. at the Bates County Museum, located at 802 Elks Drive in Butler. At the museum, they will tour the archaeological lab where objects found at the site are washed, weighed and measured. After touring the lab, visitors will car pool to the actual excavation site. Archaeologists and staff from Missouri State Parks will give a brief history of the Battle of Island Mound and provide a tour of the site, explaining what they have found during the excavation.  
            In 1862, the site was the setting of the Toothman Farm, which members of the First Kansas Colored Infantry used as their camp that they called Fort Africa. On Oct. 29, 1862, 30 black soldiers from Fort Africa were ambushed by some 130 rebel horsemen near a low hill known as Island Mound close to the Marais-des-Cygnes River. The excavation at the site will help archaeologists answer research questions related to the location of Fort Africa as well as the individuals, events and conditions associated with the conflict.
            “This is an important site in the history of our state and our nation. We are fortunate to be able to offer the public an opportunity to be part of this event,” said Bill Bryan, Missouri State Parks director. Bryan added he hopes the event will also promote awareness and appreciation for archaeology and archaeological sites and the stories they can reveal.
            The area is currently under development and is normally closed to the public except for the public day on June 18. The site, which will be part of the Missouri state park system, is anticipated to open in the fall of 2012 during the commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
            The excavation site is in an open field with no amenities so the public is asked to come prepared for weather and other conditions. Although the terrain is mainly flat, accessibility may be a challenge.
            Reservations for the event are requested. For more information or to make a reservation, call the Bates County Museum at 660-679-0134.

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