In a ceremony held Oct. 3 at Hanscom Air Force Base, Col. Lester A. Weilacher, 66th Air Base Group commander, handed over several Revolutionary War artifacts to Nancy Nelson, superintendent of Minute Man National Historical Park.
The artifacts, including several musket balls, a shoe buckle and knife, were uncovered during three extensive archeological digs that started in the 1990s and wrapped up in the mid-2000s.
“The Air Force has a cultural resource program that can evaluate historical significance,” said Don Morris, civil engineering installation asset manager. “Because of Hanscom’s proximity to Revolutionary War battles, we invited the group to come out and survey the area.”
The base is located near the site of a significant battle called Parker’s Revenge. The “second battle of Lexington” took place the day the Revolution started on April 19, 1775, around 1:30 p.m. as the British were returning to Boston along the Battle Road. Capt. John Parker led the Lexington militia to the western town line, seeking revenge for the casualties that morning on Lexington Green.
The archeologists used grids and magnetometers, plus dug some pits to uncover the historical objects.
“On the first hour of the first day of the dig, they uncovered a musket ball,” said Morris. “After that, the team thought this would be a rich field of artifacts. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, but they still found some items.”
The archeologists staged their equipment in the parking lot of the former Air Force Research Laboratory library and mostly searched south of that area. One day, one member decided to head west and almost immediately picked up something on the magnetometer.
“I went out to check on the crew before leaving one day,” said Morris. “One guy called me over to take a look at something he’d found. It was still in the dirt and just looked like a chunk of
rust. He wanted to leave it in the mud, so he marked it with two sticks and came back to check it out the next day. It turned out to be a knife from the battle.”
Once the crew felt the search was over, the items were sent to two different forensic labs to be X-rayed and cleaned. “The X-rays even revealed how the knife was made by a blacksmith,” Morris said.
Now, the objects will be loaned to the national park, located just on the other side of the base fence. “I’m honored to turn these objects over to the park so they can be enjoyed by everyone,” said Weilacher.
It is good timing for the park to receive these artifacts, as well. It is embarking on its own archeological investigation. Volunteers from the Lexington Minute Men recently cleared a piece of land to prepare it in hopes of recovering more items from the Parker’s Revenge battle.
In the meantime, the national park will store the items and prepare them for eventual exhibit and display. “We will take photos and also put them on the web for everyone to see,” said Terrie Wallace, park curator.
And that’s what the park mission is all about.
“At Minute Man National Historical Park over one million visitors come each year to explore the battlefields and learn about the opening day of the Revolution,” said Nelson. “These artifacts will help to make a tangible connection to the story of that crucial day.”