Saturday, April 6, 2013

Big Round Top & Devil's Den at Gettysburg - Site of ancient war between Indian tribes?

In the course of my diverse and far-reaching research about the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg, less so online but mostly in out-of-print library books, I have repeatedly come across mentions that Gettysburg was always a battleground as far back as prehistory, and the region has always been associated with supernatural activity, even in times that predated the unparalleled slaughter of the Civil War.

...Are they true, I wonder? is there any modern archaeological evidence to support this? Or could it be just an old wives' tale? I am not sure of the date of these ancient remains either.  One source said the Indian tribe war happened 200 years before the battle of Gettysburg, another says the site is even older and may predate the discovery of America by Columbus.

True or not, it's certainly a subject that warrants more intense research.  Here are some mentions of it online found through Google search:

"According to early accounts from the area, the tangled, outcropping of rocks was a Native American hunting ground for centuries and some say that a huge battle was once fought here, called the "Battle of the Crows" during which many perished. A Gettysburg writer named Emmanuel Bushman wrote in an 1880 article of the "many unnatural and supernatural sights and sounds" that were reported in the area of the Round Tops and what he called the Indian Fields. He wrote that the early settlers had told stories of ghosts that had been seen there and that Indian "war-whoops" could still be heard on certain nights. In addition, he reported that strange Indian ceremonies also took place here." --

"Throughout the early to mid 1800s, there have been reported stories from locals about hearing the sounds of Native American war cries coming from the Devil's Den.  Some claimed to have even seen the apparitions of warriors as if they were in the last death throes of battle." --

"As the Confederate line ends near the base of Big Round Top, Alabamians who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg entered a no-man’s land en route to their objective of Little Round Top. Excavation has shown, however, that the battle ground at Gettysburg, especially in this area at the base of the Round Tops, is not unique to the Civil War. Thousands of arrow heads have been found in this area, leading experts to believe that this place was once the ground for another, more ancient battle between warring Native Americans. Gettysburg is not the only battlefield to be reused – the Battle of Chickamauga in northern Georgia was so named because the creek flowing through the area was known to early tribes as The River of Death, where a battle was fought on that contested ground." --

The soil record shows that the whole geographical region was frequented by several distinct Native American tribes, including the Lenape (Delaware), the Shawnee and likely the Susquehannock, in the days before the settlers.  

The presence of "thousands" of arrowheads could indicate either a hunting ground, or the site of a battle.  There was little mention of human remains found, however.  When not embalmed, human bones can deteriorate or break down over many centuries. They are organic, unlike the arrowheads which are typically made of very hard volcanic rocks, like obsidian. 

I will update this post as soon as I have gathered more evidence.  Not to use a lame pun, but I really "dig" this kind of stuff.  I am fascinated by ancient things and the mysteries they intrinsically hold. 
I had an uncle who was a paleontologist and archaeologist once, who loved dinosaurs and ancient Indian stuff.  And a grandfather who was really into ancient Egypt.  Perhaps that's what gave me this predisposition toward very very old things.

I do remember as a kid my first visit to the Brandywine Battlefield near where I live.  It was while they were in the midst of an archaeological dig in which they had found relics from the Revolution.  We don't realize just how big the Battle of the Brandywine actually was, because most historians don't study it.  The Battlefield park we know today is just a very small portion of the land on which the battle took place. The actual battlefield covered many, many square miles, extending from the Delaware-Pennsylvania border up maybe as far as Newtown Square. There is no trace of it today, however.  It really makes one wonder how many modern shopping malls and restaurant parking lots may be the site of ancient battles, or what used to be there before our civilization.  Whenever I drive down the Concord Pike on Route 202 and pass through this area, I often wonder what the workers found when they were paving it.

Stephanie Ann of World Turn'd Upside Down fame has in her possession a rare published copy of the archaeological and historical findings related to the Battle of the Brandywine, a survey reviewed around the Bicentennial years.  Since she reenacts this battle every year at Brandywine Creek State Park, I thought it'd be an interesting gift.  Perhaps some of her future blog posts may be about it (wink wink)

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