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City will extend digging at court site
Fredericksburg provides two more weeks for archaeological dig at Civil War site beside City Hall

Date published: 10/7/2012

BY CLINT SCHEMMER

Fredericksburg officials have granted more time for archaeologists to investigate the city's new courthouse site after they found Civil War-era artifacts there.

The archaeologists' sampling of the property had been scheduled to wrap up Monday or thereabouts, but city staff decided late Friday to allow two more weeks so they can better investigate an antebellum building's cellar.

In one small part of that brick-and-sandstone foundation, Cultural Resources Inc. found indications that the cellar was occupied by Union soldiers.

The discovery, coming two months before the Battle of Fredericksburg's sesquicentennial, has drawn interest locally and farther afield.

The two-week extension will allow CRI's team to fully excavate the cellar of the building, which didn't appear on 19th-century tax maps and apparently was unknown to researchers. The courthouse site occupies the corner of Princess Anne and Charlotte streets.

City Manager Beverly R. Cameron disclosed the contract extension Saturday afternoon in response to a reporter's inquiry.

CRI, based in Glen Allen, had proposed sampling half the material in the cellar or completely excavating the 18- by 35-foot basement.

The city chose to proceed with the second option, Cameron said in an email Saturday.

"A full recovery option would provide the City the opportunity to interpret the cellar deposit at its fullest extent, leaving no room for speculation or risk for unrecovered material," CRI president Ellen M. Brady wrote in its proposal, released by Cameron.

The additional effort will cost about $18,910, with most of the team's time devoted to removing brick rubble from the cellar. It is supposed to be done by Oct. 19.

The building's upper walls collapsed, trapping Civil War-era artifacts beneath fallen brick and a charcoal layer.

A 5- by 5-foot excavation revealed that "the deposit is almost entirely related to the Civil War period occupation of the building," Brady wrote Friday to the city. "It appears likely that the building was destroyed during the 1862 period or shortly thereafter."

The CRI team has recovered more than 70 Minie balls, soldiers' belt buckles, sawn and cut bones from livestock (presumably eaten by the troops), and other wartime-era artifacts related to the mystery building.

Was the building damaged during the December 1862 battle, which involved urban-combat street fighting and the bombardment of the town?


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