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Revolutionary War artifacts are lake treasures

Last summer, over 100 Revolutionary War artifacts were recovered from the bottom of Valcour Bay in Lake Champlain. The project was conducted by nautical archaeologists from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in partnership with the Clinton County Historical Museum. The artifacts are the remains from one of the most important naval engagements of the American Revolution. In 1776, the British planned to invade the colonies via Lake Champlain. In an attempt to halt the invasion, an American fleet commanded by General Benedict Arnold engaged a superior British force on Oct. 11, 1776, near Valcour Island, N.Y. The two sides fought furiously, devastating the American fleet. After dark, the crippled American fleet escaped by passing along the western shore of the lake. In the morning the British pursued. Over the next two days nearly the entire American fleet was either captured by the British or burned by the Americans to prevent its capture. Tactically, the battle was a decisive British victory, but strategically the Americans prevailed, causing sufficient damage to the British force to affect a yearlong delay in their invasion plans. The British returned to Canada for the winter, and regrouped American forces thwarted Burgoynes Army at Saratoga the following year. The artifact recovery is part of the Valcour Bay Research Project (VBRP), a systematic archaeological examination of the artifact scatter left behind from the battle. The survey was conducted by volunteer divers with the assistance of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Since the start of the VBRP in 1999 approximately 227,500 square feet (equivalent to nearly eight football fields) of the battlefield have been examined. The project has been funded by a several organizations including the American Battlefield Protection Program, Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program, the Lake Champlain Basin Program, and the Freeman Foundation. In 2001, 30 artifacts were recovered from the site, including three fragments of a broken cannon that exploded aboard the American gunboat New York, killing Lt. Thomas Rogers of Westford, Mass. Three additional fragments of the same cannon are among the artifacts to be recovered on June 30. Other artifacts include a brass powder scoop, a sword fragment, a pair of spectacles, and numerous cannon balls. These items represent a tangible link to Lake Champlains crucial role in the American Revolution. The recovery was undertaken with a permit from the New York State Museum and with oversight from the Naval Historical Center.

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