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Dig uncovers key War of 1812 evidence

Researchers further cement location of Pike’s Cantonment

Dr. Timothy Abel speaks to a large crowd at Clinton Community College about his dig that appears to have uncovered Pike’s Cantonment.

Dr. Timothy Abel speaks to a large crowd at Clinton Community College about his dig that appears to have uncovered Pike’s Cantonment. Photo by Stephen Bartlett.

PLATTSBURGH — Doubt hung thick in the air when nails, glass, clay pipes and brick were the only evidence to turn to.

But then a bayonet scabbard was found, followed by ammunition and military jacket buttons, offering strong evidence that Pike’s Cantonment had been found.

And what appear to be military structures at the site of last summer’s archaeological dig further confirm the location of the military encampment.

“We are sitting on the nation’s War of 1812 treasure trove,” said Plattsburgh City Clerk Keith Herkalo.

Zebulon Montgomery Pike, Jr., as a United States Army Captain in 1806-07, led the Pike expedition to explore and document the southern portion of the Louisiana Purchase and to find the headwaters of the Red River. During that time he recorded the discovery of what was later called Pikes Peak, in Colorado.

Pike would eventually achieve the rank of brigadier general in the Army.

He served during the War of 1812 and was killed during the Battle of York.

Pike’s Cantonment was the location of a military encampment during the War of 1812, at which forces under his commend stayed. Nearly 2,000 American soldiers encamped for the winter of 1812-13, moving out of the area well before the Battle of Plattsburgh on Sept. 11, 1814. Still, the cantonment was instrumental that day, utilized by British troops as a spot to cross the Saranac River as they attempted to circle American soldiers defending Plattsburgh.

That battle played an important part in America’s victory in the War of 1812.

Yet Pike’s Cantonment has remained a mystery, the location of the site debated for decades.

Herkalo explained that there were 10 theories, 6 possible locations and no collective agreement nor documentation.

“How can it be in six places at once?”

He began an exhaustive search of every available document he could locate in Clinton County and the state.

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