Alamance Battleground Button

Another Artifact Anecdote, by John Mintz, Assistant State Archaeologist

All archaeological field investigations begin with a well developed research design.  The outline of the research design can range from simple to complex, informal to formal.  Archaeologists can and do develop the plan to address any number of specific research questions.  Often, once the actual field investigations begin additional research avenues become readily apparent.  This frequently is the result of unanticipated artifact recoveries. 

courtesy, Alan Westmoreland

Recently, archaeologists and historians investigated the archaeological evidence pertaining to the May 16, 1771, battle that took place between Royal Governor William Tryon and over 2000 local Regulators at what is now Alamance Battleground State Historic Site, when they discovered a unique and very interesting button.  At first glance, it appeared to be just an “ordinary” metal button with the letters USA visible on one side. However, upon closer examination, research historian Josh Howard of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History immediately recognized the button as a type worn by the Continental Army in the American Revolution.

 This is the type and style of button that was issued to the Maryland and Delaware Continental Regiments in the fall of 1780. The recovery and subsequent identification of this button was extremely important, as it provided, to date, the only known archaeological evidence to support a long-standing documentary claim that suggested a Revolutionary War skirmish took place at the site in 1781, between Capt. Robert Kirkwood’s Delaware Continental company and a detachment of General Cornwallis’s Army. Kirkwood wrote in his journal that he and his comrades “came up with the enemy at Allamance” on March 4, 1781 and marched to “the Regulation ground and attack’d the advanc’d picquet” on the following night.

 This much welcomed but unanticipated discovery has allowed the staff of Alamance Battleground State Historic Site to interpret an aspect of the site that previously had not been part of their mission statement and thus not interpreted, because no physical evidence of the skirmish had been discovered.  Further, because a systematic, research-driven methodological approach guided the field investigation, the button’s exact provenance is assured.  This type of information will assist other researchers in defining additional areas of the site that may have witnessed Revolutionary War era activities.


About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on October 25, 2011, in archaeology, collections access, guest bloggers, historic sites and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. The Old North State Detectorists have a new website at
    See many more photos of their work at Alamance Battleground at

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