Binghamton University awarded grant for battlefield preservation project

2014-07-23

BINGHAMTON, NY – While not as famous or as grand in scale as the Battles of Saratoga or Yorktown, the Battles of Newtown and Chemung played a pivotal role in the Revolutionary War. With the help of a new grant, a team of archaeologists at Binghamton University hopes to ensure these historic battlefields are properly preserved.

The Binghamton University Public Archaeology Facility (PAF) has been awarded a $28,000, two-year grant by the American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) for the Newtown and Chemung Battlefields Preservation Planning Project. Starting this fall, PAF will discuss with stakeholders the history and cultural landscape of the Newtown and Chemung Battlefields, the goal of which is to reach a consensus on how best to preserve the battlefield landscape. The product of the grant will be a strategic preservation plan.            

PAF will conduct civic engagement meetings to identify stakeholders, develop consensus on a historical narrative, and address questions and concerns of community members about potential preservation options, including land acquisitions or easements. The team will meet with Iroquois Nation representatives, as well as landowners and local residents, in order to produce a plan that satisfies all interested parties.

"We realize that history and preservation is from the local up, that we can’t come from outside and tell them how to preserve," said Michael Jacobson, project director and battlefield research coordinator for PAF. "So we want to work with the local residents to discuss what preservation method works best for their needs."

The Revolutionary War Battles of Newtown and Chemung were the main military engagements of the Continental Army's 1779 Sullivan-Clinton campaign against British-allied Iroquois. The Continental Army defeated the Loyalist Rangers, and allied Iroquois and Delaware warriors, in this campaign. This defeat helped to quell Iroquois raids on American settlements for a period, allowing the Continental Army to refocus their attention on other fronts in the war.

This isn’t PAF’s first encounter with the Newtown and Chemung battlefields. The group received a $37,357 grant in 2009 from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program to conduct historical research on the Chemung battlefield and to do some initial mapping. In 2012, the program awarded PAF a further $56,194 to perform an archaeological field survey. After conducting their research, PAF realized that the battlefields were still under threat from development and other issues. Working with local residents, the team applied for the ABPP grant to figure out ways to preserve them.

"In that area there’s a lot of gravel mining," said Jacobson. "They’re doing the upgrade of NY-17 to I-86... There’s an attempt to increase the size of the Chemung County Landfill, which is right in-between the Newtown and Chemung Battlefields. Local residents, some of them, are trying to protect the battlefield or as much of the battlefield landscape as possible."

Preservation of the Newtown and Chemung Battlefields is important because these battles show a unique aspect of the Revolutionary War — that much of it was fought by locals and that many of these locals were torn over which side to support.

"A lot of the war was fought through local groups," said Jacobson. "It just shows how the Revolutionary War was also kind of like a civil war. Within the Iroquois Confederacy, they were fighting amongst themselves over which side they chose. You had families deciding whether to stay with the British Crown or to join for American independence. I think these smaller battles reflect the tension of that war."

The American Battlefield Protection Program funds projects conducted by federal, state, local and tribal governments; nonprofit organizations; and educational institutions. The ABPP’s mission is to safeguard and preserve significant American battlefield lands for present and future generations as symbols of individual sacrifice and national heritage. Since 1990, the ABPP and its partners have helped to protect and enhance more than 100 battlefields by co-sponsoring 475 projects in 42 states and territories.

PAF was organized in 1972 to provide cultural resource management services to clients throughout the Northeastern United States, but with a focus on New York State and Pennsylvania. For more information, e-mail Michael Jacobson at mjacobso@binghamton.edu or call 607-777-4786.

Last Updated: 9/17/13