Research Design

Prior to the start of survey, PAF researchers and team members developed a research design to guide testing, analysis, and interpretation. Besides the general question of the integrity of these defining features, there are other research questions posed that were related to archeological ground truthing and survey at these battlefield features. Overall, two basic questions formed the core of this research design: 1) What is the integrity of defining features? and 2) Was there a difference in the tactics used among the various troops and warriors; how did these tactics fit into the overall fighting tactics of the Revolutionary War? The rest of this section details these general research questions.

Troop Movements and Arms: Can the archeological record of the battle confirm the troop movements and types of arms described in the historical record?

There are detailed written descriptions on the general movements and positions of troops, brigades, and regiments. Material remains identified on the defining features may help to refine and add more detail to these histories. Artillery items, such as grape shot, spikes, canister, and exploding shells, may help to determine the position of artillery and tactics used in the firing of artillery. Musket and rifle balls and rifle slugs can help in determining the types of guns and rifles used by troops and their firing positions. Although the British infantry was using Brown Bess muskets, it is unclear what firearms the Haudenosaunee warriors were using. The British supplied Butler's Rangers and the allied nations, but due to raiding activities before the campaign, trade, and previous fighting in the French and Indian War and earlier Revolutionary War battles there may have been some mixture of arms for the Haudenosaunee warriors and other British allied warriors. It would also be interesting to determine if the Americans were using just French muskets or other muskets besides rifles. The identification of balls of differing calibers and the presence of rifle ammunition may help to confirm the types of arms used by both sides.

The question of arms is important in determining the tactics of the battle. Major John Butler planned to use the open area in front of the breastworks *** as an area to ambush the Continentals. However, Brigadier General Edward Hand's brigade of light infantry and rifle corps kept the center of the British line occupied for most of the battle, remaining just outside of a range of accurate fire for muskets [text deleted]. This allowed Hand's brigade to fire effectively on the British line with little threat. Was this a failure of Butler's reading of the landscape and the Continentals, or did he have some reliance on rifles not previously noted in historic records?

To address these questions, developed an approach to predictive modeling based on possible firing ranges on the battlefield (Public Archaeology Facility 2010). Using this model, the field survey will attempt to answer whether GIS analysis of range of fire, given standardized ranges of fire for muskets and rifles, can provide an accurate predictive model for identifying firing lines at the Newtown Battlefield.

Other items may help in determining the position and movement of troops. Buttons, clothing, or supply items are in some cases associated with specific regiments and brigades. The identification of these materials can help in identifying the position of companies, brigades, and regiments along the battlefield. This will be especially important in the area of the swamp in identifying the path used by Brigadier General Enoch Poor and Brigadier General James Clinton to get through the swamp. [text deleted]
Secondary questions related to the identification of troop movements include the difference between British troops and Native American Warriors and the use of artillery in the battle. What tactics did Native warriors use in the battle? Did they reflect those of Butler's Rangers? Does a similarity or difference in tactics among the British and Native allies suggest Major Butler's success or failure as a leader in unifying his command?

The Continental's use of artillery was a major factor in their victory. Yet, there are limited details on how it was used. It is unclear if the first artillery position was strictly used as a staging position or did they fire onto the British lines before moving closer during the final push? If they did fire at both positions, what types of artillery munitions did they use at each position- single, canister, grape shot? The field survey will attempt to answer these questions.

Poor/Clintons attack on the British left flank: What effect did Poor and Clinton's flanking maneuver have on the overall Battle of Newtown?

Poor and Clinton experienced heavy fighting ***, but was this fighting just the harassment of the retreating British and allied warriors, or was there (as some participants suggest) an attempt at a British counter attack? Much of this should be answerable from the identification of troop movements [text deleted] The position of material deposited by troop s should show if there was a steady retreat or a staged defense across the hill. The identification of the tactical move by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Dearborn to support Lieutenant Colonel George Reid against a line of Iroquois warriors should help to confirm whether the British mounted a counter attack on Sullivan Hill, or simply retreated.

As a secondary question to this defining feature and the overall tactics of the Continental forces, did the Continental forces effectively use the training of Baron von Steuben and was this training influential in the Continental's victory at Newtown? Most of the brigades that fought in the Battle of Newtown were at the winter encampment of Valley Forge over the winter of 1777-1778. Besides the Battle of Monmouth, the Sullivan-Clinton campaign was one of the first full engagements or campaigns where the Continental troops could apply the training they received at Valley Forge. This training would be a good comparison to the militia tactics used in upstate New York and Pennsylvania in attempts to resist Native American and Loyalist raids.

Context of Butler's Depot: Did fighting occur in and around Butler's Depot?

The relation of Butler's Depot to the overall battle is uncertain. It is a defining feature in that it is a landmark referenced by both sides of the battle. The structures could have acted as obstacles blocking the avenue of approach for Poor and Clinton's brigades and cover or concealment for the British troops and Native warriors. The vicinity of Butler's Depot may have marked the initiation of resistance from Native warriors along the defensive line along the base of Sullivan Hill as Poor and Clinton's brigades crossed Butler's Creek. If met with resistance, the Continentals could have used the structures in the depot as cover and concealment. Accounts do not state whether fighting occurred within the Depot or the crossing of Butler's Creek. Testing should help determine what level of fighting occurred within or around Butler's Depot.

The other question related to Butler's Depot concerns its actual purpose. Were the structures built to serve as a refugee village to house those Haudenosaunee and other Native American groups displaced by the Sullivan-Clinton campaign and previous raids, such as Unadilla and Oquaga? The Continental officers claimed that the structures were to be used for storing supplies and resources in support of, and procured from, raids. The identification of Butler's Depot and the uncovering of structural design and materials associated with the structures should help to determine what purpose Butler's Depot served.