“There’s nothing like being on vacation at Piney Point to encourage you to catch up on your reading,” said Leah from the confines of her Adirondack chair. “I’m finally getting around to reading Excavations on Cranborne Chase, by Augustus Pitt-Rivers, the famous archeologist.”
“I was looking for something to read,” said Clarice, “and went though that box of books and papers that Liesel Elizabeth and Savannah found.”
“The one where they found the map that led them to the Lost Tory Treasure of Fort Augusta Sophia?”
“Yes, and look what I’ve found! It’s the journal of a girl named Charlotte Fitzwarren, the daughter of the Commandant of Fort Augusta Sophia!”
“A British frontier fort from the Revolutionary War! How exciting!”
“Well, not really. It was given to her on her ninth birthday, April 21, 1777, in Quebec. She and her mother went with her father on General Burgoyne’s campaign down the Hudson Valley, so you’d think it would be really exciting. But all she does is complain about the weather and the mosquitoes, and frequently wishes she was home in England. She was writing for herself, so she doesn’t bother to describe or explain anything. She has no idea why her father was sent west from Fort Ticonderoga to build a fort.”
Leah jumped up. “I know what let’s do! Let’s go to the site of Fort Augusta Sophia, it’s only about a mile along the lake from here, and do an archeological excavation! There could be all sorts of things buried there that could help build up a picture of what life at the fort was like!”
They pulled together all the tools they would need, and set off through the woods to the fort site. There was only one blockhouse remaining, all other structures had vanished long ago. They field-walked the site, picking up bits of broken pottery, and noticing the position of various lumps and bumps on the ground. They opened a trench over some bumps where they had found a lot of pottery.
Stripping off the topsoil, they uncovered some features almost at once.
“There’s nothing harder to destroy than a hole dug in the ground,” Leah explained. “See those lighter patches in the soil? Those look like a row of post holes, running towards the blockhouse. I’ll bet that was the stockade. That row of stones must be part of the foundation that supported a wooden building. And just outside the stockade there seems to be a pit of some kind. Maybe it’s a rubbish pit! You can learn a lot from what people threw away; good garbage is better than gold to an archeologist!”
They carefully dug the soil out of the post holes with trowels. They uncovered lots of finds, more broken pottery, buttons, bits of pipe stems, and coins. From what might have been inside the vanished building, Leah uncovered some pieces of a large porcelain plate. It was glazed bright blue with golden peacocks.
“How beautiful!” Leah exclaimed, “And all the pieces seem to be here.”
After Leah had cleaned up the trench, Clarice recorded the position of all the finds and features.
“That’s enough for today,” said Leah, “Tomorrow we’ll open that rubbish pit.”
That evening they went through the finds they had collected.
“Here’s a penny of George III; that dates this site pretty well, I’d say,” Leah said.
“This looks like a uniform button with an American eagle on it,” Clarice observed, “That means that the fort was occupied by the Americans after the British left.”
“But this plate is the best find of all!” said Leah.
Clarice opened up Charlotte’s journal. “Listen to this!” She started reading. “ ‘21 April. Today is my tenth birthday. Mother has given me a gold locket that had been hers. It has our initials on it – C F. Father has allowed me to eat dinner today from my favourite blue china plate with the gold peacocks.’ ”
“That must be this plate here!” Leah was really excited. “Charlotte ate her birthday dinner from this very plate!”
“Her journal has gotten a little more interesting. The previous autumn, she mentioned a messenger arriving with the news of General Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga. Her father said that without support, the fort could not be held against a rebel attack. Then, just before her birthday, she says some loyalist refugees arrived at the fort. One of them must have been Josiah Cole, who hid the Lost Tory Treasure.”
“Does she say what happened? Did rebels take the fort?”
“She stops writing for almost two weeks. I’ll read you her last entry: ‘4 May. I have been ill with a fever that will not break. A scout came today with news of a rebel militia two days from here. Father hopes we can surrender on terms, and be given safe conduct to Canada. I am tired and must sleep now.’ And that’s all she wrote. I hope there was no fighting; I hope they got back to Canada.”
“I hope she got better.” Leah added.
Bright and early the next morning, back at the trench, they started digging the pit, hoping for lots of trash and rubbish, but it just kept going down, the only finds being some nails. Then Leah’s trowel hit something hard that was neither stone nor metal.
She scraped away around it, and soon saw that it was a human skull!
Clarice was horrified. “Cover it up, Leah! I can’t look at it!”
Leah ignored her. “It’s awfully small, the sutures aren’t fully closed, and look at the teeth! This is the skull of a child about . . .” Her voice trailed off, “ten . . . years . . . old. . .”
Leah was on her stomach scraping away a fast as care permitted, and uncovered more bones. “They're articulated! This is not a rubbish pit, it's a grave cut! The nails were from a coffin!” She uncovered a small find above the sternum.
She stood up and wiped off the dirt. It was a gold locket, the initials C F plainly visible. The girls froze. Finally, Leah whispered, “It’s Charlotte.”
Leah gently replaced the locket, and without a word they backfilled the trench.
Two days later, they returned to the site. They set up a stone they had prepared, and laid flowers on Charlotte’s grave.
“Poor girl,” said Clarice, “lying here all alone and forgotten for over a hundred years.”
“Sleep well, little Charlotte,” said Leah, “We won’t forget you.”