CHESTERTOWN, MD—On Thursday, April 19, the Washington College Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Program will present its 3-D reconstruction of the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment, an important Revolutionary War garrison in New Jersey. The presentation will begin at 7:30 p.m in the Litrenta Lecture Hall, Toll Science Center, on the College campus (300 Washington Avenue). On hand to explain the project will be Dr. John Seidel, an archaeologist and director of the Center for Environment and Society at Washington College. He will be joined by Stewart Bruce, the coordinator of the GIS lab, and student interns who worked on the project. The presentation is free and open to the public.
The Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment was the winter headquarters of General Knox and the Continental Artillery in late 1778 and early 1779 and is considered to be the nation’s first military academy. Using archeological findings and other historical records, the Washington College GIS Lab created a preliminary reconstruction of the site, which once held barracks, officers' quarters, workshops, and warehouses. At its heart was an academy building for military training.
In creating the 3-D maps of the site, student interns in the GIS lab used computerized mapping software such as Google Sketchup and GeoWeb3D to convert geographic and archeological data into the 3-D maps. Historians are especially excited about how GIS systems can be used to create interactive maps of now-nonexistent historical sites. At the Pluckemin site, for example, the only surviving building is the Jacobus Vanderveer House, General Knox’s former headquarters.
“This cantonment was a remarkable accomplishment,” says John Seidel, who served as the Pluckemin Archeological Project leader in the 1980s and continues to head a consortium working on the extensive artifact collection. “And it is just as remarkable that the complex was abandoned after just one winter. It was used the next winter as a hospital, but after that it reverted to field and forest.” Seidel narrates a video about the site on the Cantonment web site.
Throughout the 1980s, a non-profit group supported surveying and excavation work that provided the foundation for the historical interpretation happening at the site today. The preliminary 3-D reconstruction of the Cantonment being presented on the 19th was commissioned by the Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House. It will help the Jacobus Vanderveer House Museum interpret the historic site for visitors and explain its significance in American history. The GIS Lab hopes this reconstruction might lead to a more detailed visualization in the near future and has submitted a proposal for continuing the project.