British-period sword hilt found

Sword hangerPhoto Lindsay Wiles Gramana

By Marcia Lane - St Augustine

For the about-to-open St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum on Castillo Drive, putting in a wheelchair ramp and a wall turned up artifacts that date to the city's British Period in the mid-1700s, and possibly earlier.

"This is everyday life in St. Augustine," said City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt of the discovery as he looked through artifacts uncovered by Step Back in Time, the contractors working on the museum scheduled to open Dec. 3.

A battered piece of bronze is the most significant item found so far, says John Powell of the Colonial Spanish Quarter Living History Museum.

"It's the hilt fragment of a 1751 model British hanger or short sword," Powell said.

Originally the piece was shaped with two matching ovals that connected in the middle.

For some reason, one side broke. He thinks further damage was done in later years, adding that it would take an enormous force to flatten the piece into its current shape.

The sword would have belonged to an enlisted man and was the type the British used from the time they took over St. Augustine in 1763 and into the Revolutionary War era. The British used the pieces for close fighting in Europe, but in the New World they more often functioned as machetes, Powell said.

Other pieces found include a gentleman's fancy knee buckle from the late 1700s, a flat metal civilian coat button from the British, Second Spanish or even American period, an iron horseshoe with the nails still in it probably dating from the 19th century and a badly corroded pair of dividers of iron and brass from the late 18th or early 19th century that was used to chart courses on maps or figure distances.


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