Button is clue to sunken ship's history

Artefact


By Marcia Lane - St Augustine

A ship’s bell from a wreck found off St. Augustine has yielded another clue to the possible identify of the ship that may date from the American Revolution.

The clue: a button found in the concretion still attached to the bronze bell that was discovered in 2010 by archaeologists with the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program.

“It’s in rough shape,” Sam Turner, director of archaeology at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, said of the button.

Even so, the top part of a crown can be seen on the button and similar crowns are found on Royal Provincial buttons plus the initials RP.

Those were on the uniforms of men in the Loyalist regiments, the colonists who remained loyal to the Crown during the American Revolution.

“When our button is cleaned you hope to find RP or part of one (of the letters),” Turner said.

That would be a big step forward in identifying the wreck discovered a few miles off the St. Augustine Inlet in the summer of 2009.

One of the hypotheses archaeologists have been working under is that the ship could be part of a fleet carrying Loyalists to St. Augustine after the fall of Charleston to the Americans.

Over a two-day period 16 ships were reported wrecked off the sandbar in December of 1782.

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St Augustine wreck Sam Turner American Revolution Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program button