Heritage - History - Carter Military Road Winter Lab 2007


Passport in Time: Carter Military Road Winter Lab 2007

On March 12-16 Passport in Time (PIT) volunteers gathered to continue our investigation of the historic Carter Military Road. This year’s project focused on discovering the location of the Fort Thornburgh rifle range. Ed Hacking, a local resident, gave us permission to metal detect a portion of his property that contained the possible location for the rifle range. The volunteers eagerly “detected” this area on March 14 and 15 and found over 70 military issued .45-70 cartridges, along with various nails, machine parts, tools and even a toy gun! The dense scatter of cartridges, along with a number of lead bullets found on a hill 200 meters away, confirmed our suspicions about the area. We had successfully located both shooter station and target area for the Fort Thornburgh rifle range.

Back in the office, the volunteers also worked together to analyze, sort and clean artifacts from the 2006 Carter Military Road PIT project. They spent many hours researching and preparing interpretive materials. Claudette Clark, a first time PIT volunteer, dedicated much of her time to the tedious but much appreciated task of entering field forms into a computer database. She also spent time cleaning artifacts and helping Ann Bagne and Donna Coker organize our new display cases. Although she felt her efforts were insignificant in light of what other volunteers accomplished, Claudette’s most important contribution was, in her own words, her “enthusiasm for working with so many expert people, who were willing and patient in sharing their time and knowledge.” By the end of the week, we had all learned something from each other, and moved one step closer to becoming experts on the Carter Military Road.

Click on an image for a larger view.

2007 Carter Military Road PIT volunteers detecting at the Fort Thornburgh rifle range.

Left to Right: Donna Coker, Paul Carroll, Richard Lahti, Claudette Clark and William Altizer metal detecting at the Fort Thornburgh rifle range.

Left to Right: William Altizer, Ed Coker and Ed Bagne working together in the field.

Ed Bagne and Ed Coker examining a .45-70 cartridge at the rifle range.

PIT volunteer Don Ivey and Forest Archaeologist Byron Loosle interpreting feature patterns of historic military camps along the Carter Military Road.

One of our new display cases.


Claudette Clark carefully piecing together a broken hand mirror.

By Ed Bagne and Richard Lahti

Cartridges collected from Burnt Cabin, Trout Creek, Ashley Forks and Pat Carroll Park during the summer of 2006 were examined and identified according to caliber type. On some cartridges a head stamp with manufacturer, caliber, date, and other information were easily read. On others, the head stamp could not be deciphered. Without a head stamp, the cartridge was identified by measuring the case length, case diameter, rim diameter and rim thickness. Once all the cartridges were identified, they were sorted by type for each camp. (See table below)

Cartridge analysis of cartridges found during July 2006 PIT Carter Road Project
Camp Location Total
(Quantity / Year)
Colt Pistol
.41 .25-35 12
Burnt Cabin 7 2/1879
1 1 -- -- -- 1 2
Trout Creek 4 2/1882
-- -- 1 -- -- -- --
Ashley Forks 23 8/1881
-- -- 2 1 -- -- 1
Pat Carroll Park 2 -- -- -- 1 -- 1 -- --

The majority of ammunition found along Carter Military Road in 2006 was army issued .45-70 caliber cartridges. One of the .45-70 cartridges found at Burnt Cabin was a blank. The cavalry may have used this particular type of cartridge to accustom their horses to gunfire. The .45 Colt, .44 Henry, .56-52 Spencer, .25-35 and .41 caliber, and 12 Gauge shotgun shell were all civilian-type cartridges.

Click for a larager view.
From Left to Right: .45-70 cartridge, .44 Henry cartridge,
.45 Colt pistol cartridge, .25-35 cartridge
and a 12 gauge shotgun shell base.

By William Altizer

A total of 16 glass bottle fragments were recorded at Ashley Forks in 2006. Of these, six were beer bottle bases with either complete or partial makers’ marks, seven were bottle tops of various types, and the remainder consisted of a wine or champagne bottle base and similar sherds. What follows is a brief description of the artifacts recovered with some tentative conclusions as to identification and dating.

Bottle Bases

Six bottle bases, all tentatively identified as beer bottles, were recorded. They represent five different bottle manufacturers. The first (J63), marked “D S G Co”, was made by the De Steiger Glass Company of La Salle, Illinois, circa 1879-1896. Beer bottles made by this company are a fairly common find at sites in the West (Toulouse 1971).

The second bottle (J61), marked “L G Co” [the artifact form reads “L C Co”, but G is a more likely interpretation] was possibly made by the Louisville Kentucky Glass Works, manufacturers of a wide range of glass containers who were in operation between 1873 and circa 1886 (Toulouse 1971). A bottle collector’s internet reference has offered an alternative identification – the Lindell Glass Company of St. Louis, Missouri, 1875-1890 (Whitten n.d.).

The third bottle base (J21) has a partial maker’s mark that includes “C. V. C…” and “MI”. This bottle was most likely made by the Chase Valley Glass Company (either No. 1 or No. 2) of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, between 1880 and 1881 (Toulouse 1971).

The fourth and fifth bottle bases (J48) marked “WIS G CO” and “MILW” were made by the Wisconsin Glass Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (the successor to the Chase Valley Glass Company) between 1882 and 1886. Both the Chase Valley and Wisconsin companies were prolific producers of beer bottles, many of which have been found at western sites (Toulouse 1971).

The sixth bottle base (J12) is something of an enigma. The partial maker’s mark includes “J” and “Co”; the best fit for such a mark is the Consolidated Fruit Jar Company of New Brunswick, New Jersey, which has been in operation from 1867 to at least 1971. The mark “C F J Co”, which appears to be a reasonable interpretation of the partial maker’s mark, was used between 1867 and 1882 (Toulouse 1971). However, it is unclear whether this company ever made beer bottles, or whether their output was exclusively related to fruit jars. A circumstantial reference to a “bottle” made by this company and dated to the 1870s appears in a 2006 site report from New Philadelphia, Illinois (Shackel 2006). This artifact might be from either a beer bottle or a fruit jar; without examining the artifact itself no further conclusion can be drawn.

Bottle Tops

Seven bottle tops were recorded at the Ashley Forks site. Of these, two (J02 and J07) were identified as “beer bottles”, with no accompanying sketch. The third (J19) appears to have a standard “beer bottle” finish, with a rounded taper lip, a type of bottle found commonly during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (BLM). The fourth (J29) has a patent or extract finish, and appears to be from a proprietary or patent medicine bottle, a fairly common item during the late nineteenth century (BLM).

The last three artifacts (J45, J46 and J47) each appear to have a brandy finish, and appear to be from standard “fifth”-style liquor bottles (technically, “tall, slender-bodied, straight-neck spirits cylinders”) of a type found fairly frequently throughout the American West (BLM). Two were noted as being brown in color while one was identified as green.

Other Artifacts

In addition to the bottle tops and marked bases, the base of a wine or champagne bottle (J64) and number of wine or champagne bottle sherds (J01, J59, J64) were recorded. All appear to be from bottle styles common in the late nineteenth century (BLM).


The assemblage of glass bottle artifacts from Ashley Forks appears to be consistent with an early 1880s site occupation. The bottle bases with maker’s marks can be identified and dated with a high degree of confidence (with the exception of the possible fruit jar base), and the bottle tops and sherds represent artifact types common to the American West during the late nineteenth century.

By Ed Coker

Horseshoes collected during the 2006 Carter Road PIT project can be divided into three different groups.

  • Modern shoes – dated post 1890
  • Hand forged shoes – believed to be Carter Road period.
  • Undefined shoes – due to extensive weathering and/or obliteration of any useful observations.


Click for larger image.

F-N22 (AS-00151, Trout Creek, 2006): The heavy stock and asymmetry of the nail holes indicate it is hand forged from the period of interest. The wear on the toe may have caused a loss of nails in the front, which would have contributed to loss of the shoe.

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F-N35 (AS-00151, Trout Creek, 2006): This shoe is machine made as well as the nails. I base this on shoe dimensions as well as modern nail heads, which are not indications of 1800’s machine cut shoes.

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F-N44 (AS-00151, Trout Creek, 2006): This appears to be a right front shoe. Front shoes generally do not have cleats because the kick out would be on the outside. If it were inside, the horse would step on it. This shoe was created to correct an incorrect gait/step.

Click for larger image.

F-N31 (AS-00151, Trout Creek, 2006): Based upon the bar stock, hole pattern and blunt caulks in the rear this appears hand made and of the period of interest. The caulks indicate this is a rear shoe and the pattern of wear makes it a left hind shoe. The right side has been cleaned, the left is as found.

By Donn Ivey

Note: For this analysis, Archaeological Technician Alison Leick created artifact maps for three Carter Military Road encampments using Charmaine Thompson’s Generalized Classes Model outlined in her paper “Connecting Artifacts and Behaviors: Period Photos and the ‘Tin War’ Site in Northwestern Utah.” The objective was to show variation between the following artifact groups and their related activity areas in each camp: Kitchen Group (glass, cans, utensils), Arms Group (bullets, cartridges, cartridge cases), Hardware Group (nails, tent stakes, wire), Horse-Related Group (horsehoes, horseshoe nails, wagon parts, other metal), Wood-Containers Group (metal strapping), Clothing Group (buttons, buckles, shoe leather), and Personal Group (coins, pendants).

Site analysis was conducted utilizing satellite photos with Global Positioning System (GPS) locations of surface artifacts overlaid. The main goal was the attempt to locate tent alignments known as company streets. During this Post Civil War period Army work details spent weeks and even months in the field living in tents. Whenever possible, field modifications could be practiced to make the oldiers a bit more comfortable during long encampments.

The use of natural materials such as saplings and brush to construct ramada structures for shade was widely practiced in the southwest. Stockading tents with timber or even milled lumber afforded troops a more wind resistant tent that could be ventilated by unhooking side stakes and lifting or rolling the sides of the tent up to allow air to pass through. With an external frame of saplings the tent was held up from the outside, not pushed up from the interior. With enough skill and a dose of field engineering an internal frame of either timber or milled lumber could also be constructed. In any of these options the choice on method was decided by the commanding officer, though the First Sergeant could exert a strong influence on the decision.

Due to the pronounced densities of nails, metal tent stakes and wire in significant alignments I propose these as prime indicators of camp layouts at the following sites.

1. Trout Creek

Click for complete map.

Occupation: The longest period of occupation was by B and C Companies, 9th Infantry Regiment, from July and August 1883. Other units would either occupy the site for short periods in 1886 or use it as a bivouac while on the march. This is after the Carter Road building period and without testing and/or excavation there is the possibility that some intermixing of deposits has occurred.

Analysis: The site is located for the most part on the south side of the creek. Beginning with the hardware group we find two alignments running roughly north/south in the southwest end of the site. These two range in length from 60 to 38 meters, which is enough room for small undermanned infantry companies of the time to put in a company street. Moving upstream, two alignments of 70 and nearly 40 meters parallel the stream, bisected by a 40 meter alignment running from southeast to northwest. An additional alignment is to the southeast about 100 meters from the main camp.

When the Kitchen group is added to the matrix a single serpentine configuration parallels the creek mingling with all of the Hardware Group. In the area of the isolated configuration only a light density of glass and cans were found.

The finds of metal strapping also parallels the creek. Remembering that at this period in time the Army was increasing the use of canned rations to supplement dry and pickled rations left over from the Civil War and that hardtack and canned rations were packed in wooden boxes held together with metal banding straps; it is not surprising to find such a density of strapping. The troops would have used the boxes for storage or kindling; as well as field engineering in the camp.

Conclusion: As I look at both the overall configuration and the group layers of the site I can see a company street in the southwest end of the camp, perhaps with troop tents furthest south and NCO quarters and supply tents or stacks to parallel to the northeast. A second company street upstream is more complex and may have been split by NCO and administration tents.

Due to the overall scatter of glass and cans within these two company areas it seems to me the companies may have been using squad fire and cooking rather than a company mess.

The one outlier concentration to the east of main camp may officer’s country, as might the farthest northeast grouping. Testing might be used to more clearly define use through the site.

The alignment of road debris such as horseshoes, horseshoe nails and other bits of metal along the trace of Carter Road clearly speaks to the roughness and stress of travel by pioneering soldiers.

2. Burnt Cabin

Click for complete map.

Occupation: The major period of occupation of 72 days was by Companies C, I and K, 6th Infantry Regiment. Shorter visits by units from other regiments occurred. It is interesting to note that six supports for the military telegraph line bisect the encampment.

Analysis: Again beginning with the Hardware Group, two major alignments can be seen parallel to each other running southeast to northwest, measuring 90 to 120 meters in length. At the southeast end of these alignments is one large deposit of cans and glass. This would seem to indicate company messes at the end of the tent line. This practice was used if the commander wished to put more troops in the field, since two or three kitchen police (KP), who were in reality also the cooks could prepare three meals a day. It was the practice of many company commanders to find one or two men who showed some skill in cooking and place them on permanent KP. Whenever possible the commander might assign this as extra duty so that the soldier would receive 30 or 40 cents for each day of duty. In the days of 13 dollars a month, extra duty pay allowed private soldiers to make as much as corporals each month.

Again the presence of metal strapping along with the other debris speaks to troops utilizing wooden containers for field expedient furniture. Many veteran soldiers were quite adept at constructing wash basin stands, equipment racks and ramadas for shade.

Note: Both Davis Springs and Trout Creek are close enough to the saw mill in Government creek to acquire milled lumber instead of using timber.

Conclusion: Davis Spring seems to exhibit a tighter organization than Trout Creek, perhaps during to the longer period of occupation. It may also reflect the differences in commander’s leadership styles. The differences may also reflect the character of leadership between the 9th and the 6th Infantries.

3. Ashley Forks

Click for complete map.

Occupation: This camp seems to have had sporadic use over a short period of time, with 17 days being the longest bivouac.

Analysis: Whilethe Hardware Group exhibits two alignments, the Kitchen Group exhibits three linear alignments and a hook shaped configuration northwest of the forest road and two smaller alignments east of the forest road. While the two groups intersect, none of the groups closely parallel with the other.

As to the two densities across the forest road; these may be officer’s country. The Hardware Group is a bit sparse. Surely officers would have had the best tent supports, camp furniture. These two densities may be trash heaps.

Conclusion: This site is a little harder to read. There is enough room for two company streets. Again because of the close proximity to the saw mill, milled lumber was used for tent supports. I think here as at Trout Creek squad cooking was used, due to the wide multiple kitchen scatters.

4. Government Sawmill

I have a few thoughts about the mill.

  1. Because the stream is small and I see no dam to make a catchment, it is my belief that the mill was run by a small steam engine, similar to the donkey engines used in mines and for snaking timber up or down slopes.
  2. Testing other features would broaden the picture of the Carter Road.
  3. Where were the troops taking the timber out? Were troops used or contractors?

Harrell, James
991 Cartridge Identification Manual for the Historical Archaeologist, High Plains Archaeology Project Manual I: Typing and Dating Early Historic Cartridges and Bullets. Department of Anthropology, University of Wyoming.

Lindsey, Bill
Historic Glass Bottle Identification and Information, Electronic Document, http://www.blm.gov/historic_bottles/examples.htm, accessed March 13, 2007.

Nelson, Lee H.
1968 Nail Chronology as an Aid to Dating Old Buildings. American Association for State and Local History, Technical Leaflet 48, History News 24(11).

Powers, Melvin
A Practical Guide to Horse Shoeing. Wilshire Book Company.

Poyer, Joe, and Craig Riesch
1999 The .45-70 Springfield. 3rd Ed., North Cape Publications. Tustin, CA.

Shackel, Paul.
New Philadelphia Archaeology: Race, Community, and the Illinois Frontier, Electronic Document, http://www.heritage.umd.edu/CHRSWeb/New%20Philadelphia/2006report/1.pdf, accessed March 14, 2007

Toulouse, Julian Harrison
1971 Bottle Makers and Their Marks. Thomas Nelson Inc., New York.

Whitten, David
Glass Factory Marks on Bottles, Electronic Document, http://www.myinsulators.com/glass-factories/bottlemarks.html, accessed March 13, 2007


Key Contacts

Jeffrey A. Rust