Lead ball confirms Revolutionary War trench

This tiny lead ball discovered by archaeologists Thursday confirms that the pit behind the Aiken-Rhett House was a Revolutionary War trench used by British troops to take Charleston in 1780. Provided

They were hunting for a smoking gun, and it surfaced Thursday in the form of a long-buried bullet. 

Archaeologists and College of Charleston students have been digging a pit behind the Aiken-Rhett House for two weeks, parsing through the soil shovel by shovel for evidence the site was a trench used by British troops in the Revolutionary War. 

They found a tiny lead ball lodged in the soil Thursday afternoon that archaeologists determined was shot by a musket — a type of gun used in the Siege of Charleston in 1780 — and it was slightly dented, indicating the bullet had impacted something.

"Without a doubt it was from that era," said Lauren Northup, director of museums with the Historic Charleston Foundation.

The discovery confirms the site is part of the network of trenches the British used to take the city in the spring of 1780, and is the first piece of physical evidence of the British siege lines that have eluded historians for many years.

Archaeologists will now be able to line up the location of the trench with historic maps used during the siege to approximate where the other trenches are buried. 

Students were elated when they uncovered a different lead ball Wednesday morning, but it turned out to be a piece of shot from a hunting gun that was most likely mixed up in the soil after the war.

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Reach Abigail Darlington at 843-937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.

Abigail Darlington is a local government reporter focusing primarily on the City of Charleston. She previously covered local arts & entertainment, technology, innovation, tourism and retail for the Post and Courier.