Archeologists pore over Springfield Armory Historic Site

  1. Editor
    As an XD fan, you will notice the classic and historic Springfield Armory cannon wheel and artillery piece ordnance crest located on the slide of every one you pick up. While today's SA is only based on the name of the original institution, which is now a monument to American ingenuity and a storage place for the national relic firearms history, the original Springfield Armory is undergoing an archeological excavation to help preserve this history.

    Background on the Armory

    The year after the Declaration of Independence, General Washington and his chief of artillery Henry Knox scouted out a militarily defensible position that was still centrally located to his army. The purpose of this site would be a secure storage and manufacturing facility in which workers could make limbers for the Continental Army's artillery as well as package paper/power/bullets into cartridges for the Army's muskets. By 1794 (remember this date), the Springfield Armory was, besides a storage place for arms and producer of ammunition, making the first all-US made firearms for the Army.

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    (Photo by National Park Service)

    Over the next seventy years a long line of muskets, the M1795, M1816, M1822, and M1861, more than three million overall, were produced at the Springfield Armory. The muzzleloaders carried by the US Army in the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War, were in most cases made at SA. After the musket era, Springfield made the Model 1873 Trapdoor rifles then the Springfield Model 1892-99 Krag-Jrgensen rifle, which the US carried during the Indian Wars and Spanish-American Wars respectively.

    In 1900, the Armory began work on a prototype bolt-action rifle based on a Mauser design. This new rifle became the famous Springfield M1903 rifle, which was carried during World War I by the Doughboys who went 'over there.' In the 1930s, the Armory was home to one Mr. John Garand who was working on a revolutionary new semi-automatic battlerifle. This gun, adopted in 1937 as the M1 Rifle, was the rifle that won the Second World War as well as helped push the Chinese back in Korea and an amazing 3-million, the bulk of the M1s ever made, came from Building 104 right there at the Armory, built in 1939 on the eve of WWII specifically for its construction.

    In 1956 the Armory's next rifle, the M14 replaced the old warhorse that was the Garand. Soon this select-fire rifle was equipping US soldiers and Marines in a place called Vietnam. However, it was soon replaced by the M16, which is not made in any government arsenal but under contract.

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    (Photo by National Park Service)

    This led to the Armory's closure in 1968 and its preservation as a protected National Historic Place and National Historic Site, managed and operated by the National Park Service. As such, it contains possibly the largest collection of firearms anywhere in the country. Their huge collection is all photographed and searchable online if you can't make it by there.

    The Current Dig

    With all this history, when it was decided to demolish the giant but poorly maintained 70,000-sq. ft. Building 104 last year to make way for $10 million worth of improvements to the site, it seemed a no-brainer to call in archeologists to pour over the grounds under that building's very floorboards to see what interesting items could be found.


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    (Photo by National Park Service)

    You see before the building had been erected 70-years ago, it had served in turn as a park, barracks for soldiers, and a drill ground for local militia, going back to Colonial times.
    A team from the University of Massachusetts worked all through last fall and into the winter, and found some rather curious relics. According to MassLive these included:

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    (You don't want to know where that key has been...Photo from Mass Live via the Republican)

    -A 5,000-year-old stone blade probably used as a knife or a spear point.
    -A Civil War-era minie ball, which along with a modern .22-caliber shell casing is the only piece of ammunition found.
    -Chunks of charcoal made from defective M-1903 Springfield rifle stocks, the wood still bearing lathe marks.
    -Archeologists found the 1920s-era pit where the charcoal was burnt. It was probably for use in a nearby forge.
    -A brass button fused to the fireplace of a World War I barracks.
    -Post holes, probably from an early-19th century storehouse. Workers used broken grindstones to level up the bottom of the whole.
    -A pint Crown Royal Whiskey jar, probably from the 1930s.
    -A key, at the bottom of a latrine pit. Probably dropped there by someone who didn't care to fish it back out.
    -Bone handles, probably from combs or brushes.
    -An enameled tin plate, one of the few domestic items found.

    ""It's amazing that the floor of Building 104 kept all these artifacts and all these building remains safe and dry for all these years," Eric Johnson, director of UMass Architectural Services told MassLive.

    The National Historic Site, which is free to the public, plans to exhibit at least some of the items recovered so far meanwhile the digging continues.

    Since 1974, Springfield Armory, Inc., the company we know and love today, has used the rights to the name of the old Springfield Armory and the logo remains a tribute to this historic site and national treasure.

    Thus continues the legacy to remember every time you look at your slide.

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