Gettysburg Daily

The archaeological dig taking place at the foundation of the Alexander Riggs House is a partnership between the Adams County Historical Society, Gettysburg College, and the Civil War Trust. The Riggs House was located on Seminary Ridge along the Chambersburg Pike. The property is currently managed by the Civil War Trust.The home in the background is the James Thompson House. This view was taken facing east at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

A map showing the location of the Alexander Riggs House foundation.This map was created in a chair facing east at approximately 2:30 PM on Saturday, October 7, 2017.

The Mary Thompson House and the James Thompson House (pictured here in the left background) sit on the location of General Robert E. Lee’s Headquarters during the Battle of Gettysburg. The property was a significant Gettysburg acquisition for the Civil War Trust, and though we’ve covered the restoration of the property before, today we were here for something unique: a program on the Alexander Riggs House.This view was taken facing west at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.
Let’s get oriented. The Mary Thompson House is on the left along the Chambersburg Pike. The James Thompson House is across the road in the center background.This view was taken facing east at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

The orange buckets mark the boundary of the excavation site.This view was taken facing south at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

After the Civil War Trust acquired the property, ground-penetrating radar revealed the existence of the house’s foundation. The excavation of the Riggs House foundation began about a month ago.The McPherson Barn is in the right background along McPherson’s Ridge. This view was taken facing west at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

It was well underway when we arrived Wednesday afternoon.This view was taken facing west at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

The archaeological study is being conducted by students at Gettysburg College, as well as volunteers from the Adams County Historical Society.The Chambersburg Pike is in the right background. This view was taken facing west at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

Bob Scappini is a volunteer for the Adams County Historical Society and a retired teacher.This view was taken facing west at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

Bob and the rest of the work crew were receiving direction from Benjamin Luley (left), Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Gettysburg College. Professor Luley teaches a course called Archaeology of Pennsylvania. The class has about 20 students who have been heavily involved in the dig. Professor Luley received his B.A. in history and anthropology from Penn State University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Chicago.“His research focuses on the archaeology of Iron Age and Roman Europe and the Mediterranean, and in particular on how the expansion of the Roman Empire effect the Celtic peoples of France.” This view was taken facing east at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

Professor Luley and his students were asked to excavate the Riggs House to uncover one important feature: its cellar door. This hole in the ground marks the outside entrance to the basement of the Riggs House.This view was taken facing west at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

This map shows the location of the 1863 structures at the Thompson property, acquired and restored by the Civil War Trust. Note that the Riggs House foundation used to be covered by a paved parking lot.This image courtesy of the Civil War Trust.

LBG Garry Adelman briefly explains the significance of the Riggs House site as it relates to John Burns and the cellar door.Garry is standing in the red rectangle marking the Riggs House in the previous image. This video was taken on Thursday, August 18, 2016.
Here is the photograph that shows the cellar door where a wounded John Burns called for people at the Mary Thompson House to get his wife.The photograph appears on the Riggs House wayside in the first image of this post.

Professor Luley is showing us where the cellar door to the Riggs House would have been located.This view was taken facing west at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

Licensed Battlefield Guide Tim Smith (left), also a Collections Manager at the Adams County Historical Society, was interested in the Riggs House foundation since the property’s acquisition by the Civil War Trust in 2015.This view was taken facing west at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.
LBG Tim Smith is the author of John Burns: The Hero of Gettysburg. To order this book on Amazon click here or order it directly from the Adams County Historical Society.

Tim was joined by Andrew Dalton (right), who is pictured here talking to Gettysburg Times reporter Mary Grace Keller (left) and longtime Gettysburg Times photographer Darryl Wheeler (center). Andrew is a junior at Gettysburg College and one of the Collections Managers at the Adams County Historical Society.The Gettysburg Times article (paywall). This view was taken facing west at approximately 5:15 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.
Andrew’s book “Beyond the Run: The Emmanuel Harmon Farm at Gettysburg” is available on Amazon, or you can order it directly from the Adams County Historical Society.

Andrew, Tim, and Professor Luley invited the public out to the site for a brief program on the Riggs House. They can be seen here examining the photograph of a boy sitting at the front door of the Riggs House.This view was taken facing east at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

The excavation of the foundation is partial, exposing the eastern wall of the home and the entrance to the cellar. Prof. Luley and Andrew were busy lining up the historic photographs.The rebuilt picket fence of the Mary Thompson House is in the background along the Chambersburg Pike. This view was taken facing north at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

Hey, could someone sit where the boy was in the photograph to show us the modern view?This view was taken facing south at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

Andrew was more than happy to oblige. He’s sitting in the approximate location of the front door of the Alexander Riggs House.This view was taken facing south at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

John Burns, back on the cellar door of the Riggs House, 154 years later. John Burns may have needed a fly-swatter when this photograph of him was taken.This view was taken facing west at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

Tim was talking to Barb Adams about the location of the eastern wall of the house.This view was taken facing west at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

Tim is showing Barb the Riggs House as it appears on the Warren Map, overlaid with a modern satellite image. The Riggs House was right where Tim thought it would be, underneath the parking lot.This view was taken facing west at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017. This composite map was created by Andrew Dalton.

Here’s Tim pointing to the eastern wall of the house. Bob Scappini (orange shirt) has his legs on a brick patio that was a surprise discovery for the archaeological team. The stones to the right of the bricks mark the eastern wall of the house.This view was taken facing south at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

Tim and Andrew gave a program that lasted about an hour and started in the yard of the Mary Thompson House.This view was taken facing north at approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

The program was free and open to the public. You can find updated news and information about the Adams County Historical Society and their program offerings on their Facebook Page.This video was taken between 4:00 and 5:00 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

After the program’s conclusion, LBG Tim Smith was talking to visitors…This view was taken facing west at approximately 5:15 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

…but he made sure to show us how far his love for John Burns goes. Under his dress shirt was a t-shirt of John Burns with the caption: “Get Off My Lawn.”This view was taken facing west at approximately 5:15 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

As we were preparing to leave, Professor Luley’s students recovered an object. As Prof. Luley explained in the program, most of the items recovered so far are not from 1863 and consisted of objects left behind when the foundation was filled in and subsequently paved over.This view was taken facing south at approximately 5:15 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

The student in the green shirt is Brandon Peeters, a sophomore history major at Gettysburg College. In the approximate location where Brandon was digging in this photograph, a figurine was recovered.This view was taken facing north at approximately 5:15 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

The students were calling it an Egyptian figurine. Here’s the front, and yes…This view was taken facing west at approximately 5:15 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

…the back. The dig at the Riggs House concludes this month and the site will be covered again. Though excavations in the future are possible, there are currently no plans to reveal the rest of the foundation.This view was taken facing west at approximately 5:15 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.