The skeletons found at the end of last year during excavation work on the city moat are probably 18th century soldiers of the British army, including possibly French counter-revolutionaries.
They are believed to have died in 1794, when Dutch, British, German and Austrian troops fought against the French revolutionary army in the southern Netherlands. In the end they could not stop the French from also occupying the Netherlands above the rivers in 1795.
Roman army camp
Archaeological treasures cannot be excluded from construction projects. “That is why literature research is always done beforehand to see if there is anything lying around,” she says. “If so, excavations will be done.” For example, a Roman army camp was recently found under the former Valkenburg airport near Leiden, where a mega residential area is being built.
The indication that the skeletons belong to British soldiers was found by the municipal archivist in a report in the Amsterdamse Courant of December 28, 1794, writing about “a hospital built for the English” in the ruins of Batestein Castle. “The mass grave is less than 100 meters away,” says archaeologist Van Pelt.
Raymond Uppelschoten, who specializes in the history of the Utrecht region, thinks that they are indeed soldiers of the British army. He turned up a letter, dated December 28, 1794, to the authorities in Amersfoort. It was written by Civil Commissioner Herman Tollius, a confidant of Stadtholder William V, who was in contact with the British army.
“It says that the injured will be moved from Vianen to Amersfoort,” he says. “They arrived there on the 30th and are housed in three churches, including St. George. So the skeletons could very well be from a field hospital in Vianen. Armies always have escape routes and that of the British was towards Northern Germany, which is why they left Vianen wounded and all to Amersfoort. ”
The archival researcher and author notes that the British army also served French people who had fled after the 1789 revolution and wanted to liberate their country from the revolutionaries. “So French soldiers will also be among the skeletons,” he expects.
The archaeologists concluded that the skeletons belonged to soldiers because they were young men. In addition, a number of limbs showed saw marks, indicating amputations or autopsies by a surgeon.
The dentures show that they come from the period after 1700. “It contains wear marks that indicate that they smoked pipes,” says city archaeologist Van Pelt. “And for poor people, such as soldiers, it was not payable until after 1690. When we found that newspaper report from 1794, one plus one was two. ”
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