Victor T. Mastone Presents on the Battle of Chelsea Creek

Archaeology aficionados and members of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society (MAS) filled the lobby of the Robert S. Peabody Museum on September 21 to see a glimpse of Revolutionary history. Victor T. Mastone, Director and Chief of the Archaeologist Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources, delivered a presentation about the Battle of Chelsea Creek and its archaeological significance. “It was a battle of firsts, this is the only way it gets in the history books. It is the first offensive operation in the Revolution. Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill were defensive reaction engagements,” said Mastone. The Battle of Chelsea Creek, on May 25, 1775 in Chelsea Creek, Massachusetts, is chronologically jammed between the two of the most important battles of the Revolutionary War, the capture of fort Ticonderoga and the battle of Bunker Hill, so its significance as one of the first offensive engagements is often overlooked. Mastone discussed the details of the combat that focused on the possible location of the HMS Diana, a wreck that could contain important archeological information. The battle site remains today, though it is hardly recognizable due to extensive urban growth in Boston. The Diana was a British armed schooner that was destroyed and sunk near the Chelsea shore. Mastone said that the Diana attracted his attention toward the Battle of Chelsea Creek. “I did not know about the battle myself until recently. Most historians of the 19th century ignored it,” Mastone said. “In 1987 I got a call from a gentlemen in Chelsea and he said, ‘I want you to come down and look at this shipwreck. I think I found the HMS Diana.’ I’m thinking, ‘what’s the Diana?’ That was what got me started,” he added. Archaeologists have not yet located the schooner, though several cannons were found near the battle scene. Mastone is working to find parts of the hull and other artifacts left by the ship. Though the ship itself was destroyed, Mastone believes that the hull or other weaponry could be found. Due to the metal in the water already, it is almost impossible to use metal detectors, which are main instruments an archaeological searches. Mastone worked with two graduate students to try to unearth the Diana through the diaries of the Captain and purchase logs. Susanna Crowley, The President of the MAS – Northeast Chapter, invited Mastone to Phillips Academy. “[Mastone] is a fellow archaeologist and a friend. He is one of many archaeologists who are active in Massachusetts and are part of a professional network in the area,” said Crowley. Crowley said, “I think the map work that Vic Mastone’s team was able to create was a spectacular view of both modern and past data sets. [They were] merged together [so the audience could] see both the outline of the present-day landscape and the historically important environments that influenced the outcome of this significant battle.” The Northeast Chapter of the MAS meets monthly at the Peabody Museum, but due to the renovation, this was the first meeting in several months. The MAS is a non- profit organization founded in 1939 “dedicated to preserving and studying the archaeological heritage of Massachusetts,” according to the MAS website. The MAS promotes research, conservation of sites, artifacts and data. Though it is not affiliated with Phillips Academy, the founding members had close ties to the Academy and the Peabody Museum.