Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (NNS) -- A Naval Academy professor, a professional archaeologist, and group of midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) recently spent a week conducting an archaeological survey of an important but poorly-understood Spanish-American War battle site at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (NSGB).
The professor, Captain Marko Stawnyczyj, United States Marine Corps, was stationed at Guantanamo Bay from 2002 and 2005. There he learned about the significance of the Battle of Cuzco Well, fought on June 14, 1898 on land that later became part of NSGB, and its importance to Marine Corps history. Returning from NSGB, Stawnyczyj found that in the military museums he visited this battle was either barely featured of completely omitted.
Later in his career, Stawnyczyj was assigned as a history professor at the USNA, and began his efforts to give this obscure engagement its proper place in military history. In 2016 he spoke to Claude Berube, the Naval Academy Museum Director, about funding a small survey team to visit the Cuzco Well site in order to learn more about the battle, and to teach the participating midshipmen about archaeology, the importance of terrain and how historical surveys can be used to develop modern Tactics, Techniques and Procedures.
With support from the Naval Academy Museum and the NSGB Environmental Office, and in coordination with Naval Facilities and Engineering Command South East, and the Commander, Navy Region Southeast Historic Preservation Office, Stawnyczyj was able to assemble his team and conduct the survey at NSGB from June 29 through July 9, 2018. The group consisted of Stawnyczyj, Project Archeologist Hannah P. Smith, Midshipman 1st Class Emily Lamphere, and Midshipmen Second Class Elyse MacIsaac, Daniel McDonald, Pedro Castillo Valdes, Joshua Walton, and Alicia Zhou.
Their survey primarily focused on locating evidence showing the location of the Marine’s firing position, and attempting to determine whether any evidence remains of the Spanish Heliograph Station destroyed by the Marines during the battle. The team located spent 6mm Navy Lee cartridges and empty 6mm Navy Lee clips, matching those of the type of rifle used by Marines during the Battle. They also found artillery shell fragments in the vicinity of the locations shelled by the supporting ship USS Dolphin.
A sampling of the artifacts recovered, along with artifacts from previous work on other parts of the Battlefield, will be used to create a new exhibit for the Naval Academy Museum on the Battle. The results of the investigation will be presented in a future article and as part of the USNA’s Shifley lecture series.
More information on the Battle may be found in article “New Glory to Its Already Gallant Record” The First Marine Battalion in the Spanish-American War, by Trevor K. Plante, available at http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1998/spring/spanish-american-war-marines-1.html
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