The Cargo of the Steamboat Heroine and the Army of the Frontier, 1838
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In spring of 1838, the Heroine steamed up the Red River carrying subsistence supplies for the U.S. Army garrison at Fort Towson, Choctaw Nation. Two miles from its destination, it struck a snag and sank. Rediscovered in 1999, the site was excavated between 2001 and 2008 by the Oklahoma Historical Society, The Institute of Nautical Archaeology, and Texas A&M University, with Dr. Kevin Crisman of Texas A&M as principal investigator. Though most of the cargo had been salvaged, excavators recovered remains of barrels, including three intact pork barrels, and cargo-handling tools. The purpose of this thesis is two-fold: to describe the historical context for Heroine’s last cargo and to explain hand-cooperage technology as a basis for understanding barrel remains. The 1830s saw rapid population growth and westward expansion, and rivers were the great highways for settlers and commerce. At the forefront was the Army of the Frontier, thinly spread in a line of forts reaching from the Red River to Canada. Fort Towson guarded the U.S. border with Mexico and, later, the Republic of Texas, but its first mission was protection of eastern tribes relocated to Indian Territory in the Indian Removals. This thesis traces the history of subsisting the army from 1775 to the creation of the Commissariat of Subsistence in 1818 under Colonel (later Major-General) George Gibson, and discusses the composition and use of the ration as reflections of contemporary medical knowledge and cultural expectations. The events surrounding the loss of the Heroine illustrate the system of supply under the Commissariat. This account is taken from correspondence between Gibson, Lieutenant Colonel Josiah H. Vose, commander of Fort Towson, and the contractors William S. Sullivant and Christopher Niswanger, of Ohio. The Catalog of Cargo-Related Artifacts includes descriptions of barrel remains, faunal remains (pig bones), and cargo-handling tools recovered in the Red River Project.
Chick, Nina M. (2015). The Cargo of the Steamboat Heroine and the Army of the Frontier, 1838. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from