From Clovis Points to Camo: Archaeology on Fort Campbell

By Nichole Sorensen-Mutchie
Fort Campbell Archaeologist

Generally, people are surprised to hear that Fort Campbell has archaeologists on staff. The Army employs archaeologists as mandated through the thirteen State laws, thirty-three Federal requirements and five Army requirements. As land managers and stewards for the Installation’s 100,000+ acres, the Cultural Resources Program seeks to strike a balance between preserving the area’s rich history without inhibiting the Army’s training mission. We continuously try to bring awareness of the past to foster a deeper connection to the Installation for its soldiers, their families, and outside community.

Although Fort Campbell wasn’t established until 1942, the land within its gates has been inhabited by humans for over 12,000 years. Through archaeological survey, we better understand how the land was used prior to military occupation. In general, small bands of people called the area now known as Fort Campbell home on a seasonal basis throughout prehistory. Native Americans lived in and used the abundant food resources in the area. Local forests were home to game such as elk, bison, white-tail deer and black bear. People also came here to procure stone (chert) for their tools. The high quality chert found here was often made into rough tool preforms which were used as trade items. These preforms were further worked into different tools such as projectile points, knives, and drills.

Examples of points found on Fort Campbell.

Euromericans began settling this area in the early 19th century. The soil was favorable for farming. Additionally, a good supply of timber and abundant fresh water made agriculture ideal. Farms dotted the Fort Campbell landscape by the 1820s and continued through the 20th century. Hay, corn, wheat and cotton were common crops. Tobacco, however, was the most notable. This area became known as the Black Patch for the fire cured tobacco in which the process darkened the leaves. This type of tobacco was heavily sought after by Europeans for dip, pipe tobacco and snuff. Over 130 historic farmsteads have been archaeologically recorded on Fort Campbell and their subtle traces are still visible today. Farming tradition continues today through our Agriculture Outlease Program. 

Farmhouse that once stood on Fort Campbell, ca. 1940.

Although farming was the main industry on Fort Campbell, other industries played an important role, and left their mark archaeologically. For example, iron production became more widespread during the early 19th century. These early furnaces started as small operations to meet local needs for items such as horseshoes and plows. Later, larger operations within large land traces were needed supply iron ore and timber for fuel. Saline Furnace is one example on Fort Campbell and slag can still often be found throughout the rear training area.

Through archaeology, we can tell the stories of the people and communities that once called this place home. Overall, Fort Campbell has over 1,700 recorded archaeological sites, 40 of which are National Register eligible. We haven’t found everything yet! About 10% of Post has yet to be surveyed. Additionally, we have 130 historic family cemeteries, a German POW cemetery, as well as historic architecture. Please visit our website to learn more about the cultural resources on Fort Campbell. https://home.army.mil/campbell/index.php/cultural-resources

Sources:

Bergman, Christopher A. and Charley Comiskey
2006       The Historic Context Statement for Prehistory at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. BHE Environmental, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio. Submitted to the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District, Contract No. DACA27-01-D-0004.

Leary, Christopher G., Lori Stahlgren, Jay Stottman, Sarah Miller, Kim McBride, and Steven McBride
2008       The Historic Context Statement for Historic Archaeology at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky-Tennessee. BHE Environmental, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio. Submitted to the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District, Contract No. DACA27-03-F-0079.

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