Madison Square

Madison Square
Savannah Under Fire archaeologists work in Madison Square, Savannah, GA, surrounded by visitors and citizens interested in our dig.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pointy Stilettos

The Coastal Heritage Society recently received a very generous donation. The descendants of Revolutionary War soldier Richard Clough Anderson gave us a small knife, called a stiletto, that is attributed to Casimir Pulaski. Family oral and written histories indicate that a dying Pulaski gave a wounded Anderson his sword (and possibly the stiletto) as they were transported away from the Battle of Savannah.

Pulaski's stiletto?

Richard Clough Anderson fought for independence from January 1776 until the end of the war, serving in several Virginia Regiments. Throughout his six years of service, he was promoted from Captain to Major to Lt. Colonel. According to his pension records, he was in the battles of White Plains and Trenton (1776); Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown (1777); Monmouth (1778); the Siege of Savannah (1779); the Siege of Charleston (1780) after which he was imprisoned for nine months; and Gloucester and Yorktown (1781). He was wounded once by a lead ball in New Jersey, and a second time by a sabre during the Battle of Savannah. These facts can be established from his pension record (

Anderson family histories record even more colorful details. While Anderson was in the hospital with his first wound, he contracted small pox. "Never having any great beauty to spare, on his recovery from this attack, he came out of the hospital with the reputation of being one of the three ugliest men in the American army" (Anderson 1908: 9). He is also reported to be one of the first to surmount Spring Hill Redoubt before being stabbed in the shoulder by Captain Tawes (or Towles) and falling to the base of the trench (Anderson 1908: 10, Anderson 1879:25).

We are in the process of trying to authenticate the stiletto and its oral history. One clue is the engraved letters on each side. The script is beautiful and intricate- but what are the letters?!?  Some staff members have seen "A P." Others see "C P."


Anderson's pension record also indicates he had a son, William M. Anderson. I see "WMA" in the photograph above. What letters do you see?

More historical research will also be necessary to document the relationship between Casimir Pulaski and Anderson. Finally, we are looking at the materials and manufacture of the knife itself. Is this stiletto typical of the late 1700s? Are there modern tool marks? Were the letters engraved when the knife was made or were they added later? Only an antique metals expert will be able to determine the answer to these questions.

If anyone has insight into this mystery, please email us at

References Cited:
Anderson, Charles
1908     Ye Andersons of Virginia and some of their descendants.
Anderson, E.L.
1879     Soldier and Pioneer: A Biographical Sketch of Lt. Col. Richard C. Anderson of the Continental Army. G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York.

1 comment:

  1. Hot Off the Press...
    We just contacted metallurgists at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London about the stiletto and are awaiting word on what information they can provide. This might include information on when it was made based on the method of manufacture, materials used, stylistic treatment and design, engravings, etc. Stay tuned for more...
    Rita Elliott
    Curator of Exhibits and Archaeology
    Coastal Heritage Society, Savannah, Georgia