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Geophysicist 'proves' Bushy Run battle

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By Jennifer Reeger
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
 

If anyone ever doubted that the Battle of Bushy Run happened at the Penn Township battlefield where generations said it happened, a Monroeville geophysicist has no doubts.

"They should be very, very comfortable that they are standing on a significant battlefield," William Johnson, senior geophysicist at D'Appolonia Engineers in Monroeville. "There's not any doubt at all."

Johnson and his brother, Don Johnson, a geophysicist from Minnesota, conducted a survey last year at the battlefield grounds. William Johnson will present a lecture about the findings 1 p.m. Saturday in the Stone Room at the battlefield Museum and Visitor's Center.

"Bushy Run Battlefield: Looking for Forbes Road" will focus on the findings of the survey, which was initiated as part of a National Parks grant Bushy Run received to find artifacts, define the battlefield's boundaries and verify the park was the site of the 1763 battle between British and American Indian forces.

Lauren Buches, museum facilitator, said before the study there was no hard evidence the battlefield was the actual site of the battle. No parts of Forbes Road had been uncovered. A mass grave that supposedly was dug for British soldiers has never been found.

"One of the characteristics of the Bushy Run Battlefield is the battle took place right along Forbes Road. Forbes Road existed before the battle did. (British soldiers) were on their way to Pittsburgh, and they were ambushed by Indians," Johnson said. "You can't see Forbes Road there anymore, but if you could find evidence the road actually did go through where people currently have the Bushy Run park, that would be evidence this story is right; this could be the real deal here."

Johnson said on the surface, you cannot see a continuous road going through the park.

"What the ground survey revealed is that you can see features that look like they could be Forbes Road," he said. "We were kind of encouraged."

Johnson said he and his brother used a number of techniques, from ground-penetrating radar to magnetic resonance to metal detection, in their survey.

They found features where the ground appears to be different -- a road about 15 to 20 feet wide where Forbes Road should be.

"Where we do see Forbes Road, it is consistent with where one would expect to find Forbes Road," Johnson said.

The biggest piece of evidence is a 1765 map of the battlefield that perfectly matches a topographical map of the park, Johnson said.

The discovery of bullets, gun parts and other artifacts by archaeologists from GAI Consultants Inc., who led the entire project, also contributed to Johnson's unequivocal belief the battle happened there.

Admission to Saturday's lecture is $5 for the public and free to members of the Bushy Run Battlefield Heritage Society.

Fore more information, contact Buches at 724-527-5584, ext. 101.

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