John William Morris, III


(Under the direction of Professor Gordon P. Watts, Jr.) Department of History, April 1991.

The hull remains at Site 44Y088 in Yorktown, Virginia provided a rare opportunity to examine the designs and construction of an eighteenth century merchant ship.  Due to the protective environment of the York River the Yorktown vessel offered almost a complete hull for analysis and study.  Prior to the Yorktown Shipwreck Archaeological Project relatively little information was available on the details of merchant ship construction from this time period.  Merchant shipping was the backbone of maritime empires.  The importance of these vessels to maritime commerce makes the Yorktown investigation singularly significant.  After ten seasons of field and archival research the Yorktown Project concluded with the most detailed record of a merchant vessel ever collected in this country.

This ship was lost in Yorktown in 1781, at the conclusion of the British campaign in the south.  The campaign and battle are extensively documented and have been the subject of extensive historical research.  This particular study focused on the construction details and hull design of a collier brig and her role in the campaign.  Several unusual construction methods and design characteristics were revealed and recorded.  The hull remains were intact to the lower deck.  This enabled the project archaeologists to take a complete set of waterlines, presented in this work.  The artifactual material present within the hull also gave an accurate depiction of this ship's role in the campaign.  By combining the archival and documentary sources available with the material from the archaeological records a clear and detailed picture has been developed of merchant ship construction and design and their function in time of war.

The 1855 yellow fever epidemic in Norfolk was the catalyst for a renewed interest in the public health reform.  National meetings on the subject of disease brought a variety of groups together to fight a common foe.  A later epidemic in the Mississippi River Valley refueled the public health reform movement in terms of organizations and creating national policies.