PORT REPUBLIC >> The anchor from a ship that sank more than 240 years ago at the Battle of Chestnut Neck has been restored and is on display at the Marine Field Station at Stockton University.
Stockton marine science adjunct faculty member Stephen Nagiewicz said he hopes the anchor from the Bead wreck can link current residents to the Revolutionary War history of the area.
The Field Station is located along Nacote Creek, which feeds into the Mullica River. Using sonar technology, Nagiewicz, students and Field Station staff have discovered and mapped Revolutionary War shipwrecks that would have become forgotten history.
The anchor was officially installed and dedicated on Oct. 6, 2020 the 242nd anniversary of the battle. The shop got its name from the glass trading beads found scattered among the ship’s remains.
Nagiewicz explained the history of the ship:
"Ten naval ships and over 300 British marines and Loyalists came here to burn the town of Port Republic, which was supporting privateers. Boat captains, sailing ship captains and whale boat captains of the time had been issued a Letter of Marque and became privateers. They were authorized to steal from the British and give to George Washington, which they did, and they did it so well that the British were starting to see shortages of lumber, cloth and food because the Mullica River was the place it was all going to auction.
Sir Henry Clinton got really annoyed and told the commanders to destroy the town of Port Republic, which they did. They burned it along with the tavern and 10 ships in the harbor that were prize vessels most likely."
A prize vessel is a boat that privateers commandeered from the British, so during the battle, the British were burning their own ships to keep the privateers from benefiting from their resources.
"The town knew the British were coming for a long time,” Nagiewicz said. “They had a chance to evacuate all of the valuables. The anchor is a symbol of that whole fight. If it weren’t for the privateers at Chestnut Neck, we’d be drinking tea and eating crumpets instead of Dunkin Donuts and WaWa coffee. The privateers were a big part of the Navy that helped us win the war. There were over 1,700 privateers up and down the U.S. coast. There were only at the highest point 64 Colonial Navy ships. The privateers outnumbered our own Navy."
Nagiewicz, who is also an adjunct instructor at Stockton, offered his students extra credit to help him with the restoration project, but he admitted that those who came didn't need any extra credit.
"They came here because they wanted to learn about history," he said.
Michael Misko, a Hospitality and Tourism major, took a summer class to learn about shipwrecks and got involved with the restoration project.
"In that class we learned that there are at least 3,000-4,000 known shipwrecks sitting out there just off our New Jersey coast. There is a lot of cool stuff you can learn about out there," he said.
Peter Straub, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and a diver himself, said when the anchor first came out of the river it was encrusted, fouled and covered with living organisms.
“What Steve and the students have done, in a number of ways, is turning back time. They did it chemically and electrolytically," Straub said.
The anchor sat in a tank for about two years while electricity and a chemical bath soaked into the rust and turned the iron into hematite, which corrodes much slower.