Hallowing This Ground: The Courtland Street Burials and Lake George Battlefield Park

On February 7, 2019, a housing development excavation destroyed numerous unmarked military graves on Courtland Street in Lake George village. Following reports of exposed human remains, Lisa Anderson, curator of bioarchaeology at the New York State Museum, and archaeologist Charles Vandrei of the Department of Environmental Conservation began a multiyear effort to recover and analyze these Revolutionary War remains in advance of their planned reinterment at Lake George Battlefield Park.

Immediately following the 2019 discovery, Anderson and Vandrei investigated the construction site. What they found was evidence for dozens of burials, some partially intact, but most consisting of shattered skeletal fragments held in a house-sized spoil pile left by the construction crew. Over the next 15 months, they oversaw a team of volunteers who progressively excavated and screened the pile to recover human remains from the disturbed burials. 

Courtland Spoil Pile

Excavation of the spoil pile at the Courtland Street residential development to recover human remains from disturbed burials, May 20, 2019.



Courtland Street Burial Button, drawing by Lexi DeCarlo

Regimental button from the First Pennsylvania Battalion, recovered at the Courtland Street cemetery, indicates that the burials date to the Revolutionary War and were likely associated with the General Hospital at Fort George in 1776.
Illustration by Alexandra DeCarlo. 

Initially thought to represent graves from the mid-18th century French and Indian War, the discovery of a regimental button from the First Pennsylvania Battalion placed this cemetery at the time of the American Revolution. The cemetery is believed to be associated with the General Hospital established at Fort George in 1776 to treat the sick and wounded brought from Crown Point and Ticonderoga. They were sent by the thousands, many suffering from smallpox and other diseases that could not be treated with the simple herbs and medical practices available at the time.

The painstaking sorting and inventory of the human remains by Anderson and NYSM bioarchaeologists Julie Weatherwax and Alexandra DeCarlo revealed the graves of at least 44 individuals that were destroyed. Many were young men and boys in their teens who had enlisted as young as 16 years old. Two were children, probably members of families travelling with the troops. There also may have been women, enslaved, and Indigenous individuals but the remains are too fragmented to identify. The recovered remains represent a fraction of those who died and were buried in Lake George in the summer of 1776. 

Courtland Sorted Excavations

Shattered bone fragments from disturbed burials, recovered at the Courtland Street Burying Ground.


Since the discovery of the Courtland Street burials, consultation with local, state, and federal officials and with the support of Senator Charles Schumer’s office led to a plan to ultimately reinter the remains of these Revolutionary War soldiers at the Lake George Battlefield Park. On Friday, June 14, 2024, a ceremony was held to consecrate the ground where these remains will be buried. 

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Lisa Anderson remarked, “If anything good has come of this, it's the recognition of their place in the American Revolution right here in Lake George, and we are here to honor them. It's the recognition of the dedication of so many of you to do the right thing, and we are here to honor you. And it's the hope that this project may have played a small role in getting a new law passed to protect other unmarked burial sites like this." Anderson further expressed, "As our work continues, piece by piece, we hope to be able to tell more of their story—who they were, how they lived and maybe how they died."

NYSM Bioarchaeologist Lisa Anderson presenting at the June 14, 2024 consecration ceremony

NYSM bioarchaeologist Lisa Anderson offered remarks at the June 14, 2024, ceremony to consecrate the ground where the Revolutionary War remains from Courtland Street will be reinterred.

Additional Resources

Bioarchaeology at the Courtland Street Burying Ground (NYSM, 2019)

NYS Museum piecing together remains of Revolutionary War soldiers recovered in Lake George (WRGB, May 2023)

Lake George remains likely first protected under new law (WTEN, Nov 2023)

New York State Unmarked Burial Site Protection Act