RELICS OF 1778 ARE FOUND
Relics believed to be part of the long lost British warship Zebra sunk 176 years ago in the battle of Chestnut Neck near the mouth of the Mullica River, were recovered by a treasure diver visiting here, it was disclosed today. Arthur McKee, maritime archeologist of Florida and associated with the Smithsonian Institute in underwater water exploration, converted a fishing party into an underwater expedition after a chance remark led to a discussion of the famous battle.
Research and exploration replaced the fishing party and the P.J. Ritter Co. Rod and Gun Club on Lake Nescochague at Pleasant Mills. Included in the group were Hohn A. Mattick, production superintendent of the Ritter Co. and a former Naval lieutenant; Earl L. McCormick, employee relations director of the company; Glen A. Penfield, William G. Penfield, Hannah G. Penfield, and Wilma P. McCormick, all members of the club.
The Zebra was the flagship of Commodore Sir Henry Clinton's fleet of three sloops and four other gunboats which precipitated in the storming of the Colonial fort at Fox Burrow and the burning of the town Chestnut Neck in 1778. The sloop, Vigilant, also was lost in the same action.
After McKee indicated he would like to explore the river bottom for historic wrecks in the hope of locating relics for the Smithsonian, the New Jersey State Museum and the Museum of Sunken Treasure at at Treasure Harbor, Plantation Key, Fla., the group did some research on the battle.
The group obtained the assistance of Horation Cramer and his son, Stanley, shipyard operators near the Mullica River. The Cramers who trace their ancestry to the Revolutionary period, furnished information handed down through the generations that eventually contributed to the discovery of the wreck.
With the aid of makeshift diving gear, McKee descended to the muddy bottom of the Mullica River where he found the historic wreck in 25 feet of water buried under several feet of mud and silt.
The outstanding find was a heavy cast iron chock, a ship fitting with two short horn-shaped arms curving inward between which ropes or anchor hawsers pass in anchoring a ship or mooring it to a dock. Also found were hand-wrought chain boat rings, rock ballast and other fitting of the type carried on early warships.
The metal relics were completely encrusted with a marine and oxide accumulation six inches thick. They were placed in fresh water at Bridgeton until they could be removed to the Smithsonian, where they will be treated and preserved by Mendel L. Peaterson, head curator.
McKee said the accumulation of marine growth and oxidation of the iron relics indicated they have been submerged at least 150 years. he said the fitting were of the type used by warships of that era and the rock ballast not associated with this region. The archeologist indicated there was little doubt the relics came from the Zebra.