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A unique button found on the wreck of a British ship from 1782.

A unique button from the The American Revolutionary War has been discovered by marine archaeologists from the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Marine Museum. While investigating the wreck of an unidentified British vessel, archaeologists discovered something unusual. A small metal object was stuck in the concretion – a button with the acronym USA on it. At
Published: January 28, 2022 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 23:58
A unique button found on the wreck of a British ship from 1782.

A unique button from the The American Revolutionary War has been discovered by marine archaeologists from the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Marine Museum.

While investigating the wreck of an unidentified British vessel, archaeologists discovered something unusual. A small metal object was stuck in the concretion – a button with the acronym USA on it. At first glance something so small may seem like an object without much value, but not in this case.

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The discovered inscription makes the object very special. For it is one of the earliest known uses of the acronym USA. It was most likely a button that was once attached to the uniform of a soldier in George Washington’s army. Researchers immediately linked the find to The American Revolutionary War.

Storm Wreck

Maritime archaeologists from the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Marine Museum have recovered a button at the ‘Stom Wreck’ site. This is the final resting place of an unidentified British vessel. It is only known that the ship went down on December 31, 1782. It was very surprising to the specialists that the object came from the wreck of a British and not an American vessel. Historians have hypothesised that the button may have been part of a war trophy. However, it is not known whether the British took it from the battlefield or whether it may have been taken from one of the prisoners of war.

This button is one of the earliest evidences of the use of the acronym ‘U.S.A.’. Finding it was like a cherry on top of the maritime history of the oldest port said Kathy Fleming, director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Marine Museum.

Treatment of nodules recovered from the wreck Surprising discovery

Even more unusual are the circumstances under which the unique button saw the light of day. It happened at the museum when a conservator from the St Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum laboratory was demonstrating extraction techniques to visitors. While cleaning the concretion extracted from the wreck, a button suddenly emerged with the US inscription prominently displayed.

No one knows when U.S. soldiers first received U.S.A. buttons, but the agreed-upon date is around 1777, since Congress formally declared the new country’s name in September 1776. There are dozens of different styles of U.S.A. buttons, but this one appears to be nearly identical to a button found at Valley Forge, from the winter of 1777. reported researchers from the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Marine Museum.

The “Storm Wreck” site was discovered by marine archaeologists in 2009 in the Atlantic, about a mile off the coast of Florida. As part of their work to date, they have excavated other artefacts in addition to the button. Among them are a ship’s bell, firearms and Artois shoe buckles.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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