Most visitors who tour the Hermitage outside Nashville, Tennessee come to the historic site because it is the home of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States. Hermitage Archaeology Director Kevin Bartoy reminds us, however, that the plantation was also home to over 200 enslaved people. Since those slaves left no written records ongoing archaeological surveys allow a glimpse into the lives they led at Tennessees most famous plantation.
Established in 1804, The Hermitage is an 1,120-acre National Historic Landmark located just east of Nashville, Tennessee. Known as the “Home of President Andrew Jackson,” this historic cotton plantation was also home to over 200 enslaved men, women, and children, whose histories have been largely recovered through archaeological research conducted on the property over the past 40 years. In addition to the Hermitage mansion, the property includes a kitchen, smokehouse, and three log slave cabins that date to Jackson’s occupation of the property from 1804 to his death in 1845. An additional ten slave dwellings have been discovered through archaeological excavation. The nearly 800,000 artifacts recovered on the property represent one of the single largest archaeological collections from an enslaved community anywhere in the New World.
The Hermitage was the setting for one of the earliest archaeological explorations of the enslaved experience in the United States. Findings from these excavations have allowed an unprecedented window to the lives of enslaved who also called The Hermitage “home.” Flints and gun parts revealed that the enslaved kept firearms and were able to augment their standard rations of corn and cured pork with animals that they hunted around the property. Bones from numerous wild animals have been recovered in trash deposits near the homes of the enslaved. Burned seeds and charcoal provide evidence for the enslaved keeping their own gardens as well as foraging wild species from nearby forested lands. These findings demonstrate that the enslaved