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Things To Do > Public Archeology on the Patuxent > Sites to Watch

Patuxent Sites to Watch

The following Patuxent River sites (Nottingham, USS Scorpion, and Benedict) may offer opportunities for visiting or getting involved in the future. Their connections to the War of 1812 are significant, which makes them worth keeping tabs on, but their schedules for visiting and volunteering are not yet known. Make sure to check the websites associated with each site for the most up to date information about how these projects are playing out.

Nottingham

17410 Nottingham Road, Nottingham, MD 20772

 

For the time being, there’s not much to see or do at Nottingham Historic Site in Prince George’s County, but plans for further archeological excavations are underway. On April 7, 2012, archeologists from The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission met with members of the public at the historic site and had a discussion about their preliminary findings and the public’s interest in this site’s history. The multi-year archeological project in Nottingham will focus on the port town’s connections to War of 1812 history. A field season schedule for Nottingham has not yet been determined but the archeologists are interested in getting the public involved.

Star-Spangled History: During July and August of 1814, the town of Nottingham on the banks of the Patuxent River served as a base for American Commodore Joshua Barney’s Chesapeake Flotilla. After a skirmish between 30 US Dragoons (infantry mounted on horseback) led by Secretary of State James Madison and British forces led by Major General Robert Ross, the Americans abandoned Nottingham. The British troops under General Ross used the site as an encampment from that date until August 29, 1814.

Contact: Kristin Montaperto – 301-627-1286 – Kristin.Montaperto@pgparks.com

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USS Scorpion Underwater Site

St. Leonard Creek
Archeologist Wes Hall holds a bottle recovered from the sunken vessel. Photos courtesy of Julie Schablitsky

A War of 1812 era shipwreck has been found in the Patuxent River, near the site of Pig Point where Commodore Barney’s Chesapeake flotilla, including his flagship, the USS Scorpion, was scuttled (intentionally sunk) during the war. Barney ordered that the vessels be destroyed to keep them out of enemy hands. While there is not enough evidence to confirm that the wreck is indeed the famed USS Scorpion, the Maryland Highway Administration and the US Navy are working together to find out what this shipwreck can tell us about the lives of those who served onboard and the events that led this vessel to its resting place on the river bottom. Archeologists have plans for the construction of a “cofferdam” and the full excavation of this wreck. A cofferdam would allow archeologists to pump water out of the area of the wreck. This site’s blog provides updates on the project’s progress and even includes video footage of underwater excavation. 

Star-Spangled History: Commodore Joshua Barney proposed the idea of creating the US Chesapeake Flotilla to Secretary of the Navy William Jones in 1813, and Jones approved the construction. Barney then began tirelessly working to create his vision of a squadron of inexpensive gun barges that could quickly attack and retreat from the larger British vessels in order to distract and irritate them. In May of 1814, this 18-vessel fleet made its way south from Baltimore to engage the British navy on the water. In August of 1814, the flotilla became trapped in the upper Patuxent River. As the British approached, led by Admiral Cockburn, the flotillamen scuttled their fleet near Pig Point on August 22, 1814. They were following Commodore Barney’s orders and making sure that the British were not able to seize their weapons, supplies, and barges.

Contact: Julie Schablitsky – jschablitsky@sha.state.md.us

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Benedict at Serenity Farm

6932 Serenity Farm Road, Benedict, MD 20612

 

State Highway Administration (SHA) archeologist Julie Schablitsky and her crew spent some time on the grounds of Serenity Farm, outside Benedict, Maryland in July of 2012. They were looking for signs of this Charles County site’s connection to War of 1812 history. SHA is currently determining whether or not they want to pursue excavating sites on this property. Please contact Julie Schablitsky for updates.
Serenity Farms also has opportunities for hayrides, farming demonstrations, a petting-zoo, and a variety of educational tours that focus on the following topics: “War of 1812,” “Civil War,” “American Indians,” and “Farming and the Environment.”

Star-Spangled History: In June of 1814, Benedict was the site of two British raids that terrorized residents of the area. Later that summer, in early August, the US Chesapeake Flotilla used the site as a base, but they abandoned this base when the British approached and came ashore at Benedict on August 19. The 4,370 man force led by Major General Robert Ross met no resistance, and they were able position three cannons on the hills west of Benedict. The British anchored many of their vessels in the Patuxent, near the shores of Benedict from August 19 to August 30, 1814 and the site served as their onshore encampment during the same time period. Meanwhile, the majority of their forces, numbering around 4,000 marched on Washington, defeated American forces in the Battle of Bladensburg, and continued to Washington where they burned public buildings, including the White House, on August 24. By August 25, they were on their way back to the encampment at Benedict, picking up their wounded in Bladensburg along the way.

Contact: Julie Schablitsky – jschablitsky@sha.state.md.us

Find out more about the archeology site

Find out more about Serenity Farm

A Note from this Guide's Compiler-Author

“In the summer of 2012 I worked as an intern for the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, and creating this guide was easily my favorite part of that experience. I got to be outside, talk with interesting and passionate people (both volunteers and archaeologists), and learn about beautiful places with compelling histories. Even better, by sharing this guide, I get to spread the word about these projects. What I like about archeology projects that reach out to the public is that the process of history-making seems to become more accessible to those who dig and talk with these archaeologists. You don’t have to be an “expert” to be part of writing and rewriting the stories of a place. I believe that having people with a variety of perspectives involved in creating the stories of the past makes those stories more complex and more interesting.” – Ennis Barbery (ebarbery@umd.edu) 

 

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