Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Brookeville 1814

The town of Brookeville, Maryland has a new interactive website highlighting the town's involvement in the War of 1812! Here is what it's all about:
As the sun set on August 26, 1814, a weary James Madison rode into the town of Brookeville, Maryland. The President of the United States had been on the move for nearly three days since he left Washington ahead of the British troops marching to capture the city.
In Brookeville, the President found a small but prosperous industrial town overflowing with other refugees from Washington. After a night spent at the home of leading residents Caleb and Henrietta Bentley, Madison and his attendants returned to Washington the next morning. His stay made the town "U.S. Capital for a Day," a title the town still proudly claims today.
Brookeville 1814 explores the people and community that welcomed the President and the town's place in American history.
Check it out here: http://msa.maryland.gov/brookeville/index.html

Find out about upcoming War of 1812 events in Brookeville here: http://uscapitalforaday.org/

And check out the pictures of the archaeological dig at Madison House right here: http://uscapitalforaday.org/archaeology/

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Archaeological Potential of a Burned Capital

Today's post comes to us from Kevin Bradley, a former intern for DC's Historic Preservation Office through the Washington DC District Leader Program (DLP). Kevin recently completed his Master's degree in Public Anthropology at American University, and is currently working for JMA in Philadelphia. While he was still with the DC HPO, he addressed a problem familiar to every urban archaeologist: how much has the intensive development of the modern landscape obscured (or obliterated) the physical remains of the past?

The Archaeological Potential of a Burned Capital 

Recently, the Washington, DC Historic Preservation Office (DC HPO) Archaeologist, Dr. Ruth Trocolli, and her staff incorporated the GIS Cut/Fill tool in their efforts to identify archaeological sites within the city. Since August 24th and 25th of this year will be the 200th anniversary of the burning of the capital by the British Army, we decided to explore a few notable sites from the invasion in 1814 to find out what this new analysis would add to an understanding of the city’s history.

One of the main responsibilities of the DC HPO Archaeologist is to ensure the integrity of the city’s archaeological resources. Quite often this means providing information and as much guidance as possible to archaeological companies contracted to conduct studies within the District, such as historic documents, maps, references, and geographical information systems (or GIS) data. GIS, in particular, is an extremely valuable resource for archaeologists. The DC HPO uses GIS to map previously discovered sites and locations of surveys, as well as landscape features. In other words, it helps archaeologists keep track of the ever-changing urban environment in Washington, DC, including the construction of roads, bridges, and buildings, the installment of numerous utilities, and the changing elevations and shorelines of the city. All of these activities may have an impact on archaeological remains. The GIS tool, “Cut/Fill”, helps archaeologists understand these changes to the landscape even better.

What is a Cut/Fill analysis? It is a simply a method of calculating the elevation changes in a landscape over a period of time. Most cities are not built on unaltered terrain. Buildings, roads, and other infrastructure are easier to build on relatively flat surfaces. Therefore, higher elevations, such as hills, tend to be leveled and low lying spots, like valleys and streams, get filled. Comparing the elevations from, say, an 1888 topographic map and a current topographic map may tell us how much earth has been cut away or added in between the two periods, potentially destroying or preserving buried archaeological features in the process.

Battle of Bladensburg (Copyright Gerry Embleton; Courtesy NPS/Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail)
Washington, DC, like every other city, has changed dramatically since 1814. While excellent archaeological work has been conducted around the city boundary on the site of the Bladensburg Battlefield, little work in the District has focused on the British march through the city. Performing a Cut/Fill analysis of broad areas where these activities took place will help determine if archaeological sites are likely to be present and provide some idea of their integrity. What follows is the result of performing this analysis on a few select sites and what the results indicate about potential material remains.

Eastern Avenue Ortho 2012 (DC HPO GIS)
1888 US Coastal and Geodetic Survey (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA))
The American defeat at Bladensburg on August 24, 1814 completely opened up the nascent capital city to the British. Part of the battle (or at least the retreat) spilled across the current DC/MD boundary. As you can see from the 2012 Orthographic aerial photograph (above), this portion of Washington, DC is heavily urbanized. Fort Lincoln Cemetery (top right of the photo) lies on the Maryland side of the boundary line and abuts the District along its southwest border. The second image shows an 1888 US Coastal and Geodetic Survey map overlaid on top of the 2012 photo. You may be wondering why a map produced 74 years after the event is being used for comparison. Unfortunately, reliably detailed maps of Washington, DC are few and far between prior to about the Civil War. The 1888 map represents one of the more comprehensive early maps. In order to determine elevation change, topographic lines from different time periods must be compared. Once two sets of topographic lines are obtained, a rendering of the terrain can be produced within the GIS program and a Cut/Fill analysis will determine where changes in elevation have occurred.

Eastern Avenue Cut/Fill (DC HPO GIS)
Eastern Avenue Area of Interest (DC HPO GIS)
The image above is a simple outcome from running the analysis. The red represents areas that have been filled (where the soil has increased in volume) and the blue represents areas that have been cut (where the soil has lost volume). Grey represents no change, which you can see from the image, is not common. The degree of cut and fill activity represented in this image is unsurprising given such a developed area. Noticeable in this map are features, such as Bladensburg Road located in the northwest of the cut and fill area, indicated by a thin line of fill, and a creek, present on the 1888 map in the southeast corner, which has since been filled, indicated by the large red blotch in its place. The yellow box in the second image represents an area of interest for the DC HPO archaeology staff – a presumably relatively undisturbed area just across the city boundary from Fort Lincoln Cemetery, where archaeological remains of the battle were previously located.

The British pursued the fleeing Americans southwest along present-day Bladensburg Road until they reached the city gate. Though this area is not specifically identified on maps or in primary sources, it is assumed that the British halted and camped just outside the current intersection of Florida Avenue (then Boundary Street), Bladensburg Road, Benning Road, Maryland Avenue, and 15 Street. The image below was created from the same 1888 topographic map as the previous Cut/Fill analysis. Again, we can see sporadic episodes of cut and fill throughout the area, though lines clearly follow roads and buildings at times. The partially transparent close-up image shows how areas, especially under ball fields and buildings, have been graded to make level surfaces. If you’re wondering why this particular map took such an odd shape, it’s because the production of any map is reliant on available data (see the 1888 map, below). The notch omitted from the Cut/Fill map represents the former site of the Washington Brick Company where no topographic lines were recorded, though the nature of work at brick yards virtually ensured that any archaeological deposits would have been destroyed.

British Encampment Site (DC HPO GIS)
British Encampment Site, Close-Up (DC HPO GIS)
1888 US Coastal and Geodetic Survey, British Encampment Site (NOAA)
While the main force of the British army was camped outside the city gate or still marching down the road from Bladensburg, General Robert Ross, Rear Admiral George Cockburn, and a handful of British soldiers continued down Maryland Avenue towards the US Capitol building to discuss the city’s surrender. A few hundred feet prior to the East Lawn of the Capitol, the British were fired upon from a structure located on the northwest corner of the Constitution Avenue and 2nd Street, NE intersection – the current location of the Sewall-Belmont House. After razing the building, the British 3rd Regiment entered the city and proceeded to burn several public buildings (and a couple private structures) over the course of the following 24 hours.

U.S. Capitol after burning by the British (George Munger, 1814, Library of Congress)

Perhaps most infamously (for Americans), the British showed no hesitation in storming up Capitol Hill and setting fire to the still incomplete government structure that sat atop it, incinerating the House of Representatives, as well as collections that comprised the Library of Congress (LOC). While the British soldiers supposedly set up camp on the East Lawn of Capitol Hill, General Ross established his headquarters in the private home of Dr. James Ewell; an end row house on the northeast corner of 1st and A Streets SE (the former intersection can be seen in the 1872 map below).

Carroll Row, ca. 1880 (Levin Handy, Library of Congress)
1872 Bastert-Enthoffer Topographic Map (Library of Congress)
The 1888 US Coastal and Geodetic Survey used to produce the two previous Cut/Fill maps did not record elevation data in the city proper (the historic federal city). Therefore, the 1872 Bastert-Enthoffer Topographic map (above) was used in its place. The 1872 topographic map also provides elevation data at five-foot intervals; though, you may notice that the topographic lines are not as detailed as the 1888 map, meaning fewer elevation points were likely obtained to create those lines. Hence, the resulting Cut/Fill map may be less precise in its measurements than previous maps.

Capitol Hill Cut/Fill (DC HPO GIS)
Nevertheless, the Cut/Fill map of Capitol Hill (above) produced expected patterns (i.e., cut and fill along roads and the edges of squares). If we trust the reliability of this map, though, a large swath of the East Lawn of the Capitol has been cut away, unfortunately, removing any potential evidence of a campsite. Dr. Ewell’s house, however, appears to be located in an area of fill. The Cut/Fill map, though, may not always tell us everything we need to know…

Library of Congress construction, 1889 (Levin Handy, LOC)
The image above shows the construction of the current LOC building in 1893 on the site where Dr. Ewell’s house once stood. Notice the depth cut for the foundation of the LOC most assuredly affected any potential archaeological remains. The point is that while a Cut/Fill map may indicate an area of fill, archaeologists must incorporate other research to determine whether intact buried historic layers remain.

These are just a few of the sites related to the British invasion of Washington, DC. From the Capitol, the British spread out through the city and burnt or ensured the destruction of other notable structures, such as the President’s Mansion (White House), the Navy Yard, the US Treasury, and others, before exiting the city on the night of the 25th.

The DC HPO is in possession of few confirmed artifacts related to the War of 1812.  Archaeology presents a unique opportunity to inform current DC citizens of and connect them to this extremely formative and often overlooked event in the city’s (and country’s) history. The Cut/Fill tool is a valuable first step in exploring the archaeological viability of these sites. Of course, archaeologists will never know the validity of any desktop analysis until shovels are actually put in the ground, but the potential of this GIS tool to predict intact site locations seems promising.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Meet William Beanes

Here's an interesting event: you can join The Center for a Healthy Maryland for the Fifth Annual Hunt Lectureship on Wednesday, June 25, 2014. This year’s speaker is Paul Plamann, Park Ranger at Fort McHenry, who portrays MedChi Founder, William Beanes, M.D.

Dr. Beanes, a country physician from Southern Maryland, was taken captive by the British Army and Francis Scott Key was dispatched to negotiate for his release. While doing so, the Battle of Baltimore began, and Fort McHenry was bombed for more than 25 hours. When the smoke cleared, Key and Beanes could see the massive flag flying over Fort McHenry, and knew that the Fort had not fallen and Baltimore was safe. Francis Scott Key was moved to write the verses which became our national anthem – the Star-Spangled Banner. You can read more about the fascinating life of Dr. Beanes right over here at the MedChi blog.

The Fifth Annual Hunt Lectureship will begin with a reception at 5:45 and the lecture will begin at 6:30 with the singing of the National Anthem. Tickets are free, but reservations are necessary. Please e-mail events@medchi.org, or call 410-539-0872, ext 3337.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

MedChi and the War of 1812

MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society, is now a partner of Maryland's War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission! The Medical Society was originally known as the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of the State of Maryland, but nowadays that's been shortened to MedChi. MedChi was founded in 1799, and fortunately for everyone, they maintain an archive that documents their long and fascinating history.

In 1814, MedChi’s physicians were present at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore, and nearly 30 of their physicians were involved in other War of 1812 battles. The MedChi archive's blog will feature several articles about MedChi members' role in the war over the next few months. You can check out their blog right here: http://medchiarchives.blogspot.com/, and start learning about early 19th-century medical practices!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Go Dig Hampstead Hill!

Are you in Baltimore, or do you plan to visit soon? If so, you should head out to Patterson Park, where Baltimore Heritage and their partners are conducting an archaeological investigation looking for the remains of the fortified line that defended Baltimore from a British land attack during and after the Battle of Baltimore in 1814. The project is an opportunity to research the history of the battle, celebrate Baltimore’s history, and preserve Hampstead Hill and the Eastern Defensive Line for future generations to discover.

You can find out more about the project here, or sign up to volunteer here, or just check out their Open House on April 19th (more information here). I have it on very good authority that they're finding all kinds of cool stuff!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mystery on the Maumee

This week, we have a fascinating article from Patrick M. Tucker, RPA, of Firelands Archaeological Research Center in Amherst, Ohio. I recruited him as a guest blogger when I read an article he wrote with David Stothers in Northwest Ohio History. This project focuses on a frontier settlement in Ohio called Port Miami, and the long, strange story of how Port Miami was lost, almost found, almost found again, and finally really found through diligent historical research and the revisiting of an old and almost forgotten archaeological collection. That archaeological collection, and the excavation of the site (18Wo50), led to the discovery of a really remarkable piece of history that had been overlooked for 200 years - and it was a very exciting story, too. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Note: Port Miami was known variously as Port Miami, the Port of Miami, Miami Rapids, and Maumee Rapids, among other combinations. For the sake of clarity, I have changed all references to the town's name to "Port Miami," although this name was by no means agreed upon historically. The river near the settlement is known today as the Maumee, so I refer to it as such, although it likewise has had many names in the past.


By Patrick M. Tucker, RPA
Firelands Archaeological Research Center, Amherst, Ohio

The historian Donald Hickey has famously called the War of 1812 “America’s forgotten war,” but forgotten or not, the war was particularly hard-fought along the Detroit frontier. In North America and Canada, over 45 battles were fought during the course of the entire conflict. Three of the five worst actions in terms of the number of Americans killed, wounded, and captured were all fought near Lake Erie’s western basin. Those three battles were the siege and surrender of Detroit (2,340 men lost on August 16, 1812), the battles and massacre of the River Raisin (1,067 between January 17-19, 1813), and the first and second sieges of Fort Meigs (938 between April 28-May 9 and July 21-27, 1813).

But what happened to the small American frontier settlements and communities in the Midwestern part of the country, caught in the web of military action between Great Britain, her native allies, and the United States? History, for the most part, remains silent on this aspect of the war. There must have been dozens of frontier settlements in the present-day states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin that faced the problem fight or flight during the War of 1812. This is the story of one such settlement.

The Mysterious Village

Early military reports of the War of 1812 near Fort Meigs, Ohio, and late 19th-century reminiscences by early settlers suggested the existence of a previously unknown and mysterious settlement along the Maumee River prior to the construction of Fort Meigs in 1813.

Elias Darnell, a volunteer soldier with the Kentucky militia stationed at Fort Meigs, kept a journal. On January 16, 1813, he noted the solemn appearance and majestic beauty of the rural landscape, draped in a blanket of white snow. He remarked that the only signs of human settlement were the brick chimneys of ruined houses, their former owners apparently long gone and unknown. Less than a month later, Captain Daniel Cushing, commander of a gun battery of the 2nd U.S. Light Artillery Regiment at Fort Meigs, fired a cannon ball from the fort, across the Maumee River, where it landed short of its intended target and bounced into the only abandoned house still standing among the ruins of this unknown village. The ruins were mentioned once again in June of 1813 when Samuel Williams, of Chillicothe (Ohio), sent a description and sketch of the area to the editor of the Weekly Register in Baltimore (Maryland) for publication and the interest of its readers concerning the war near Fort Meigs.

Samuel Williams' map of the area around Fort Meigs, Ohio, including the ruin of a village. From the Miami Rapids Weekly Register, Jul 17 1813 V4 No 98
Other clues to the mysterious village’s existence came from celebratory activities and reminiscences of early settlers remembering the War of 1812 in the local community. At a battlefield preservation ceremony conducted at Fort Meigs in 1896 by the Maumee Valley Monumental Association, two women, Esther Purdy Green and Philothe Clark, shared their experiences with the public as young girls who lived as frontier pioneers near the Maumee Rapids in 1812. And, in 1908, hundred of musketballs and other War of 1812 artifacts, including a copper U.S. 1813 cent, washed out of the river bank below and slightly upriver of Fort Meigs. Local historian John Gunckel was eager to attribute these remains to military activities at Fort Meigs, not knowing these objects could have been the result of military action well before Fort Meigs was constructed to defend Ohio from British and Indian military invasion and attack.

Was the village destroyed in fighting during the British and Indian invasion of Ohio after the fall of Detroit in August of 1812? Or had the settlers simply fled, abandoning their homes? What caused the village to disappear, almost without a trace, from the American frontier landscape?

The Discovery of 18Wo50

In 1977, students from the University of Toledo, under David M. Stothers, excavated the Strzesynski site (33Wo50) on the Maumee River floodplain just west of Fort Meigs. The excavations revealed structural remains of an early 19th-century log farmhouse, as well as some prehistoric materials and various other artifacts. Historical investigations, including the examination of the property records, deeds, and other archival sources, had not been conducted. Lesson number one: never dig an historic site without first conducting historical investigations. Historical research will tell you what questions to ask of the site, where to look, and its overall significance to local, regional, and national history.

Excavations at 33Wo50
Among the artifacts recovered from the site were coins, War of 1812 military artifacts (1st and 3rd light artillery regiment buttons, U.S. general service button, scabbard chape, musket sling clasp), crockery, buttons with quality marks, a brass locket with a glass cover, a Britannia ladle handle, a musket ball and shot, iron nails,  brass thimble, a jaw harp, a lead bale seal,a screw driver, a silver-plated Indian brooch, federal-style drawer-pull plates, and a pocket knife with an engraved bone handle.

An assortment of the artifacts recovered at 33Wo50
One of the features identified during the brief excavations, designated Feature 4, contained some of the remains of a structure. The profile or cross-section of this feature showed a cellar hole at the bottom, followed by a layer of fire-reddened clay and a burned structure floor, structural rubble and debris above the floor layer, and the plow zone above this with scattered artifacts and other materials. Cultural contents consisted of foundation stone (large limestone rock slabs and cobbles) above the cellar hole, heat-oxidized limestone mortar, lathe-plaster from the structure’s interior walls, fire-reddened clay, pieces of carbonized wood with mortar still attached, hand-forged and machine-cut iron nails, various early 19th-century artifacts, burnt brick from a collapsed chimney, deformed and discolored window glass (burned or heat-oxidized), and highly corroded sheet iron. This feature probably represented part of the north wall of the farmhouse, which contained the home’s doorway with at least one window facing the Maumee River, which was the primary means of transportation during the pioneer period.

The base of the structure had a limestone rock or slab foundation supporting a wooden floor. Handmade brick recovered from this feature and the general fill of the excavation unit represented a fireplace and chimney. The structure was destroyed by fire at some point, and the debris and rubble with cultural contents slumped into the cellar hole. 

After only a week of test excavations, the property owner visited the site during lunch one day, and asked the field crew what they had found. The principal investigator was away from the site at the time, and the field crew, excited about their interesting discoveries, told the property owner about their findings, including the handful of coins they had recovered.

Excavations at 33Wo50
Later that day, the property owner returned to the site and ordered the archaeologists to pack up their equipment and leave the property. Members of the Toledo Area Aboriginal Research Society (TAARS) at Fort Meigs later observed a backhoe at the site excavating several trenches; it appears that the property owner believed some sort of buried treasure was present on his property. Lesson number two: never let the field crew engage in conversation about the excavations with the property owner. That’s the job of the principal investigator. A simple slip of the tongue can compromise an entire archaeological project.

Preliminary historical research identified Aurora Spafford and his mother, Olive Spafford, as the owners of the farmhouse and property from 1818 to 1823. Amos Spafford, Aurora’s father and Olive’s husband, was a customs collector from 1810 until his death in 1817. Most of the artifacts recovered from the site were consistent with a frontier domestic site dating to the first part of the 19th century; but Stothers was intrigued by small discrepancies in the material culture and the historical documentation. There were a number of War of 1812-period military artifacts among the materials recovered from the site. Were these heirlooms? The only widely known War of 1812 activity that occurred nearby was at Fort Meigs. What was the connection between the Spaffords and the War of 1812?

Lacking funding for further research, and with plenty of other endangered sites to worry about, Stothers moved on to other projects.

18Wo50 was boxed up and shelved for 32 years.

The Spafford Farmstead

In 2009, with the War of 1812 bicentennial approaching, interest in sites with a connection to the war increased, and 18Wo50 was dusted off for a second look. Stothers recalled there were several War of 1812 military artifacts in the 33Wo50 collection that were not satisfactorily reconciled with the historical context of the Spafford farmhouse. Stothers and a former contract archaeologist (the author of this post) began in-depth historical investigations of the site and analysis of its material culture, to see how much of the mystery they could unravel.

The first key piece of evidence they found was a petition written by Amos Spafford to Ohio State Senator Thomas Worthington in 1811. In it, Spafford asked Congress to pass a law giving him the right of pre-emption to purchase his land. 

Spafford’s petition was not a major priority when it was originally received, likely due to the government's preoccupation with the specter of war with Great Britain. The request resurfaced after the War of 1812 in a report to Congress by the Committee on Public Lands in 1816. This report recounted a fascinating history: in August of 1812, the Spaffords, along with several other American families, fled Port Miami to the interior of Ohio, leaving their home and property to be “plundered, burnt, and destroyed." The committee concluded that Spafford had incurred considerable expense in erecting the necessary buildings to accommodate his family and carry out the duties of his office as customs collector and inspector of the revenue at Port Miami. They recommended to Congress approval of the right of pre-emption to purchase the land upon which his homestead had once stood. So Spafford’s house and outbuildings described in 1816 were not his original house and buildings, but had been rebuilt after the War of 1812.

This was the secret concealed from archaeologists in the rubble and debris excavated at 33Wo50 in 1977. It wasn’t a single house, but two separate houses built on the same site during back-to-back occupations. 33Wo50 was a pre- and post-War of 1812 frontier farmstead. The original Spafford house (1810-1812) was destroyed by fire in August of 1812. The second house was built by 1816, and inhabited by the Spafford family until 1823, when Olive Spafford died. The farmhouse was inhabited by another family in 1833, and eventually abandoned due to flooding, which completely destroyed the house by 1858. The Spafford farmhouse, and the other buildings that had once formed the settlement of Port Miami, were soon concealed beneath layers of silt deposited by the Maumee River.

Personal letters and memoirs by Port Miami residents, kept in the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library, shed still more light on this lost chapter of frontier history. Some of these, but not all, were reprinted in the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections between 1874 and 1924. In 1809, Port Miami was described as a rural village of about 100 inhabitants.

By 1812, Port Miami consisted of about 70 French and English-speaking families, around 280 people. Jean-Baptiste Beaugrand, a partner of the firm Godfroy & Beaugrand, managed a store that sold transnational goods to farmers, traders, and Indians alike. Farms generally consisted of a log house, one or more outhouses, garden, barn, fenced livestock compound, and fenced fields for crops. Amos Spafford had an warehouse and office for his duties as customs collector, and David Hull, nephew of General and Governor William Hull, had a store and warehouse in the settlement. But as the settlement grew, Spafford found that the Port Miami community was deeply divided into contentious pro-Michigan and pro-Ohio factions who vied for political control of the settlement.

Relations were also adversarial between the Port Miami settlers and the local Native Americans. In January of 1812, news of Indian depredations on the frontier prompted Spafford to write Reuben Attwater, Acting Governor of the Michigan Territory at Detroit, asking for arms to be issued to the community’s militia company.

Reports circulating throughout the region claimed that Indians were burning houses, killing cattle, and attacking settlers. Unfortunately, the rumors proved all too true. Indians killed two young men twenty miles east of Sandusky on April 4, 1812; twelve days later, they killed three others near Fort Defiance.  When local settlers brought their bodies into Port Miami on April 19, most Port Miami citizens were ready to flee the settlement for fear of massacre.

Official reports in the Canadian library and archives at Toronto and the Knopf volumes at the Ohio Historical Society revealed that the situation changed drastically when Detroit surrendered to the British on August 16, 1812. The terms of surrender demanded by Major-General Isaac Brock, and agreed to by Brigadier-General Hull, included all American troops who were now prisoners of war. The Michigan and Ohio militia were paroled upon their pledge to remain in an inactive status for the remainder of the war, or suffer hanging if captured again. The surrender included the militia garrisons and military blockhouses at the River Raisin and Port Miami.

Early in the morning of August 21, 1812, Lieutenant John Caris made ready to evacuate the Ohio militia garrison at Port Miami in fear of the British and Indian force at Frenchtown. He informed the remaining residents, about 25 families or 100 individuals, that his detachment would quickly evacuate to Lower Sandusky (now Fremont, Ohio). He urged them to take what provisions they needed from the block-house.

Later that morning, a British and Indian detachment from Fort Malden, Canada headed to Port Miami to accept the surrender of the port facility. The party consisted of Captains Peter Latouche Chambers and William Elliott, both of the British 41st Regiment of Foot, Captains Matthew Elliott and Thomas McKee of the British Indian Department, Captain Charles Askin and Jean-Baptiste Barthe (interpreter) both of the Essex County Militia (Ontario, Canada), Lieutenant Benoit Bender, commander of the British gunboat Chippewa, and some Canadien boatmen, Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, Wyandot Chief Roundhead and his band of Indians.

When Spafford received word of their approach, he immediately gathered his family and several neighbors and headed for the river, where they launched a barge that had descended the river the year before from Fort Wayne (Indiana). Raising a square sail made from a bed blanket, they headed downriver and made cover under old Fort Miami, when they saw flames rising from their deserted homes. While the Indians looted and plundered the houses, Spafford and his little band of fugitives sailed downriver to Miami (Maumee) Bay, where they made their way eastward on Lake Erie, hugging the shoreline, and keeping out of range of rifle shot. The party descended the Huron River, and eventually made it safely to the Quaker settlement at Milan.

Several other families hastily left by wagon south for Urbana (Ohio) through the Black Swamp. Nearly devoured by mosquitoes with no water, except what filled the cattle tracks, the group arrived at Urbana exhausted and hungry after a two week journey. Other Port Miami residents hid in the woods upon arrival of the Indians, and watched from concealed positions as their homes were ransacked, feather beds ripped open and contents scattered to the winds, money and valuables stolen, and their houses burned to the ground.

When Chambers arrived at Port Miami, he was stunned to see its destruction in progress. Tecumseh stopped the Wyandot from burning all the houses and personally saved the life of long-time resident Lewis Bond. The Indians confiscated horses and mules, shot and killed cattle and hogs, drove off other livestock, and burned 26 of the 30 houses. Tecumseh himself set fire to the militia block-house and stockade, which was still burning when Chambers arrived.

When Captain William Elliott and Lieutenant Benoit Bender arrived late in the afternoon on board the gunboat Chippewa with two other smaller vessels, the British loaded all the confiscated public property into the boats and five additional canoes they took from residents. They seized 77 barrels of pork, 18 barrels of flour, nine barrels of whiskey, two barrels of salt, a musket bayonet, a cartridge box, and some soap and candles. The British found no other arms or ammunition, although they suspected such items were hidden somewhere in the village.

Skirmishes continued in the area in the following weeks, but eventually, the British returned to Port Miami in October of 1812 to gather all the livestock and produce left behind and transport it back to Fort Malden. The animals did not cooperate, however, and the detachment soon grew frustrated in their attempts to capture the creatures. Most of the houses and outbuildings still standing at that time were destroyed by fire before the British and their Indian allies departed. The only house left standing was Beaugrand’s house and store, but even this building would soon disappear from the landscape. And so, in a remarkably short period of time, the village of Port Miami was left in ruins, its only inhabitants the hogs and dogs left behind by the unfortunate settlers.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Daughters of the War of 1812

You've probably heard of the Daughters of the American Revolution, but what about the Daughters of the War of 1812?

If you are interested in information about the War of 1812, or researching your family history (especially your 1812 ancestor), Washington D.C. has a boutique library and museum you will not want to miss!  The United States Daughters 1812 Memorial Library and Museum, 1463 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington , DC 20005 is free to the public.

The library has the only collection in Washington, DC that focuses on the period from the end of the American Revolution through the ratification of the Treaty of Ghent in 1815. Indeed, it may be the only such collection in existence. The collection includes the Archives of Pennsylvania, the Archives of Maryland, and similar official publications of those states most involved with this period. Rosters of militia for most of the 18 states in the Union during this time period are also in the Library collection.  There are more than 5,000 titles in the collection representing some 6,000 volumes.

The second floor of the building, occupies the 1812 Museum.  It is an exceptional facility dedicated to the 1784-1815 time period.

Both the library and the museum are usually open Tuesdays & Thursdays 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.  You may call 202-745-1804 to be sure so you don’t waste a trip.  The Library has limited staff so assistance can be provided and we can give you a tour of our beautiful and unique museum.

We regret that Assistance cannot be offered in genealogy or lineage research.  Limited photocopies can be made at a cost of $.20 per page and microfilm copies at $.50 per page.  No photography is allowed in the museum.

For more information, and to view the library’s holdings, visit the Daughters of the War of 1812 on the web at http://www.usdaughters1812.org/home.html.