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

The British Are Coming Again

"Huzzah, boys! More Rum, More Tobacco!" The British make the most of their time in Alexandria.
Historic Alexandria is planning several commemorative 1812 events this summer and early fall, and as usual they're approaching history with humor and style. On August 31, 2014, there will be a big event at the waterfront, including a British-American rematch tug-o-war, a yacht race, and a cricket match. You can find out all about that right here (, or check out the Historic Alexandria Calendar of Events.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

War of 1812 Events: Alexandria

Starting this month, the Alexandria Lyceum is offering a series of talks about the War of 1812 in Virginia and the D.C. Metro area. Check out their calendar of events or their website to see more!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Following Francis Scott Key

This week, Architectural Historian Rebecca Crew takes us on a tour of historic sites associated with Francis Scott Key, author of The Star-Spangled Banner

Following Francis Scott Key

In honor of the current winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, this blog post will consider the author of our national anthem, Francis Scott Key, and the places that commemorate him. What is the Gold Medal place that best defines Francis Scott Key’s significance?

Portrait of Francis Scott Key, Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Francis Scott Key was born at Terra Rubra on August 1, 1779 in what was then part of Frederick County, but is part of Carroll County.  Terra Rubra is listed in the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties as MIHP # CARR-2 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1978. Birthplaces of significant individuals are not normally listed on the NRHP, but Terra Rubra’s association with Francis Scott Key adds to its significance along with its representation of plantation architecture. The combination of NRHP Criterion B and C is likely what qualifies this place for NRHP listing.

Terra Rubra, Keymar, Maryland, birthplace of Francis Scott Key. Wikepedia
Key spent his early childhood at Terra Rubra, and then went to study in Annapolis at St. John’s College and Preparatory School. For seven years, he lived with his great-aunt and great-uncle at the Upton Scott House (MIHP # AA-726), which contributes to the NRHP-listed Annapolis Historic District (MIHP # AA-2046).  St. John’s College, chartered in 1784, was then contained within what is now known as McDowell Hall (MIHP # AA-675).  Key graduated in 1796 and St. John’s College now has a Key Memorial Hall on its campus, but it is a Modern structure designed by the renowned architect Richard Neutra that was not built until 1956-58, falling into the commemorative category of historic sites.

Upton Scott House in Annapolis. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Key married in Annapolis in 1802, and spent some years in Frederick studying law.  Between 1805 and 1808, he purchased a house in Georgetown overlooking the Potomac River. This was Francis Scott Key’s residence when he wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the accomplishment for which he is most-well known. 

A photograph of the Key Mansion before it was lost. Via
Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombing of Fort McHenry on the night of September 13-14, 1814 from the Chesapeake Bay.  Key was aboard the British gunship HMS Tonnant with Vice Admiral Cochrane, Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn and Major General Robert Ross to negotiate the release of his friend, an Upper Marlboro physician named Dr. William Beanes. As part of the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, a red, white, and blue National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) buoy is located at Key’s approximate location during the bombardment. 

Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution. Via
After the bombardment, Key was able to return to land. Many histories state that he stayed at a Baltimore hotel known as the Indian Queen Hotel, where he completed his poem.  The Indian Queen Hotel, then owned by John Gadsby (who had formerly owned a tavern in Alexandria, Virginia) was at the southeast corner of Hanover and Baltimore Streets, a site now occupied by the Brutalist-style Morris A. Mechanic  Theatre. Other histories say Key stayed at the Fountain Inn at the northeast corner of Light Street and Lovely Lane (now Redmond Street), which is now a surface parking lot.

In 1805, Key wrote a poem that included the words “star-spangled flag,” and he had set this to the tune “To Anacreon in Heaven” which was originally composed by John Stafford Smith, and had been re-worded as “Adams and Liberty” by Robert Treat Paine for the 1800 political campaign of John Adams. The Smith tune and Key’s new words about the Fort McHenry bombardment were closely tied from the beginning.

There are several explanations for how the poem was originally distributed. The first publishing of the poem, as a hand-bill, may have been produced by Benjamin Edes, a printer at the southwest corner of Baltimore and South Streets, former location of the Baltimore American.  On September 20, 1814, the Baltimore American published the “Defence (sic) of Fort McHenry.” The Baltimore American’s office was at No. 4 Harrison Street.

Key’s great-grandson claimed that soldiers at James MacConkey’s Tavern in Baltimore first sang Key’s poem in late September 1814, and its first public performance is said to have occurred next door to MacConkey’s Tavern at the Holliday Street Theater just a few days later; newspaper accounts verify this occurred October 19, 1814.  The Holliday Street Theatre was damaged by fire in 1873 and it, and the site of MacConkey’s Tavern as well, is now the site of Baltimore’s War Memorial Plaza. 

War Memorial Plaza, Baltimore. Via
Carr’s Music Store (then assigned the address 36 Baltimore Street) published the song (the poem and music together) in November 1814. The Carr family operated music stores in Philadelphia and New York as well as Baltimore, and the song spread quickly through the country, which was still at war with Britain.  36 Baltimore Street, at the northwest corner of Baltimore and Gay Street is now occupied by Baltimore City government’s Charles Enton Building (417 E. Fayette Street).  All these printing and performing sites in Baltimore City are located within the boundaries of the Business and Government Historic District (MIHP # B-3935), which was listed on the NRHP in 1987. 

While the Star-Spangled Banner remained popular after 1814, it did not immediately become our national anthem. During the Civil War, the Star Spangled Banner was the unofficial anthem of the U.S. Army, and around 1890, it became the official song of the U.S. Army and Navy. However, it was not until 1931, during President Herbert Hoover’s administration, that Congress resolved to make the Star-Spangled Banner the National Anthem.  The 117 years between the writing of Key’s poem and its adoption as the national anthem suggests that Key's significance to Americans was not widely recognized during his lifetime, and this is reflected in the varying preservation levels of places associated with his life.

Following the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key continued a life as a lawyer in Washington, DC, arguing cases at the Supreme Court, and serving as U.S. District Attorney from 1833-41. He also served as Vice President as the American Bible Society, was active in the American Colonization Society, and continued to write books and poems. His home during the later part of his life was The Maples, or Friendship House, at 630 South Carolina Avenue, SE, Washington, DC; it is still extant.
The Maples, Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Key died in 1843 in Baltimore, while visiting his daughter Elizabeth Key Howard; her house was on Mount Vernon Place in Baltimore. Key was originally buried at Old St. Paul’s Cemetery in Baltimore. Key's house on M Street in Georgetown was sold out of the Key family ca. 1853, and converted to commercial use. 

In 1866, Key was re-interred at Frederick’s Mount Olivet Cemetery. Around the same time, his boyhood home, Terra Rubra, was damaged by fire. The Howard Mansion, where Key died, was demolished and became the site of Mount Vernon Place Methodist Church in 1872. The Francis Scott Key Monument (MIHP # F-3-159) at Mount Olivet Cemetery was constructed in 1898 from funds collected by Maryland school children, and while it commemorates Key, it is significant under NRHP Criterion C as an example of the work of sculptor Pompeo Coppini.

Francis Scott Key Monument, Mount Olivet Cemetery

The house where Key had lived in 1814, at 3518 M Street in Georgetown, was sold out of the Key family ca. 1853, and converted to commercial use undergoing variations over time that eventually diminished its integrity of design, materials, and workmanship.  In 1907, the Francis Scott Key Memorial Association was established with the purpose of buying and preserving Key’s Georgetown house as a memorial to Key; the organization failed to acquire enough funds to purchase the house.  In 1923, a new bridge over the Potomac River connecting Georgetown and Rosslyn, Virginia was named for Francis Scott Key and located near 3518 M Street. This reinforced concrete arch bridge was added to the Virginia Landmarks Register in 1995 and to the NRHP in 1996 under Criterion C.  In 1931 the federal government acquired the 3518 M Street property as part of Palisades Park, but by this time, the house was too altered and in too poor condition to warrant preservation.  Francis Scott Key Park was established on the site in 1933.  

Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge over the Potomac. Wikipedia
Baltimore’s own Francis Scott Key Monument, a sculpture by Jean Marius Antonin Mercie was erected at Eutaw Place and West Lanvale Street in 1911. 

Francis Scott Key Monument, Eutaw Place, Baltimore. Wikipedia
In 1925, Fort McHenry was made a National Park, and it was made a National Monument and Historic Shrine in 1939. It was added to the NRHP in 1966, the inaugural year of the list. Finally, the Maryland State Highway Administration bridge carrying I-695 over the Patapsco River in Baltimore County was completed in 1977. The bridge has not yet reached the age at which it will be evaluated for the NRHP (50 years). Named for Francis Scott Key, it was built by and continues to be maintained by the Maryland Transportation Authority. Its commemorative naming is appropriate given its location near the site where Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry.

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
Francis Scott Key’s The Star-Spangled Banner has come along way from the Patapsco River to the current Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The anthem's lyricist also traveled extensively during his lifetime, although many of the places he lived and visited are no longer extant. Key's boyhood home, his college, and his late-life home remain to this day, and he is commemorated all across the nation in the names of schools, bridges, and monuments. Overall, though, this judge finds Baltimore deserves the Gold Medal for being the place where Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry, where he wrote the poem, where it was first printed, sung, and performed, and where Key died, was originally buried, and remains commemorated through impressive monuments. Despite the loss of actual buildings, the relationship of these points on the landscape preserves the association of Francis Scott Key and The Star-Spangled Banner.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Attack at Fort Norfolk

Here's a fascinating story of War of 1812 Archaeology in Virginia - please enjoy this article by Mark St. John Erickson, which originally appeared in the Hampton Roads History section of the Daily Press.
Williamsburg archaeologist Alain Outlaw knew he wouldn't have much time to dig when he won the chance to probe for a lost piece of historic Fort Norfolk in 2004.
Williamsburg archaeologist Alain Outlaw used this 1819 map of Fort Norfolk to describe the defensive palisade and ditch unearthed in a 2004 dig. (Courtesy of Archaeological & Cultural Solutions Inc. / June 24, 2013) via
He had only two weeks at first to carry out what looked like an impossible rescue job.

But not long after City of Norfolk workmen demolished a giant early 20th-century warehouse that covered his site, he and his team from Archaeological & Cultural Solutions Inc. unearthed the first signs of a defensive palisade that Virginia militiamen had hurriedly constructed to protect Fort Norfolk from a land attack after a massive British fleet pushed through the Chesapeake Bay in early 1813.

And like the archaeologists themselves trying to beat a tight deadline, the War of 1812 volunteers working under the direction of Army Corps of Engineers fortification expert Capt. Walter K. Armistead were really humping.

"We found dramatic physical evidence that they knew the British were coming -- and that they were rushing to build this palisade," Outlaw says, describing the discovery of an abandoned circa 1780 well that had been stuffed full of limbs trimmed from the timbers used to build the defensive wall.

Workers filled this abandoned circa 1780 well with lopped-off branches during the construction of the 1813 palisade wall at Fort Norfolk. (Courtesy of Archaeological & Cultural Solutions Inc. / June 24, 2013) via
"They looked just like they had been lopped off that afternoon. The state of preservation was incredible."
Outlaw says the discovery made during the preliminary site preparation for the construction of a downtown waterfront development project would not have been possible without the concerns raised by numerous Norfolk preservationists.

Equally important was the city's quick decision to fund a short-lived but productive archaeological investigation of the site before the irreplaceable evidence was lost.

"There wasn't very much time to do the job -- and everything that could have added to the challenge did," he recalls, citing hurricanes, flooding and other problems that dogged the dig.

"It was certainly one of the more amazing projects that I've been part of."

Once the city decided to go ahead with the dig, it dispatched workers and equipment to not only demolish and remove tons of debris but also pump out  as much as 8 feet of water that covered the site on a day-to-day basis.

And when the dig began turning up significant evidence from the historic fort, it gave Outlaw and his crew a third week in which to pursue their investigation.

By the end of that period they'd not only uncovered evidence of the palisade's hurried construction but also retraced more than 120 feet of its triangular path, including the apex. Alongside much of the wall were the accompanying ditches used to strengthen the riverside fort's landward defenses.

Dark stains trace the footprint of the palisade constructed on the landward side of Fort Norfolk in 1813 to protect against a British assault. (Courtesy of Archaeological & Cultural Solutions Inc. / June 24, 2013) via
"I have also directed works to be constructed for the better defence (sic) of the reverse of Fort Norfolk," wrote Virginia militia officer Andrew J. McConnico in a letter to the governor in early March 1813.

"And this morning I have begun entrenching the approaches to the Borough, and two hundred and eighty men, with a corresponding number of officers and non-commissioned officers, are now at work in the absence of the General."

With the previous destruction of War of 1812 fortifications at Craney Island and Fort Nelson, which complemented Fort Norfolk from the other side of the Elizabeth River, the discoveries made in 2004 represent  the only known surviving physical evidence of the land defenses constructed for the 1813 theater of operations in Virginia, Outlaw says.

They also have another distinction.

"These are the only professionally excavated archaeological finds from the War of 1812 in the state," he says.

"And especially with the bicentennial, it doesn't get any better than this in more then 40-plus years of working as an archaeologist."

You can find the previous installments in this series on the War of 1812 in Hampton Roads at