Monday, December 17, 2012

Fort Madison, Part I

This is a bit of a teaser, but archaeologist Mechelle Kerns promises more details as her schedule allows. Dr. Kerns is presently a professor of History at the United States Naval Academy (USNA) and also serves as an Assistant Curator at the USNA Museum. She has furnished the preliminary details of her recent discovery of an early 19th century fortification near Annapolis. Read on...

As has been mentioned in earlier posts, at the outset of the War of 1812, the British started cruising around in the Chesapeake attacking settlements, burning farms, and generally wreaking all kinds of havoc. This tension with Britain naturally led American citizens to take measures to protect their port towns, and Annapolis, Maryland's capital, was no exception. Even before the conflict with the British started, forts were constructed near strategically important cities along the eastern seaboard. Fort Severn was constructed around 1808, where the United States Naval Academy now stands, and Fort Madison, slightly larger, was built across the river at the same time. 
This 1819 map, provided by USNA professor Mechelle Kerns, shows the locations of Forts Severn and Madison.
In preparation to defend the capital of Maryland, Forts Severn and Madison were made ready for war in the late summer of 1813. Men, materials, and artillery were moved to the forts and both were garrisoned from 1813 until 1815. Fortunately, in the War of 1812, as in the Revolution, the British did not attack Annapolis.

An article in the Maryland Gazette in 1813 discusses the pleasing state of military preparedness at Fort Severn. 

In 1845 the Army transferred Fort Severn to the Navy for use as a training school for officers. The fate of Fort Madison was unknown, until very recently. 

Archaeologist and USNA professor Mechelle Kerns became interested in the fate of Fort Madison as the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 approached. One day, in a discussion with USNA Museum Senior Curator Jim Cheevers, the topic of Fort Madison came up and Kerns' curiosity was piqued. A search through the Navy's land records led her to the discovery of a plot of land called the "Fort Lot." Her research eventually led her to the Naval Academy rifle range on Greenberry Point, across the Severn River from Annapolis...

More to come!

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