Barge Sketch by Joshua Barney, 4 July 1813.
The first efforts toward an archaeological study were undertaken in 1979 and 1980 by the private non-profit, Nautical Archaeological Associates, Inc. (NAA) and the Calvert Marine Museum (CMM) with a small grant from the Maryland Historical Trust. This resulted in the location and investigation of one of the Flotilla vessels and the recovery of a number of diagnostic artifacts. Two of these provide compelling evidence that the vessel might be Barney’s flagship Scorpion. They include a grog cup with the initials C.W., which match only one member of the crew, an African American cook, named Caesar Wentworth, who had been on one of the vessels left in St. Leonard Creek and who had come aboard Barney’s vessel. The second involves items from a surgeon’s kit, which would likely have been aboard Scorpion, although why it would have been left behind when they were marching toward a probable engagement is a mystery. However, these pieces provide only circumstantial evidence. Scorpion had been described variously as a topsail sloop, gunboat, and block sloop, and these early investigations ascribed a length of about 50 feet, by 16 feet, by 4 feet to the vessel. Based on the known fate of some vessels which removed them from consideration, and these dimensions, NAA/CMM narrowed the field to “Scorpion, Vigilant, the lookout boat, four of the 50-foot barges, and eight merchantmen” (Shomette, 1995:289). The artifacts eliminated the merchantmen and the association of the medical crew who would have used the kit pointed to their being on Scorpion. However, some concern was expressed that the washboard collar which Barney had installed on some of the vessels to aid in keeping waves out of these shallow-water craft when in the open Chesapeake Bay, was more substantial than it should have been for a 50-foot vessel. The latter were to have 8-inch washboards, but this vessel had a 1-foot 7-inch collar; more than double the requirement.
The U.S. Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command determined that it would consider the relocation of this vessel and the undertaking of a complete excavation and documentation of the hull as well as recover the artifacts, an appropriate part of its commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812. In order to make the project as publically accessible as possible a dry coffer dam is planned.
Remote sensing survey in 2010 with a magnetometer relocated the vessel but, when the original goal of searching for the Revolutionary War era vessels Cato and Hawk proved untenable, it was deemed an excellent location to apply the refining capabilities of the gradiometer. This was undertaken in the fall of 2010 and the results form the basis of this exhibit. Discussion of the results of the 2011 field investigation of the site is included later.
Gradiometer Assembly Slideshow
Comments, suggestions, and questions can be directed to Dr. Susan Langley
Next: More on the technology and methodology used for this project.
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