For any historical event, landmark anniversaries provide an opportunity for reflection. The very first anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore could be described as both solemn and triumphant, as survivors honored those lost during the fighting and cheered the steadfast defense of their city. Newspaper accounts of the first Defenders’ Day in 1815 recall the occasion as pious and full of “pomp.” As the Battle of Baltimore faded from living memory over the course of the 19th century—and as the North and South attempted to reconcile after the Civil War—commemorations became more celebratory in nature. The civic leaders who planned the 1914 centennial, on the eve of World War I, infused the program with patriotism. They emphasized Baltimore as a place of national significance because of its association with the Star-Spangled Banner, although it wouldn’t become the national anthem until 1931.
For those of us who recently experienced the bicentennial of the Battle of Baltimore, the laudatory spirit might still be felt. The Star-Spangled Spectacular in September 2014 included a massive fireworks display, a festival of tall ships from across the world, an aerial performance by the Blue Angels, and visits to Fort McHenry by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. While some locals and visitors challenged themselves to learn more about the War of 1812 through exhibits and programs at many local museums, critical thinking was by no means required during the bicentennial commemorations.
Perhaps large-scale public festivals—whether in 1914 or 2014—do not offer the ideal opportunity to dive deeply into the history of the Battle of Baltimore. However, this does not mean the events of September 12, 1814, have gone forgotten. While the printed centennial program (which you can access here) included a detailed account of the battle, we in the 21st century have many more opportunities to discover stories of the War of 1812. The Star-Spangled Banner bicentennial generated a great deal of online content—videos, websites, interactive maps, blogs, and digitized archival materials—free and accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
While several of these digital projects have continued to examine military history and the actions of Francis Scott Key (the main areas of focus during the centennial), the scholarship has also widened its lens to include more cultural history. Representing a range of diverse historical actors and their contributions to the city’s defense has been a priority in some of these projects. The Battle of Baltimore website and app embodies this bicentennial moment by examining places of worship, commercial centers, and sites of commemoration as well as defensive positions and troop movements. Stories relating to the generals and militiamen who participated in the Battle of Baltimore can certainly be found, but the project seeks to sketch a more complete picture of Baltimore in the early 19th century by also discussing everyday activities such as shopping, learning, praying, and working.
Selected Battle of Baltimore digital projects emerging from the bicentennial:
Prize of the Chesapeake: The Story of Fells Point: The nonprofit Preservation Society produced this website with support from two state agencies: the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority and the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission. The project includes a ten minute film for young audiences, a very detailed walking tour, a series of essays, and a selected archive all focused on Fells Point in the War of 1812. The content emphasizes Fells Point as a center for shipbuilding and caulking, and addresses its racial and ethnic diversity.
The War of 1812 in the Chesapeake: Interactive Battle Maps: this project of the state bicentennial commission identifies four stories related to the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake: St. Leonard Creek, Bladensburg, North Point and Baltimore. Brief videos introduce users to each place with footage of living history reenactments, “talking heads” from experts at the National Park Service, period maps and drawings, and computer-generated graphics. High-tech animated battle maps then provide a personalized approach for exploring each story in depth. While the focus is on military history, the content addresses the contributions of everyday citizens from all backgrounds.
Maryland in the War of 1812 blog: Scott Sheads, a longtime ranger at Fort McHenry and a foremost expert on the Battle of Baltimore, maintained this detailed, scholarly blog devoted to the military history of the War of 1812 in Maryland during the bicentennial period. Through original research and transcriptions of primary sources, Sheads brought to light many individuals, engagements, and correspondence through this digital platform. Some of the information published on this blog has been reproduced (with permission) on Battle of Baltimore.
BEARINGS map of Baltimore circa 1815: The Imaging Research Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County created an interactive, three-dimensional map of the city around 1815 for an exhibit at the Maryland Historical Society. The map shows a south-facing view of Baltimore, including ships in the harbor, hundreds of structures along city streets, outlying forested areas, and the meandering path of the Jones Falls. An enormous amount of historical research and computer programming went into creating this map, which could serve as a valuable tool for students and adults alike.
War of 1812 Classroom Resources: Maryland Public Television produced this Thinkport project in collaboration with the Friends of Fort McHenry and the National Park Service. K-12 educators can filter over 100 classroom resources by grade level, format, and keyword. They will also find a list of interactives, including quizzes, and suggested field trip itineraries. Although the site covers all of the War of 1812, the focus remains in Maryland.
War of 1812 in the Collections of the Lilly Library: The Indiana University at Bloomington Libraries have opened their War of 1812-related collections to a national audience through this digital exhibit using the Omeka platform. Organized chronologically and then thematically, each topic features a short essay followed by related primary sources. The site integrates social media using the hashtag #War1812.
National Park Service War of 1812 portal: This national project offers users various entry points into the War of 1812. Users can explore the history thematically by choosing Stories, People, Places or Resources, and then Voices, Moments, Perspectives and Narratives. The content does not center exclusively on military history or policy, but offer insights into civilian life and the home front for American, British and indigenous people.
Key Cam: KeyCam, another state initiative from the bicentennial, provides live video streams from four cameras in Baltimore’s harbor. Two of the cameras are positioned where Key spent the night of September 12, 1814, offering 21st century viewers an opportunity to see Fort McHenry and the city from his perspective. This initiative ties directly into the enduring fascination with Francis Scott Key and the Star-Spangled Banner story. While Key is not depicted as a hero—“slavery and slaveholding” is one of the five chapters in the biography section—this project might have been as well-received during the centennial as the bicentennial.
Thanks to Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer for this final update from the 2016 field season for the Herring Run Archaeology Project. You can find their updates on our blog, the project website, and on Facebook.
As we filled all our test units in yesterday, we were discussing all the things we’ve learned so far from our amazing week of excavations. Here are some highlights:
We have the most incredible volunteers. This was an awful lot of hard work, and you guys were all so wonderful. We cannot do this without you, and we cannot thank you enough.
The early Broad family occupation (1680-1742) is intact, and this is indeed where their house was located! We didn’t know this for sure until this week, and this is a huge discovery—the earliest and best-documented historic site in Baltimore City and County!
We have significant evidence that the enslaved women and men who worked in the Eutaw manor house lived in the basement. We’ve discovered two probable hearths that would have provided heat and cooking fires, a subfloor pit that was used for food storage, and evidence of a laundry where Venus Tilghman worked. Finding evidence that relates specifically to Venus and Jeremiah Tilghman and the other enslaved people who made life at Eutaw possible has always been one of the major goals of the project.
The Eutaw house had a tiled roof, decorative marble flourishes (a mantle or even a marble entryway), and elaborate window hardware.
The house also had a finished basement! Many of the stone walls we uncovered this year still had plaster attached.
In the yard, a path paved with river cobbles and pebbles led to the house, and much of the material excavated from the cellar during the house’s construction was used to build a terrace that surrounds the hill where the house was situated.
We also have plenty of new questions to guide our future work. So thank you again to all our volunteers, visitors and supporters for another successful year!
Thanks to Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer for this update from day six and day seven of the Herring Run Archaeology Project. You can find their updates on our blog, the project website, and on Facebook. You can also subscribe to the project email list to read these posts in your inbox.
We’ve continued working on both the Eutaw manor house and the earlier part of the site over the last two days, and we’ve learned a great deal in a very short period of time.
In the manor house, we discovered a mysterious pit near the southwest corner of the foundation that contained two complete wine bottles and several pieces of eggshell.
In the northeast corner, we’ve identified a builder’s trench. This may not sound very exciting, but it’s a significant find: the builder’s trench usually contains only artifacts that date to the time of a building’s construction, which allows us to put a firm date on a structure. This builder’s trench contains artifacts identical to those we’ve found in the earliest part of the site, where the Broad family lived from circa 1680 to 1740! This reveals two important facts: the first is that the Broads may have lived where the Eutaw manor house once stood, and that their home was displaced when Eutaw was built. It also allows us to positively, indisputably identify the Eutaw manor house as the building that was present from the 1760s until 1865—no later house took its place.
In the earlier part of the site, we’ve identified a trash midden containing domestic trash dating to the time of the Broad occupation – 1680 to 1740. This has revealed important new clues about life in the early colonial period in the Baltimore area – a time period about which we know very, very little. Amidst a truly huge number of oyster shells, we found a delicate china teacup, a Chinese porcelain bowl, numerous pieces of stoneware tankards and jugs, wine bottle glass, and clay pipe stems.
Tomorrow is our public day, and the last day for excavation at this tremendously important site! We hope to see you at the Archaeology Open House tomorrow, April 30!
Thanks to Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer for this update from day 5 of the Herring Run Archaeology Project. You can find their updates on our blog, the project website, and on Facebook. You can also subscribe to the project email list to read these posts in your inbox.
Today we passed the halfway point of the 2016 field season, and the amazing discoveries continue. Building on the success from yesterday, we continued to explore the location of the earliest European occupation of the site.
We opened several more test units and, while we have not yet discovered any foundations or structural remains of the circa 1690 home of the Broad family, we continue to find the traces of their presence through the artifacts they left behind. The amazing find from that portion of the site was a beautiful french gunflint discovered by volunteers Ilka and Rosa.
Back at Eutaw House, we continue to complete excavating several unfinished units with the house’s cellar. Today we completed a unit near the northeast corner of the house where we discovered a large collection of bricks on Saturday. During the excavation today, we recovered a large collection of clothing and other personal items including beads, jewelry, and buttons of every make and type: bone, shell, glass, copper and iron. We also found a Belgian one cent piece that dates to 1845 and a pipe stem manufactured by Jan Prince the Netherlands from around the same time period.
At the bottom of the unit, we made yet another interesting discovery, a flagstone floor! This is the only section of the house to have a built floor. All other areas of the cellar contained only a dirt and bedrock bottom. The presence of the abundant brick, stone floor and variety of buttons leads us to think that this portion of the house may have served as the Eutaw house’s laundry and the workplace of several of the family’s enslaved men and women including Venus Tilghman.
Thanks to Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer for this update from day 4 of the Herring Run Archaeology Project. You can find their updates on our blog, the project website, and on Facebook. You can also subscribe to the project email list to read these posts in your inbox.
Today was a very exciting day! Up at the manor house, we identified a new architectural feature—a possible gravel pathway—which may help us answer one of our more pressing questions: which way did the house face? In the Peale painting of William Smith and his grandson, the house appears to face west, but it is difficult to tell. With this new feature and other clues, we hope to piece together a more complete picture of the house and grounds.
In other news: from the very beginning, we’ve found traces of an earlier occupation at the site, and we know that John Broad and his family occupied from 1690 (and likely earlier) through the 1740s. Today, we’ve finally found intact deposits associated only with this earlier occupation!
We know very, very little about life in this region at that time, so this is a tremendous discovery—and this makes Eutaw the earliest historical archaeological site in Baltimore City to date!