tv [untitled] June 10, 2012 8:00am-8:30am EDT
it's the bye centennial of this little known war, and we'll learn how it bolstered america's credibility, postired a new sense of patriotism and gave us our national anthem. the war of 1812, saturday, june 16, live, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span3. each week, american history tv's american artifacts visits historic places to learn the story of the united states through objects. in 1812, joshua barney, a retired revolutionary war hero
proposed providing a flotilla. in august 1814, come dore barney was forced to destroy and sink his fleet of 15 vessels in maryland's patuxent river. the flagship "scorpion" discovered in 1979 under the river mud and partially excavated. now robert neland is further studying the wreck. we learned about the project and visited the navy's underwater archaeology lab in the washington navy yard where artifacts from the ship are studied. >> this is the patuxent river, flows into the chesapeake bay. we'll go up river of the highway 4 bridge, and highway 4 is the actually very end of pennsylvania avenue. same pennsylvania avenue that
runs from d.c. a little nunn. the scorpion is about one mile, two miles up river from that bridge. so we're about 30 minutes from washington, d.c., 20, 25 minutes from annapolis, maryland, and 40 minutes from baltimore. in 1814, the river was deeper, perhaps wider as well. a lot of sedimentation from agricultural runoff. since 1814. during the early 19th century, sea going vessels were able to come fairly far up river. sedimentation prevented that by the mid 1 th century and by early 20th century, mechanized agriculture, there was a great influx of sediment into the river. the chesapeake was pretty much undefended. the british had free reign into the bay, come into shore, loot
plantations, villages, take what they wanted as well to punish american citizens. joshua barney, a revolutionary war, naval war hero, proposed to build a flotilla of barges able to defend the coast during the day, intercept the british landing parties and then at night, hear tarry the british f. he was given permission to do this these were under the department of the navy. since joshua barn ewas ey was r, he was made a come domodore. this was under the navy, but not under the navy. on his first voyage out, he ran into superior british ships who
chased him up the pay tuxent river, he was able to fight his way of the creek, couldn't force his way up the bay, and he came further and further up river, retreating, british forces building until he got so far up river, he couldn't get any further up river and it was apparent that the british could capture his ships, so ordered by the secretary of the navy to abandon his ships and when the british tried to take them, to set them on fire. explode them with gun powder effectively. and at this point, where the british came up river, they could see the mast of the flotilla, very soon afterward they saw the ships on fire and heard the enxplosions from the powder kegs set. they went further up river and found the fleet entirely stut e
scuttled except for one vessel that the fuse went out on. and there was a series of merchant vessels that moved up river to try to avoid capture of the british, these were also either scuttled or the british themselves set them on fire and destroyed them. >> so the river was certainly deeper during that time period, and it got very shallow up river where the flotilla was scuttled. they were taken up river as far as they could possibly go. some thought about trying to take them over land to the south river. it was decided that would be put ill, because then the british would just bottle them up in the south river. they had gone so far up river, the deeper draft vessels, the scorpion, were left as far up as they could go and the shallow draft barges, gun boats, could only go up river in single file, with only a few feet of water.
buoy we see marks the wreck. we are over the site that we think the wreckage of "the uss scorpion." the bow is toward the bank just beyond the tree that has been sawn off. and the stern comes out into the channel a little more toward the red buoy you see here. the ship is 75 feet long, 25 feet wide, still principally decked throughout most of the wreck. the bow and most of the ship seems to be in relatively good condition, considering it was scuttled with an explosive charge and possibly burns. the stern shows some damage, from the blowing out of the scuttling charge. i'm the head of the underwater
archaeology branch. i have worked on civil war shipwrecks, cumberland, and florida, in hampton roads near norfolk, virginia. the most significant is the competitive submarine, h.l. hundley, i was in charge of the excavation and recovery of that submarine. we found a crew of eight men. they were still inside the submarine, dealing with forensic analysis and identification and facial reconstruction of those individuals. with the navy shipwrecks, we've worked on everything from the d-day shipwrecks off normandy beaches to a scuttled revolut n revolutionary war fleet up in penobscot river in maine. we're involved in the commemoration of the war of 1812, and we proposed to relocate and excavate the shipwreck site. probably one of the best known and preserved of the navy's war of 1812 vessels.
>> so you dive in the water itself. what is it like to dive in the water that's hard to see through? >> visibility is not very good at all. the best it ever gets is a foot or two. it's, you know -- and it's hard to -- it is hard to measure and read tapes and work. you almost have to work by braille, by feel and touch. you can get used to it. if you've worked in black water, you get used to maneuvering around when you have limited visibility and also determine what you are working on and what are you feeling by touch. so your other senses kind of improve with time when you have low visibility. however, visibility here, even though it looks pretty bad, we have had times, up to a foot or two, and so we have been able to take some video of the wreck site as well and to see a little bit of what we're doing at
times. anyway this is what we proposed to do in 2013 in commemoration of the war of 1812, look at this shipwreck, which is really a time capsule from this time period, 1814. we know that when the ship was scuttled, most of the supplies, personal possessions of the officers and crew were still on board. barney took us -- joshua barney took about 400 sailors to help, you know, evacuate washington, burn the washington navy yard, they knew the british would be coming toward washington and meet the british at the battle of ladensburg. a small contingency of 100 men were left to scuttle these ships and all supplies were left on board. once they were scuttled and after the british left, we know that salvagers came back, took some of the canon off and iron
ballast. we also know that the things that were spoiled, personal possessions, food storage, was left. barney himself pursued getting his sailors reimbursed for the loss of personal possessions. really what we expect to see from this is some of the foods, food stores that the sailors ate, the provisions, also we know that we found some surgeons, equivalent, medical supplies, surgical scalpels, scissors and such, we expect the personal effects of the crew, help to tell something about ethnicity, who they were, what their economic status was. one such artifact is a grog cup with the initials c.w. on it, believed to belong an african-american sailor named caesar went worth. we also expect to see some of the weapons if not the canons recovered, probably the shot
in -- for the guns and from that, we'll be able to determine what sized guns they would have on board. ships were principally armed with a canon, long gun and shorter car onade. they are very effective close-range weapons, which is what barney hoped to do in fighting the british. he wanted to maneuver his ships with long sweeps or oars, around the british, who couldn't effectively moon, and hammer at them with his long gone and caronades. and we expect there to be quite a number of interesting objects. these will be presumably well preserved because of the water here in the patuxent river. everything below four or five foot of mud in an anaerobic or oxygen free environment.
things are preserved well. the site originally discovered in the late 1970s, early 1980s by dunn shomette. they named it the turtle shell wreck. because they found a large turnle shell on the site. some of the npeople had seen ths exposed. they put a wind coffer mill around the site and did some excavati excavation. found very significant artifacts. medical supplies, surgical equipment. weapons as well too, such as small arms. also found a large chest, wooden chest with initials on it from a company that had -- from baltimore that had supplied provisions and equipment to the flotilla. they are pretty certain this was, indeed, one of the flotilla vessels and believed it was the "uss scorpion," joshua barney's
flagship. particularly because of the medical and surgical supplies, thinking that the surgeon would be on the "scorpion." we came back for a major excavation in commemoration of t the bicentennial. the artifacts recovered from this excavation and earlier excavations are kept at the washington navy yard in the underwater archaeology gallery. >> i'm george schwartz. the site was originally discovered in 1979, and it was -- it was excavated in the early 1980s by another group. and they recovered a large number of artifacts. basically what they did is they discovered the site, they mapped
it and they recovered about 180 artifacts, and they were found to be in very good state of preservation. but they were con served and put on display, and examined in maryland to commemorate barney's test fleet flotilla. what we have here, a collection of artifacts recovered in 2010 and 2011. right now, all in storage solutions, because essentially what we need to do is keep the artifacts wet. if they dry out in an uncontrolled manner, they can deteriorate and essentially fall apart. we have organic materials, metal materials, sometimes a combination of both. ceramics and glass. each one is in its own particular solution so that it's well preserved until treatment can take place. treatment can take anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple years, depending on the artifact and how corroded it is, how -- what the material is and how much damage has already been done to it.
so this is a farther suit call i'll ha vial recovered from the site. intact, but it has correspond roigs correspoosion inside. this could have held some type of medicine. some vials actually still in had a cork in it. in those cases you can sample and try to figure out what was inside of it. this one did not have a cork. but we did take some samples to try and test and see if there was residual substance in the bottom. the next artifact i want to show you, still uncon served scissors, surgical scissors from the hold of the vessel. in a storage solution of sodium hydroxide. what we see here, very well
preserved scissors. see the details. a lot of diagnostic features. what we're trying to do is clean the surface so we can possibly figure out who the manufacturer was, but you can see the screws and the other components are still in very good shape, and there is another example of a pair that has been con served we can take a look at. because there was the burial environment was anaerobic, not a lot of oxygen, not a lot of microbial impact because of the sand that covered up the objects. because of this, and the fact that this is in brackish water, not so many chlorides or salts that can damage surfaces that we find in other marine environments, all of these factors combine to preserve these artifacts. the idea here is, number one, to desall
desallinate the item because that can damage the integrity of the metal. preserve it, put it on display, study it, have it for the long term. the next artifact we have in a storage solution is this stone wear jug, and it's in very good shape as you can see. it's complete. and it actually still has a cork in it, so, again, we can take samples, try and determine if there is residual substance at the bottom of the container, what we'll do is treat the stoneware jug and cork individually and, again, try and -- the idea is to save as much information as we can from the actual artifact, and if there are any kind of diagnostic features that indicate who might have manufactured the artifact, that helps in unraveling the story of where they got these materials. this is actually a leather shoe.
this is not contemporary. this is intrusive. got into the site later in the century. but right now, it's in a storage solution of glycerin and formaldehyde and ethanol to preserve it until it can be fully con served. even though it's not from the early 19th century, it is still an artifact and we'll treat it, preserve it. we'll find other items from later in the century. pretty typical of an arc logical site. >> tell us what you felt down there? >> powder planks, a frame or two and i know that thing you were talking about, looks like a y that comes up with a cap across it, and at the stem itself there's a ring, like an upside down tear drop and it has a -- a curve form it?
it, all the way up, like you can lay-in a rope. >> made out of iron? >> yes. a couple iron fasteners this way and a couple going in straight up and down. >> this is in a different storage solution. have you a combination of wood and metal, and some incrustacean on the metal, this is essentially caused by the chemical reaction of the metal and the water and adhered to the surface of the wood as well. this has to be treated individually so you are preserving the wood and metal. and this would be attached to the side of the vessel and attached a rigging element, lines and such, to the strap. this is -- this is a piece of wood, structure of the ship. it -- we're not exactly sure where it came from.
what part of the ship it is. we know exactly where it was found, but not what part of the ship it was. disarticulated. you have an iron fastener going through the wood and this is a typical type of fastener wie reported on the vessel. this is a pretty well preserved piece of wood. it will be con served again individually. this is an example of another intrusive object. or an object that may be from the time period. a mandible, probably from a horse or donkey or something. recovered right outside of the site, but in the burial, in the sediment layers of the ship itself, so, again, recovered, documented, and will be conce e
served. there is another storage of the lab and other larger artifacts we'll go take a look at it in the warehouse. this warehouse, part of the curator branch. where a lot of the artifacts of decommissioned ships are brought and processed and inventoried and sent off to another place where they are actually curated. this is actually our x-ray and storage room. we have some artifacts in here as well. and, again, a lot of these larger artifacts have to be kept wet and in an appropriate storage solution. so the artifacts i'm pulling out now is a -- probably -- it's called a boomkin this was found on the starboard side of the
vessel. it's fairly complete. it's -- you can see the wood is in very good shape, and it has an iron shiv at the end. this was attached at the side of the vessel, tebow, likely used to help tie off the anchor and secure the rigging. and this was actually still attached to the side of the -- tebow. starboard side. >> this is something we usually don't recover in shipwrecks. some debate whether it's a spreader for some of the rigging or a cap head. i think it's a cap head, which would have been used to help raising and lowering the anchor and keeping the anchor away from the side of the ship. our plans are for 2013, to build a steel or cofferdam around the site, pump the water out, remove the sediment and conduct the
excavation as if it were a dry excavation on land. we can have more control with the archaeology by doing that, but it also presents us the opportunity to bring the public out to the site, they can see the ongoing excavation in progress and ask questions and help with the whole interpretation of the war of 1812 and help perhaps make the american public more aware of the war of 1812 and the naval action that was part of that war. and i might mention to you that this was only the second dry cofferdam done for an arc logical site in the united states. the previous example, that done in texas in matagorda bay of the 17th century french explorer lasalle, the vessel "lavalle" only the second time something like this has been done. the maryland state highway administration is our partner.
they do coffer dams all the time. they don't do to for arc logical sites, but for highway projects. the state highway administration has been in the lead with this. we -- we think that -- that we will be able to put the steel cofferdam around the site, have six months to excavate the site, remove the cofferdam, rebury the wreck and take all of the information and data back for conservation and research and for writeup and have things for exhibit during 2014. commemoration still going on. we also think with our partners, maryland national capital parks and planning, we know they will assist in bringing people out to the site, so we can have regular tours and business to the site, with docents explaining what is going on, what's been found and it will be changing almost daily with the excavation, more and more of the wreck exposed. >> this is pretty narrow up
here, this section, eventually it will really start narrowing down in another mile or some of. >> we don't plan to extract the ship to recover a shipwreck. we can do that. con serve it is a long, drawnout process that can take decades, and it can also be a very expensive process too. our plans are to, you know, document, recover the artifacts that can then be put on exhibit or studied, interpreted, to document the shipwreck, remove the deck to get into the interior. remove some planks to map the shape of the ship. we hope to do as little damage as possible, but at the same time, do what's necessary to get a good, thorough recording of it. >> so when these were recovered in the early '80s, most of them recovered then, taken to a
conservation laboratory in maryland, and they were -- and they were documented and conserved and then they were put on display. so you see a wide range of materials here from ceramics, apothecary bowls, dinner plate and bowl this is a tin grog cup from one of the saleors, believed to be from one of the african-american sailors, caesar wentworth and you can see the c.w. inscribed on the side of the grog cup. we don't have any smoking gun evidence that this is the "scorpion," but all of the clues put together, indicate it could be. this is a dental tool. used to pull teeth. and then you have pieces of clay pipes. and another pair of surgical scissors. >> why is it important from your
perspective to preserve this boat under this muddy water here? what does it matter? >> well, part of our mission with naval history and heritage command is the education of both the navy, sailors and american public as well. this 200-year commemoration is the perfect time to do that, and call attention to in some ways a war to many the forgotten war, fell between the american revolution and american civil war, both of which i think people are more aware of than the war of 1812. but 1812, one of the most important wars. showed we were free of influence from great britain. we came out of the conflict as the clear winners of that. and it also showed that -- that the united states needed a strong navy, as well as a strong army, that it couldn't defend its coast without a strong navy,
without sea going ships. blue water ships. that previously during the jefferson administration, the concept had been to have a small navy, small army, and not get engaged in european wars this was -- this was probably a cost save negotiation some way, this certainly showed this philosophy was not able to defend the american coast, the chesapeake bay from superior naval force, such as of that great britain. >> some of the things you can't learn from archival records. a lot of the stuff written down in historical record is the main events, major people throughout history. but you don't always write down the simple things about how daily life was aboard an early 19th century naval vessel. we can learn about the horrors of dentistry, for example, by looking at that dental tool and
imagine having a tooth pulled by something like that. the surgical scissors, different types of scissors for different types of applications. the grog cup. a very -- it says a lot about what they went through every day. having the -- they might have had a grog ration that they had once per day. a lot you can learn about ship construction we don't already know. a lot about naval heritage that you can learn from recovering artifacts, conducting analysis, and publishing, seubmitting the information. the more knowledge and information can be shared, that's better for humanity in general. >> the object, come up as far river as you can go, and then travel over land to the south river, and escape into the bay and be saved. the british were