Friday, February 12, 2010

"Ecology, Commerce, Conflict and Transportation along the Anacostia River", Part IV, Conflict

This paper was co-authored by Mike Roller and Julie Schablitsky and presented at the 2010 Conference for the Society for Historical Archaeology. It is based upon their work in Bladensburg. Here is part IV:

After the river silted in and rendered the port unnavigable, Bladensburg’s economy suffered. However it continued to serve an auxiliary role as a way station for travelers. In the 19th century its location at the intersection of major roads to Annapolis, Baltimore, Georgetown, Upper Marlboro, Alexandria and Washington D.C. made it a major stopping point for travelers. The bridge over the Anacostia River also served to make it a strategic spot during the War of 1812 when the British confronted limited American resistance in their march to burn Washington in August of 1814. At our workshops and public events many people ask if we have found anything from the battle. For the town this singular event and its historical context is the most significant to Bladensburg’s heritage. As enthusiasm has been growing in anticipation of the bicentennial, tour groups from all over the country have visited Bladensburg and the rest of the DC area tracing the path of the British.

In fact, the battle itself took place to the west of town, but it is likely that many of the buildings in town, including the Magruder house, served as field hospitals for British troops. While excavating at the house, SHA archaeologists recovered a British 1774 King George halfpenny like the one pictured. For the public and the press, the coin was a palpable connection to the period of time just before the American Revolution and the subsequent tension that led up to the forgotten and fascinating event that made the town famous again, the Battle of Bladensburg. We cannot be certain where the coin came from, whether it was dropped by a wounded British soldier or was simply amongst the pocket change of Mr. Henderson, the occupant of the house at the time. A variety of foreign currency was used in the American colonies, as were valuable commodities such as tobacco and sugar. However, it serves to remind us, and the community, of the political ties that connected Bladensburg and the rest of the fledgling nation with England in its first century. These ties, broken by revolution in 1776, came back to Bladensburg in a conflict in which it would serve a pivotal role. Many residents of the town hope that event, with the upcoming bicentennial in 2012, will bring attention back to the town.

1 comment:

  1. We have an old tavern find like that here in Sherwood!