Michael D. Hughes

An Investigation of a British Raid on the Upper Elk River During the War of 1812.

(Under the direction of Lawrence Babits) Department of History, August 2003.

In 1998, the National Park Service and the State of Maryland formed a partnership focusing on the War of 1812. The initiative, under American Battlefield Protection Program auspices, looked to identify and locate Maryland's War of 1812 cultural resources. In August 2000, a team of archaeologists, under the direction of Maryland's state archaeologist Stephen Billicki, conducted investigations to collect War of 1812 data along the upper Elk River. The investigations, a combination of remote sensing and historical research, were the focus of this thesis. Locating historical remnants, such as fortifications, chain booms, cannon shot, and shipwrecks, would provide a basis to study the War of 1812 events on the Chesapeake.

In 1813, British forces were ordered to infiltrate the Chesapeake and its tributaries. On 28-29 April 1813, Rear-Admiral George Cockburn and his men entered the northern Chesapeake to disrupt maritime commerce. During his incursion, British forces met limited resistance from local militia. The militia's river defenses failed to stop the British from reaching Elkton. The British burned and sank two vessels near Frenchtown in retaliation to American fire. Similar events occurred throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. The upper Elk River's events are a microcosm of the War of 1812 on the Chesapeake and representative of the general practices along the Chesapeake Bay tributaries.