Michael J. Plakos
Sunk at the Head of the Bay: An Historical and Archaeological Investigation of a Possible Packet Vessel in the Elk River, Maryland.
(Under the direction of Dr. Lawrence Babits) Department of History, November 2003
Frenchtown, Cecil Colony, Maryland, served as a trade and transportation link in the route between Baltimore and Philadelphia. On 20 April 1813, a small British Naval force penetrated the Elk River at the head of Chesapeake Bay. The British force quickly overpowered a shore battery at the wharf and subsequently entered Frenchtown. Along with several waterfront buildings, the British destroyed up to five nearby vessels. Historical records report that two vessels were packets that sailed between Baltimore and Frenchtown.
In October 1999, a team from East Carolina University's Program in maritime Studies, the Maryland Historic Trust, and volunteers, conducted a side-scan sonar and magnetometer survey in the Elk River near Frenchtown, attempting to locate vessel remains from the 1813 attack. The survey located one historically significant vessel, designated as site 18CE319. The team returned in March 2000, to conduct high-resolution imaging with 1,200 kHz sonar, and again in June 2000 for a Phase II archaeological survey. The Phase II survey consisted of selective surface and subsurface testing on targeted selections to identify diagnostic features. Vessel construction, the vessel's location, significant evidence of burning, wood analysis, and artifacts strongly suggest that the remains represent an American-built, early-nineteenth century sailing vessel. It is the purpose of this thesis, through historical and archaeological analysis, to determine whether the vessel's remains are from the 1813 British attack.