U.S. Navy Shipwreck from War of 1812 to be excavated

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U.S. Navy Shipwreck from War of 1812 to be excavated

September 14, 2009 - 01:12
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Archaeologists Hope to Excavate Shipwreck That Dates to War of 1812. The first USS Scorpion was a sloop-rigged self-propelled floating battery in commission in the United States Navy from 1812 to 1814.

The shape and arrangement of sails on an American privateer schooner, brig or brigantine, are quickly movable to much more radical angles. English seamen have written that they saw privateers escaping "sailing directly into the wind."

The wreck which is one of the war's most significant artifacts was discovered nearly 30 years ago but after a limited, month-long excavation of the site east of Upper Marlboro in 1980, the wreck was reburied under four feet of mud and sediment to protect it from decay.

The hope was that archaeologists with more funding could one day return to excavate the 75-foot vessel, tentatively identified as the Scorpion, flagship of Commodore Joshua Barney's Chesapeake Flotilla. Now, supporters are hoping the time is ripe.

The Navy, which still owns the flotilla, is considering whether to excavate the site and possibly raise the vessel as part of its plans to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

No funding has yet been allotted, but Navy archaeologists have done preliminary site work and are intrigued by what might be found.

"It's an important part of history," said Robert Neyland, head of the Navy's Underwater Archaeology Branch at the Naval History and Heritage Command at the Washington Navy Yard.

In July, archaeologists with the office surveyed the site with a magnetometer and thought they identified the wreck's exact location. "We found a strong magnetic anomaly where the site is presumed to be," underwater archaeologist Alexis Catsambis told the Washington Post.

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