Today we're pleased to bring you the fourth entry in a five-part series by Jim Gibb detailing the search for (and discovery of!) Fort Hollingsworth in Cecil County, Maryland...enjoy!
Where was Fort Hollingsworth? What did it look like and what happened to it after the war? These are questions investigated by the Archeological Society of Maryland in 2011 and 2012, with one of its chapters—the Archeological Society of the Northern Chesapeake—taking the lead.
The Baltimore Patriot, the local newspaper at the time, provides the only construction details: a semicircular breastwork approximately 300 feet long with a ditch large enough to accommodate 500 soldiers. The reminiscences of Thomas J. Sample in 1880 and the name of the fort—Fort Hollingsworth—place the fortification on Zebulon Hollingsworth’s farm at the confluence of the Big Elk and Little Elk creeks, just south of Elkton. The Hollingsworth farmhouse and surrounding fields were acquired by the Town of Elkton and the Historic Elk Landing Foundation restored the house as a museum.
Since the local archaeology chapter was interested in securing permission from the Trust to hold the Society’s annual field session in archaeology at Elk Landing, they commissioned Peter Quantock, then a master’s student at the University of Denver, to conduct a magnetometer survey of the lawn between the Hollingsworth House and the now wooded marsh to the south. The mapped magnetic anomalies suggested a linear feature—possibly the fortification—beneath the seemingly level lawn.
|The magnetometer survey in progress.|
|Anomalies beneath the surface!|
|Subtle variations in the topography|
|The radar imagery that identified Fort Hollingsworth!|
Unit 1 was the southernmost unit, Unit 3 the northernmost, and Unit 2 was placed where we thought the ditch was located. Unit 2 came down on the ditch and the intervening eleven additional units provided a single trench in which we could clearly see the full width of the ditch. Nothing but scattered gravels remained of the earthwork in this portion of the fort.
With this bit of ‘ground-truthing’ it is possible to reevaluate the radar data and, using the survey data collected by Bill Stephens, to accurately stake the ditch on the ground. Future excavations, if permitted, should reveal remnants of the earthwork and, possibly, gun emplacements and evidence of militia bivouacs. The portion of the ditch that we excavated revealed that the fort was demolished simply by shoveling the earthwork back into the ditch, sometime after February 1815. The land reverted to cultivation. And so we achieved our goals of finding and documenting Fort Hollingsworth. Additional radar and excavation could reveal internal structure of the fort, such as gun emplacements and militia camps. But we don’t know how it compares with other forts built by citizens at the same time…that will require finding and investigating those sites. More about that in the next post!