Saturday, February 14, 2009

CAT and Custer

The Certified Archeological Technician program committee had a very fruitful meeting this morning, during which we have made significant progress in clarifying guidelines and procedures. Once completed, I will provide additional details so that our readers in Maryland and adjoining states can decide whether they would like to enroll in the program.

On an unrelated matter, I'm rereading Richard Allan Fox's Archaeology, History, and Custer's Last Battle (University of Oklahoma Press, 1993). Understanding the weapons and tactics of the US Cavalry from the late Civil War onward (the Battle of Little Bighorn occurred on June 25, 1876) will serve us well in examining the Union encampments around Port Tobacco. And close examination of Fox's approach to the study of battlefields will also prove helpful in preparing a paper on work that Scott and I did at Antietam battlefield a couple of years ago, a paper that I will present at a regional conference in Ocean City, Maryland, late next month. Doug Scott, a National Park Service archaeologist who worked on the Little Bighorn project in the 1980s, will be delivering the keynote address at that conference.

There has been a great deal of archaeological work conducted on Civil War battlefield sites, and a little on encampments of the period, since the ground-breaking work at Little Bighorn led to the successful, if controversial, reassessment of the US Army's official account of that battle. I expect we will use similar techniques at the encampments around Port Tobacco, modified somewhat because these were camps and not battlefields. One element of the Little Bighorn method that will not be modified, however, is the accurate and precise mapping of all finds. Indiscriminate metal detecting on battlefield sites may well have diminished the scientific potential of such sites...all the more reason why the best possible methods must be brought to bear on what remains.


Friday, February 13, 2009

CAT and Port Tobacco

Power outages and other projects kept the team from Port Tobacco research today. Tomorrow I will participate in a meeting in which we hope to fine-tune the Archeological Society of Maryland's Certified Archeological Technician, or CAT, program.

The program, open to members of the Society, is designed to help candidates develop archaeological skills and systematically study the science without necessarily going back to school. It isn't a licensing program...CAT is continuing education.

Port Tobacco provides opportunities for candidates to receive training and to put that training to use. I hope we can provide more opportunities and more workshops at Port Tobacco, increasing participation in the research for ASM members across the State and, oh yeah, securing more free labor to advance understanding of Port Tobacco.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Contenious Bridge

It seems the residents of Port Tobacco were never really fond of the bridge over Port Tobacco Run. The abstracts of the Port Tobacco Times have several references to the bridge, its construction, improvements, and use.

The first reference in the Times was in 1853 when the County Clerk, James McCormick asked for bids to build the bridge over Port Tobacco Run. The references to its actual construction are brief and tell of its wooden construction with locust posts as supports and that the wood was coming from the Port Tobacco Warehouse. The newspaper has plenty of references to horse falls, carriage spills, and other accidents along the bridge. And most have a complaint accompanying it. In 1862, the citizens and businessmen of Port Tobacco raised $500 to fix the crossing.

Of course there is also the connection to Joseph Cocking and his being hanged in 1896 on the bridge. Whether its the same bridge or crossing as in previous years we don't know.

The maps and drawings of the town that we have show a bridge northwest of the Court House in the swamp. Local residents have also told us of the old bridge. The bridge has played an important role in the history of the town and it will one day be a focus of investigation by the project.

- Peter

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Indian King Hotel

As part of the upcoming field season, we will be looking at several different Civil War related sites in and around Port Tobacco. The Indian King Hotel is on the list of possible excavation sites. Of course, finding it on the ground is the goal. What makes the hotel significant to the Civil War? Its owners, Peregrine Davis and his son-in-law John J. Hughes were southern sympathizers. It is well established that Port Tobacco was a politically active town with strong ties to the southern way of life and to secession. One of the things we want to do is to connect individuals with the events of the times. Peregrine Davis and John J. Hughes are two of those people. Peregrine Davis owned a farm outside of town and ran the Indian King Hotel in town. His name has come up in research showing him as an active hotel operator as early as 1847. Davis' association with the Civil War and the Lincoln Conspiracy is well known and even recounted in the book, "Blood on the Moon" by Edward Steers Jr.

The history of the hotel is limited at best. The lot research we have done has come up with some results, most of which is inconclusive at this time. We do know that the Indian King Hotel lot was owned by Peregrine Davis after the Civil War, he deeded it to his daughter Victorine R. Hughes (wife to John J. Hughes) in 1867. The last record involving the lot is from 1888 when John & Victorine Hughes sold part of the lot to James H. A. Schur[e]man. It could be part of the same lot owned by the Reverend Francis Neale in 1802 but there is no solid connection yet.

In 1885, John J. Hughes was preparing to enter claim against Government for occupancy by US Troops of the Indian King Hotel during the Civil War. I haven't looked into this too much other than a google search and in the resources we have on hand. No evidence of the case ever being brought about has come to light. That doesn't mean it didn't, I just haven't found it...yet. I am curious how many of these types of claims were made against the government and how many were settled in or out of court. Sounds like a good research topic, I'll follow up when I know more.

- Peter

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Handyman Part Deux

A couple weeks ago I started taking apart all the screens we have in order to repair them. I spent a few hours this morning rescreening a few of them. Here's a few pictures of the work.

after fitting the screen and screwing it down, the trimming began...

a small sacrifice of blood and skin to the gods...

and the finished products...we now have more than one usable screen!

- Peter

oh and Jim did help...a little.

Monday, February 9, 2009


The following six presentations will be given at the Archeological Society of Maryland's Spring Symposium on Saturday, April 4, 2009, at Historic St. Mary's City. More details forthcoming.

A Brief History of Archaeology in Maryland’s First Capital
Silas D. Hurry, Historic St. Mary’s City Commission (HSMCC)

Three Decades of Archaeology on St. John’s Freehold
Ruth M. Mitchell, HSMCC

Burial Archaeology in the Chapel Field at St. Mary’s City
Timothy B. Riordan, HSMCC

A Comparative Analysis of a 17th Century Dutch Plantation Site on the Eastern Shore to Known 17th Century Archeological Sites in the Upper Chesapeake Bay
Bruce Thompson, Maryland Historical Trust

Into the Zekiah: The Untold History
Julia A. King, Scott M. Strickland, and Michael J. Sullivan

Discovering Port Tobacco and the Annual Field Session

James G. Gibb, Port Tobacco Archaeological Project

In Memory of Michèle Moriarity
Many of our readers have worked with Tom Forhan at Port Tobacco, and a few of the PTAP team has worked with his son Colin. Last month, after an illness of many months, Tom's wife Michèle died. I never met her, but with a husband like Tom and a son like Colin I don't doubt that she was a very special person. On behalf of the staff and volunteers of the Port Tobacco Archaeological Project, I offer our condolences.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

New Book, Old Subject

Here it is, the long-awaited book cover (we anticipate the arrival in the next few weeks of the odd bits that come between the covers) of The Archaeology of Institutional Life. This is an edited volume of papers by scholars from around the world (Australia, the United Kingdom, New York). Each contributor used archaeology to examine how individuals and communities experience institutional life.

The Archaeology of Institutional Life, University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, 2009.

Individual papers examine poor houses, asylums, prisons, school houses, an orphanage, an American Civil War prison camp, and a Utopian community. Each contributor has tried to tell their story in clear, concise English, using as little jargon as possible. Although targeted at academics with similar interests, most of the papers can be read profitably by general audiences.

This work is important to our ongoing research at Port Tobacco, a community defined as much by its institutions as by its individual residents. We have a least two schools, two or more churches, the court house, Union encampments in the vicinity as well as federal units housed in the courthouse. There isn't an almshouse or poorhouse in town, but there is one just up MD 6. We fully expect to apply the wisdom and insight of our ten colleagues in exploring these facets of Port Tobacco: Sherene Baugher, David R. Bush, Eleanor Conlin Consella, Lu Ann De Cunzo, Lois M. Feister, Owen Lindauer, Susan Piddock, Deborah L. Rotman, Suzanne Spencer-Wood, and Stephen Warfel.

There are two editors for this volume...April and yours truly; but this is April's project. Always has been. Kudos to her for this achievement and for her now tenure-track position at Heidelberg University. If you want to congratulate April in person, she'll be in Port Tobacco the week of March 9.