A mostly volunteer group poked, prodded and swept the dirt of a vacant lot in eastern Baltimore County this weekend, searching -- across the street from such incongruous landmarks as a Citgo station and 7-Eleven store -- for artifacts of the 1814 Battle of North Point.
More then a dozen people using metal detectors and shovels turned up a metal button and six musket balls at the site where, they say, Baltimore's defenders fought British soldiers marching on the city during the War of 1812.
"It's hard to believe that the battle actually took place here," said Kathy Lee Erlandson Liston, standing in the lot and surveying the community called Charlesmont that surrounds it. "But it was here that they actually engaged in contact and were able to slow the British soldiers down."
Liston, an archaeologist who organized the excavation, has been researching the battle for more than a decade.
She and others say plenty of information is available about the British bombardment of Fort McHenry, but not enough is available about fighting on the ground at North Point.
"They don't teach this kind of history in the schools," said Eleanor Lukanich, 65, president of the Dundalk Patapsco Neck Historical Society, who was one of the diggers. "I am getting too old. We have to pass this information on to our young people. I can't do too many more digs."
The diggers were disappointed that they only unearthed a few items, and surmised that most of the artifacts of battle were picked up long ago by souvenir hunters.
"Unfortunately, not much is left here," said Liston. "We know that thousands of artifacts were here at one time, but they probably started to disappear the day after the battle ended."
The effort yesterday was a success in the mind of Charlie Baugher, 11, who lives across the street and offered his shoveling services in the search for traces nearly on his doorstep of a pivotal event in America's history.
"It was lots of fun," he said. "I learned a lot of stuff."
Liston said other nearby sites might have War of 1812 artifacts buried there. The items uncovered this weekend will be cleaned, recorded and entrusted to a preservation group, she said.
Pub Date: 4/26/99