Archaeologist says he has evidence of historic garrison

Fort Horn believed to be under shallow water off Eastport in Annapolis

May 17, 2002|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

About 200 feet from the elegant homes and waterfront mansions of Horn Point, divers scoured the floor of the Chesapeake Bay yesterday, searching for evidence of the vanished Revolutionary War fort that protected Annapolis from the British.

Fort Horn once stood somewhere on the Eastport peninsula near the mouth of the Severn River, its cannons pointed out over earthen walls to protect Maryland's capital and regulate illicit trade. It served the fledgling nation again in the War of 1812 and became a smallpox infirmary during the Civil War. Then, the fort disappeared - lost forever, many believed, as the picturesque shoreline became heavily developed with condominiums and houses.

But now, an archaeologist believes he may have uncovered traces of the fort under the shallow water off Horn Point. Sonar images this week revealed a jagged, fuzzy line that seems to match the 19th-century depictions of the fort.

To observers, the line in the sonar image looks little different from the one that shows the wake of the archaeologist's boat. But, for underwater archaeologist Stephen Bilicki of the Maryland Historical Trust, it is enough for him to declare that he is 75 percent to 90 percent certain that he has resolved the mystery of Fort Horn.

"We are looking at something that was eliminated from the landscape, but its footprint is being picked up and that is exciting," Bilicki told a small crowd that gathered yesterday to hear about the discovery at McNasby's, a building being renovated to house the Annapolis Maritime Museum. "It's making too many lines to be anything else and its in the right location."

Completed in 1777, Fort Horn had earthen ramparts supported by wooden stakes. Two trenches stretching out from each side protected soldiers as they moved to and from the fort at the tip of the peninsula.

For three days, Bilicki and his team scanned a mile-by-mile-and-a-half rectangle of the bay floor with sonar, detecting a 400 foot section that he believes to be the imprint from the wall or the trenches of the fort.

Yesterday, divers went for a closer look but found nothing.

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