Scuba divers examining a shipwreck underwater.
Virtual Fieldtrip
Come learn about archaeology, Maryland's history and some sites at the Park.

Gunboats

Archaeologists set to work to record the remains of the two gunboats. Notice in this photo that while the site is completely underwater, the water is very shallow—about 4 feet—and the support system to help the divers is much simpler than what was used for the Scorpion site. 

During their work, archaeologists mapped the wooden remains of the wreck, noting the layout and size of each section, and also noting how much of it was burned.  They paid particular attention to this since they knew that after the gunboats were scuttled in 1814, they were set on fire to destroy them. The supplies would have been removed by the crewmen, leaving very little on board. During the fieldwork, the archaeologists found few artifacts. So far these wrecks were consistent with the historical description.

Here is one of the drawings the archaeologists made of the wooden remains of the gunboat’s hull. The hull is the name of the outside frame of the ship, and is often found on underwater shipwreck sites. The drawing key shows the location of the main sections of the wreck. Ships have specific names for each section, much like cars have hoods or trunks. Here are some common terms to describe parts of any ship.

Bow – the front of the vessel         Starboard – the right side of the vessel
Stern – the back of the vessel        Port – the left side of the vessel

So in the site plan below, the gunboat’s front is to the right, at the 1 and the back is at 2.  Next to the larger site plan is a close-up drawing of the starboard bow area (area's 1 and 3) – which is the front right side of the gunboat.

Site plan of one of the gunboats.  From Enright 1999.
Detail of the gunport starboard bow.  From Enright 1999.

After examining the construction of the gunboat and examining the artifacts from the site, archaeologists determined these were in fact the remains of the gunboats from the Chesapeake Flotilla. Archaeologists and nautical historians can compare these site plans to the proposed designs and see what changes were made when the gunboat was actually constructed.

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