Fort Frederick (18WA20) is a surviving stone-walled fort built between 1756 and 1758 in Washington County, Maryland. It served as a staging area and supply depot for military forces during the French and Indian War, Pontiac’s Rebellion, the Revolutionary War, and the American Civil War. Fort Frederick was especially important as a key strong point on the mid-18th-century American frontier. It is unique among provincial English forts both for its size and its freestanding stone walls. Archaeological excavations have revealed crucial details on the layout of the site, and the activities that occurred at a frontier fort during the 18th century.
The State of Maryland purchased Fort Frederick in 1922. In 1934, the Civilian Conservation Corps undertook extensive trench excavations inside and outside the fort for restoration purposes. The first professional excavation took place in July 1971, when State Archaeologist Tyler Bastian dug a single thirty-by-five-foot trench across the width of the eastern barrack.
In 1973, William Liesenbein tested the southwest and northeast bastions in an attempt to locate the powder magazine. He excavated six trenches and five squares in the southwest bastion, and nine trenches and one square in the northeast bastion. Squares in both bastions, and Trenches I, II and III in the northeast bastion, were excavated following natural stratigraphic layers. However, only a small amount of soil was screened through ¼-inch mesh. Other trenches in the southwest and northeast bastions were either totally or almost completely excavated with a backhoe. Trench sidewalls and bottoms were cleaned to reveal stratigraphy, and artifacts were collected from the trench walls. Trenches IV, V, and VI in the northeast bastion and Trench C in the southwest bastion were extended by hand at each end, and soil was removed by natural layer. Liesenbein could not determine the location of the powder magazine, but he did find at least two 18th-century refuse deposits in the southwest bastion.
Stephen Israel conducted archaeological excavations at the site in 1975, prior to the reconstruction of the east and west barracks, the installation of underground utility trenches, and the restoration of the 1756 ground surface around the west barrack. Israel hand dug Trenches A, B, C, D, and H in the west barrack and Trenches E, F, and G in the east barrack. A backhoe was then used to excavate Trenches A-1 through A-12 around the west barrack and Trenches B-1 through B-12 in the vicinity of the east barrack. The trench floors and walls were mapped and checked for interpretive stratigraphy, barrack architecture, and building materials. Samples of brick, mortar, and soil were collected for future studies. Israel monitored the reconstruction of the barracks, the installation of the underground utility trench, and the ground grading to record any additional archaeological and architectural data. He excavated two refuse deposits near fireplace footings encountered during construction.
In 1977, John Milner Associates conducted archaeological investigations in the southwest bastion and in areas outside the north and west walls of the fort. Eighteen various-sized units were excavated within the southwest bastion. All soil was removed in natural layers and screened through ¼- inch mesh. In addition, seven trenches were mechanically excavated outside the fort. This excavation did not find any evidence for specific activities or structures within the southwest bastion, except for refuse disposal, and failed to locate any exterior foundations. Other investigations, such as one by Greenhorne and O’Mara, Inc. in 1999 and 2000, were conducted in and around the perimeter of the fort, but their results were not included in this project.
A total of 13,429 artifacts were recovered at Fort Frederick during the four excavations described above. Many objects were related to activities associated with a military installation. However, it appears that the residents of Fort Frederick also possessed more expensive items, such as decorated ceramics, than expected.
Military artifacts included 12 musket balls, 10 smaller lead shot, six gunflints, and four iron musket hardware fragments. A copper alloy tent slide was also found, while three jaw harps revealed a glimpse into the leisure activities of soldiers. The presence of 62 bone buttons and 51 button blank fragments in a feature near the fireplace footings of the east barrack indicate that soldiers were manufacturing buttons at the fort.
Ceramics and glass artifacts from Fort Frederick revealed that the soldiers had access to higher-priced objects. A large number of the recovered colonial ceramics were highly-decorated, expensive items, such as scratch-blue white salt-glazed stoneware, hand-painted and sprig-molded white salt-glazed stoneware, polychrome tin-glazed earthenwares, and Chinese porcelains, in addition to utilitarian coarse earthenwares. Glass vessels included numerous wine and pharmaceutical bottles, a snuff bottle, and several leaded tumblers and stemwares. Other tableware included knife and fork fragments, some with carved handles.
Personal items give additional insight into the lifestyles of the residents of Fort Frederick. Numerous examples of decorated copper alloy buttons, including some with military insignias, and buckles for various purposes, were uncovered. A pair of cufflinks, an unidentified gilded copper alloy fragment, and a green glass jewel were also found.
The records collection consists of original documents in good condition, though the majority show signs of staining from field use and age. The collection is housed in four letter-sized clamshell archival storage boxes, three oversized archival enclosures, and four document rolls.
Records from various projects undertaken between 1934 and 1978 are present. They are organized by document type and year. Excavation records consist of the following: daily field notes, plan and profile drawings, excavation unit reports, and archaeological feature forms. Some original documents were pre-printed on both sides, but no information was recorded on the back side. In these instances, the second side was usually not scanned.
Other documents in the collection include Fort Frederick State Park materials, conservation documents, correspondence, transcripts of early records, articles written about Fort Frederick, 1970 project proposals, and background research. These are available online as .PDF files. There are no field journals associated with the collection.
Eighteen reports are included in the collection and available online as word searchable .PDF documents:
• Narrative Report. Fort Frederick State Park Number 1, Big Pool,
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