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Possible remains of Army fort found

Wednesday - 4/25/2012, 4:59pm  ET

By TINA REED
The Capital of Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - For as long as Bill Karditzas has been working at the Naval Academy, a giant slab of marble has sat right smack in the midst of his firing range.

The marksmanship training coach couldn't figure out where it belonged and it was too heavy to move, he said.

So there the stone sat _ that is, until it became subject of great curiosity earlier this year after a history professor from the Naval Academy began asking some questions about the land within the firing range fence line.

"I told her, `I think I know where your fort is,'?" Karditzas said.

Turns out, it is likely a piece of what used to be an Army fort long since buried beneath the dirt, the rifle range and other Naval facilities on Greenbury Point across the Severn River from the Naval Academy.

Records show it was made of 100,000 bricks and that it likely had a dry moat around it _ but the area has since been completely flattened.

"This is one of the most altered pieces of land I've ever worked with. It's mind-boggling," said Mechelle Kerns Galway, Naval Academy adjunct assistant history professor and president of the Anne Arundel County chapter of the Archeological Society of Maryland.

The much better known Fort Severn _ which was located on area that now houses the Naval Academy _ is beneath a wing of Bancroft Hall, Kerns Galway said.

"But there were 100,000 bricks. They've got to be out there somewhere," she said.

Kerns Galway began her researching the fort because of the approaching 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, she said. So she began pulling old files and old drawings of the fort and began piecing together as much as she could about its history _ looking for clues so she could search for any artifacts that might remain.

Fort Madison initially began being built in the early 1800s at the request of Thomas Jefferson, who wanted forts and gun posts up and down the East Coast. Fort Madison and Fort Severn were among 62 of these forts between Maine and Florida.

"You should think Fort McHenry when you picture it," Kerns Galway said.

Fort Madison was redesigned and rebuilt in the 1850s but was later used for training of midshipmen.

"Even though Annapolis was not attacked, it shows Annapolis was very important after the American Revolution. It was important enough to have two forts," Kerns Galway said.

Fort Madison was razed in the 1930s to put in the rifle range. By looking at the diagrams, she realized, the fort would have to be located about 18 feet above sea level and used it as a clue on where to look. Earlier this month, she gathered a group of about 10 midshipman and dug dozens of test pits to search for any sign of disturbances under the soil, she said.

As they worked, they began to find several areas with debris like handmade bricks, including what appeared to be an archway brick, she said. There's still much more excavation to do, but those findings mark a big success, she said.

"It's not going to be a site that has a lot of sexy artifacts," Kerns Galway said. The best she might possibly expect are any lost items from soldiers, such as buttons or hand tools.

But she does feel she's on the right track, she said. And lucky for Karditzas, it won't interfere with his shooting range while keeping tabs on the fort beneath it.

"You never know what you're going to find with archaeology," she said.

___

Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://capitalgazette.com


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