With battle ships from the greatest navy in the world closing in, a captain orders his flotilla to be scuttled. His 48-foot flagship sinks to the bottom of the river. Two hundred years later, a diving expedition explores its watery grave, searching for clues.
A new Clive Cussler novel?
No, this is the true story of the U.S.S. Scorpion, Commodore Joshua Barney’s flagship during the War of 1812. His mission was to stop or delay the British Navy, who were advancing towards Washington on the Patuxent River in the summer of 1814. Barney's men had given their best at the Battle of Leonard’s Creek, but Cockburn’s fleet outgunned the Americans. Barney, a Revolutionary War hero, and his "Chesapeake Flotilla" landed at Pig Point near Upper Marlboro, Maryland. To keep the supplies out of British hands, another group of sailors sank the ship, barges and gunboats.
In conjunction with the bicentennial of the war, the U.S. Navy, in partnership with the Maryland State Highway Commission and the Maryland Historical Trust, plans to excavate a shipwreck they believe is the Scorpion. C-SPAN broadcast a segment on the story this past weekend.
The recovery will take five years. A cofferdam will be built, sending the river waters away from the site. The ship will stay sunken after the archaeology effort is completed. Hopes are for a museum, and public viewing during the process.
Donald G. Shomette, who first discovered the shipwreck in 1980, wrote a book about the flotilla and the British attacks on Maryland's soil and shores. I have not read it, but his book, "Maritime Alexandria," is a valuable resource on the history of the city’s waterfront.