A handshake on the Patuxent River and the War of 1812
The USS Scorpion
During the war of 1812, the British were active on the Chesapeake and were responsible for much depredation. Homes, warehouses and plantations were laid waste and a severe blow was dealt to the commerce of the area. During this period, the British marched upon the Nation's capital, Washington and burned it. The full story of the war of 1812 has been written by Donald G Shomette and various authors and further publications are forthcoming.
One story associated with this conflict is the story of the lost flotilla of Commodore Joshua Barney. In short, with few resources, Barney was commissioned to build a fleet of shallow draught flotilla of flat bottomed armed barges to defend the Chesapeake that could negotiate the shallow waters of the rivers and creeks of the area and to take on the substantial British Fleet.
Barney gave more than a good fight, but in the end he was bottled up at the head of the Patuxent River about twenty miles from Washington by the advancing British. Unable to engage the British to win and in fear of capture of the flotilla, he had orders to scuttle it which he did on August 22 as the British closed in. Following the destruction of the flotilla and the capture of the wounded Barney, it was the British General Ross who said that "they (the Flotilla men) have given us the only fighting we have had" and paroled Barney and had him conveyed to his home.
For years thereafter the lost flotilla laid in the waters and marshes of the Patuxent and only after diligent investigations by Donald Shomette and his colleagues three of the vessels iwere finally located buried in the silt. The full account of this outstanding investigation is contained in Don's book, Tidewater Time Capsule which was published in 1995 and further details in his latest book Flotilla. During Don's investigation, a partial excavation of Barney's flagship the USS Scorpion was completed and valuable information recovered before the wreck was returned to the river's keeping.
The Filey Bay Initiative are involved in the investigation into a wooden wreck conjectured to be the American Bonhomme Richard of John Paul Jones fame in Filey Bay and Donald Shomette (principal investigator and partner in the investigation) is the first American to dive on this wreck and touch it. With the aid of Bill Clark, Rescue Captain of Boat 4 the H20 Express II of the Prince Frederick Volunteer Rescue Squad, a symbolic handshake took place between Don Shomette and Tony on the wreck of the Scorpion. Tony was the first British person ever to go into the river and touch the aged timbers of this famous vessel, succeeding where Admiral Sir George Cockburn had failed in 1812.
At the time of writing, consideration is being given to erecting a monument at the Jefferson Patterson Park at St Leonard's Creek to the war of 1812 and those who took part in it and more information will be made available when it is forthcoming