- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 17, 2003

ANNAPOLIS — While British troops were attacking Washington on Aug. 24, 1814, a minor skirmish in the War of 1812 was taking place at Bodkin Point near the mouth of the Patapsco River, south of Baltimore.

Writing in his journal for that day, a British Royal Marine lieutenant recorded that the HMS Menelaus, captained by Sir Peter Parker, had burned a “fine schooner named the Lion of Baltimore.”

Now archeologists are pursuing tantalizing clues that the remains of the Lion might lie under the muddy waters of Bodkin Creek.

“We are at the threshold of something exciting here,” said Kim Nielsen, director of the U.S. Navy Museum in Washington.

Finding the remnants of the burned schooner would provide evidence of a previously undocumented event in the military history of the young American nation.

Archeologists used sonar in the fall to pinpoint the location of what might be the outline of a ship’s hull.

“We were led to the area by several boaters who kept running into something on very shallow tides,” said Steven Bilicki, an archaeologist with the Maryland Historical Trust.

“We started to see something very strange. We got to go down on the site about 20 minutes, and there was wood on the bottom,” he said.

But the dive was cut short because of weather. “We’re going to get back there at some point this year, at least to probe with hand probes,” he said.

Mr. Bilicki said he would like to use a magnetometer, which would pick up signals from cannon and other metal in a ship’s hull.

Several other sites in Bodkin Creek could also be explored as the hunt for the Lion continues. One earlier search ended in disappointment: The submerged wreck was the hull of a barge.

The potential discovery of the Lion comes at a fortunate time, with the nation beginning preparations for the celebration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

As part of the celebration, the National Park Service is working to establish a Star-Spangled Banner National Historical Trail.

Mr. Nielsen said proof that a skirmish took place in Bodkin Creek could place added importance on Hancock’s Resolution, a small rock farmhouse built in the 1700s that is preserved as part of the Anne Arundel County park system.

The house remained in the Hancock family until it was abandoned in the 1960s, said Jim Morrison, founder and president of Friends of Hancock’s Resolution, which was set up to preserve the historic house.

There is evidence, although no proof, that Hancock’s Resolution was used as a signaling station during the war, and Mr. Nielsen would like to see it included on the historic trail, along with the Bodkin Creek site of the sinking of the Lion.

“Militias had set up a system … to signal back and forth across the bay, and up and down the bay which way the British ships were going,” Mr. Morrison said. “The family story was that Hancock’s Resolution was a part of that signaling system.”

Hancock’s Resolution fronts Bodkin Creek near the potential site of the sinking of the Lion by the Menelaus, a 36-gun frigate used by the British to blockade the port of Baltimore.

Mr. Nielsen, who lives in Anne Arundel, became involved with Hancock’s Resolution at a time when the Naval Historical Center was publishing the third volume in a history of the War of 1812 that dealt with the Chesapeake Bay campaign.

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