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Dig Underway In Patterson Park To Unearth Fort Citizens Built To Stop The British

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- When it comes to the War of 1812, Fort McHenry gets most of the attention in Baltimore. But efforts are underway to unearth another fortification that's not so well known.

Alex DeMetrick has details of the fort that ordinary citizens built to stop a British invasion 200 years ago.

It's a story of a city rallying to fight rather than run.

There are canons in Patterson Park and plaques marking the spot as the city's line of defense in 1814. Because 200 years ago:

"Washington had just been burned three or four weeks before and Baltimore made sure it was not going to be next on that list," said Johns Hopkins. Baltimore Heritage.

Maps exist of the earthworks the city, not the army, constructed to stop the British. With little time to build with anything more solid than dirt, only a small section of that line remains below the pagoda in Patterson Park.

But wheeling ground penetrating radar, archaeologists are searching the ground for where Baltimore stood its ground.

"And then it extended from here south and north all the way down to the harbor, all the way up to where the Hopkins hospital is," said John Bedell, archaeologist.

But for the 1812 bicentennial, they're only looking to dig up a section of that line in the park. Not that finding it is easy:

"A strong reflection just in this area here. That's telling us there's some disturbance back there. But that could be anything from a tree that's come out of the ground, a groundhog burrow," said Dr. Tim Horsley, archaeologist/geophysicist.

Or maybe traces of something that took thousands to build in just a few weeks.

"Virtually everybody in the city, whether you were enslaved, whether you were an immigrant, whether you were an aristocrat, everybody came together to pitch in to defend the city," said Hopkins.

A spirit backers hope is still with the city for this project.

"We're hoping in 2014 we rally to learn about that again," Hopkins said.

Once radar maps out where to dig for that past.

As it turned out, that defensive line was never tested. The British army unexpectedly left Maryland after the commanding general was killed, but Baltimore was ready.

Starting next month, citizens are welcome to watch and even help archaeologists dig as they unearth an important piece of Baltimore's past.

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