Camp Stanton describes the US Colored Troop Civil War military encampment on the Patuxent River in Charles County, Maryland.  The site was occupied in the middle to late nineteenth century near the present day Maryland Department of Natural Resources Management Area at Benedict.

Archaeological Investigations

Camp Stanton was originally recorded in July of 1987 by Mary Barse during a Phase I survey of the middle section of the Patuxent River.   In December of 2001, the Louis Berger Group conducted Phase I testing for proposed wetland mitigation by the Maryland State Highway Administration.  A nineteenth century occupation was confirmed.

Archaeological excavations were conducted at the site by The Ottery Group, Inc. and the Maryland State Highway Administration from 2010 through 2012 as part of a large-scale study of the area. Fieldwork encountered a cellar feature associated with Camp Stanton, a Civil War encampment of freed slaves formed on the site in December 1863 and occupied through the winter of 1864.

Archeobotanical Studies

Archeobotanical remains were studied from Feature 1, a subfloor cellar feature thought to be associated with the occupation of African American soldiers training at the camp.  Samples targeted for analysis were collected from upper and lower levels of the cellar feature.  Archeobotanical studies were conducted in an effort to inform our understanding of camp operation, foodways, and the use of troop’s living space.

Two flotation samples analyzed from Feature 1 produced abundant wood charcoal, seeds, and an array of miscellaneous plant materials (including fungi, possible bark material, and amorphous carbon).   Two hand-collected carbon samples were also analyzed.   One sample, from the northern limits of the northeastern quadrant of the cellar, was devoid of carbonized plant macro-remains.  The other sample, from a central location within the northeastern quadrant, produced two fragments of American chestnut (Castanea dentata) wood charcoal (28.27 grams [moist weight]).

The results of this study enhance our understanding of the Civil War era cellar feature.  The overwhelming predominance of wood charcoal within the feature, combined with the paucity of comestible remains, suggests that the carbonized macro-botanical record represents the remains of a heating fire or the destructive conflagration of the building beneath which the cellar was located.  The macro-botanical record from Feature 1 provides evidence that the terminal cellar fill was unrelated to plant food processing, preparation or consumption.

Patterns of difference are evident in the archeobotanical dataset from the upper and lower levels of the cellar.  The upper level (at 3.15 feet below datum) contained a wider array of wood charcoal types, all of the seeds recovered from the feature, and a dense concentration of papery, bark-like material.  The sample analyzed from the lower level of the cellar (at 3.4 feet below datum) produced pine, maple and white oak wood charcoal, a piece of fungus, and four small fragments of amorphous carbon.  These differences may reflect different episodes of burning associated with heating fires, or the upper level may relate to a destructive burn of the superstructure.

The formation of the Seventh Regiment Infantry, United States Colored Troops, Maryland Volunteers at Camp Stanton on December 19, 1863 may relate directly to the development of Feature 1.  The cellar and its associated superstructure may have been repurposed to provide winter lodging for troops, and heating may have been the focus of fires constructed vicinity of Feature 1 during the winter of 1863.  Food preparation activities for troop provisioning may have been consolidated elsewhere at the camp.


McKnight, Justine W.
2012 A Study of Archeobotanical Remains Recovered from a Cellar Feature (Feature 1) at Camp Stanton, A Civil War Encampment of Freed Slaves, Charles County, Maryland.  Prepared for the Ottery Group, Inc., and the Maryland State Highway Administration.

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