Preservation Maryland has been working in support of a preservation solution for the historic Hamilton Willard Shafer Farm in Burkittsville, Maryland since the organization announced a Six-to-Fix partnership with the Burkittsville Preservation Association in 2016. As part of this partnership, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) has been conducting important archaeology at the site and will open up the dig to the public this weekend.

Public Archaeology Day: Preservation Maryland, MDOT SHA, and the Burkittsville Preservation Association invite the public to observe and participate in the new archaeology being done at the historic Shafer Farm at 1606 Gapland Road P.O Box 243, Burkittsville, MD 21718 on Saturday, October, 2019, from 12:30PM to 3:30PM.

Attendees will have the opportunity to meet professional archaeologists and Civil War experts to learn about the history of the Shafer Farm and South Mountain Battlefield. A variety of Civil War artifacts have already been found and mapped to give a better idea of the movement of Union and Confederate troops across the landscape. This is an active dig site so please wear comfortable walking shoes and dress according to the weather.



In 1862, thousands of troops camped on and marched through farm fields throughout Frederick County. Today a team of archaeologists is using high-tech equipment to pinpoint troop movements throughout the county to unearth artifacts buried beneath the ground for over 150 years. Archaeologists will also investigate nearby yards to learn more about the people who lived in Burkittsville during the 18th and 19th centuries.

This month, Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) archaeologists joined Burkittsville Preservation Association and Preservation Maryland in a study of the South Mountain Battlefield. They plan to identify camps and battlefield lines and link them to roads that were used to move equipment during the Battle of South Mountain. Using old maps and metal detectors, archaeologists located evidence of the Civil War, including lead ammunition called Minié Balls and a Union cavalry button.

“This project will help to further identify and mark the important and nationally significant events that took place on these hills over 150 years ago,” Preservation Maryland Executive Director Nicholas Redding said.

“Once we link these battlefield lines to our modern road system, we’ll be able to determine how troops and equipment moved across the landscape,” MDOT SHA Chief Archaeologist Dr. Julie Schablitsky said. “Burkittsville is steeped in history and this is an amazing opportunity to learn more about the impact the war had on the town and its citizens.”

Shafer Farm, 2016.

Shafer Farm, 2016.

The team is examining the Hamilton Willard Shafer Farm, which was transformed into a Civil War camp in 1862, and the Arnold Farm, where Confederate and Union soldiers exchanged fire.

The Shafer Farm’s brick house, summer kitchen, and stone outbuilding were standing during the Civil War. The farm produced grains and dairy products for the market, and prior to emancipation, this work was a task that more than a dozen enslaved African Americans handled. Archaeologists are also working to find evidence of their lives on these farms.

Revolutionary War Capt. Joshua Harley, the founder of Burkittsville, once lived at the Arnold Farm. The property consists of a Greek Revival style home that dates to 1790, along with a springhouse, a barn and stone walls that enclose pastures and fields at the base of South Mountain at Crampton’s Gap. During the Civil War, David Arnold operated the farm and stories exist of women baking pies for Confederates staying at the house and later, Union sharpshooters firing from the barn on Confederates up the hill.

Former Mayor of Burkittsville, Paul Gilligan, owns the Arnold Farm and is excited to have the archaeologists studying his property. “I have always wondered what the soldiers left behind. Now, it looks like we are finally going to find out” he said.