Lourie nodded.

"What's amazing is that none of these guys would ever have fought before," he said. "No one had military experience at all.

"There's this sense that the British walk, they shoot, then we stand up and we shoot, and that's what's going to happen. And then everyone suddenly is dead."

Still — and to the frustration of the British — the Americans turned the military defeat into a moral victory.

"They interpret it in such a positive way: 'These men are heroes,'" Huebner said. "Instead of, 'this revolution might be a terrible idea.' It could have been interpreted as a sign that the Americans had no hope. But instead, it was seen as proof that the Americans were brave enough to see it through.

"That's sort of magical thinking. But it ended up working out."

Unanswered questions

As the researchers uncover information, one mystery endures: Where are the fallen Marylanders buried? The British would have ordered that they be interred quickly, probably by area residents. But records are unclear, different plaques make conflicting claims, and the actual burial site has become something of a grail for professional and amateur historians.

At a recent event to commemorate the War of 1812, Adkins gave materials on the Maryland 400 to visiting Royal Marines and asked if British archives might contain clues. They were unable to find anything.

Lourie is skeptical that graves can be found. He doesn't believe there was a single, mass burial. And the geography of Brooklyn has changed so much over the last two centuries — what was once hilly, swampy farmland is now flat and densely developed — that there might be no remains left at all.

But he hopes, at least, to be able to provide the number who died, and their names.

The Old Stone House doesn't take a position on where the bodies might be buried.

"From our perspective," Maier said, "the question is really important because it keeps the conversations about the Marylanders at the forefront."

Adkins has ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and both sides of the Civil War. He said those conversations are important.

"My effort here is to help tell the story, to do what we can to make every effort to honor these Marylanders who had such a significant impact," he said. "In the history books, we talk about Yorktown or we talk about Boston. But this is where it could have all been lost."

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

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