Lafayette Square is a leafy little park in the middle of West Baltimore, surrounded by lovely old churches, some pretty rowhouses and Victorian mansions, and like many formerly tony areas in Baltimore, abject poverty and crumbling buildings. Still, community bonds are tight, and you're just as likely to find neighborhood activists reclaiming a neglected lot or throwing a spring festival. This weekend, members of the
will traverse the square, which is bounded by Lafayette and Lanvale Streets, with metal detectors. They're looking for traces of the park's mid-19th century inhabitants, U.S. Army troop regiments, who camped at the Lafayette Barracks during the Civil War. One regiment, the Fifth Maryland Infantry, occupied the camp in 1861-'62, where they trained for active duty. In September, 1862, according to the
History and Roster of Maryland Volunteers, War of 1861-5, Volume 1
, the Regiment fought at Bloody Lane at the battle of
and suffered severe losses. According to the
Eli Pousson, a field officer with the Baltimore Heritage Foundation, has enlisted the help of about a dozen volunteer archeologists to search for the remains of that Civil War hospital and barracks. He believes the archaeologists will unearth buttons, bullets, nails, glass and ceramic fragments, as well as soil markings where temporary buildings and tents where erected. "What we're really looking for is a better understanding of soldiers and civilians moving through Lafayette Square," Pousson says. "The dig is a rare public archaeology event, one of very few Civil War digs in Baltimore." While the volunteer archaeologists scan the area and turn up soil, members of the Friends of West Baltimore Squares will offer a public history day with exhibits and walking tours of the neighborhood. The site will be mapped on Friday--not much to see but people walking about with metal detectors--but the dig starts on Saturday, so if you're curious about Civil War history, or want to take a gander at some of the interesting buildings in the neighborhood, the event runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Civil War Archeology in Lafayette Square 1100 W. Lafayette Avenue, Baltimore 21217 Saturday, July 9, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Lafayette Square Park (West Lafayette Avenue & North Arlington Street) Tours, talks, and exhibits throughout the day and hotdogs at noon. On-street parking available.