Ongoing Research at Frederick County, MD's L'Hermitage Plantation site
- Brutal Slave History Unearthed at Frederick County's L'Hermitage
By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 26, 2010
From the old road that crossed the Monocacy River, you could plainly see the slave cabins of L'Hermitage.
They were lined up in front of the plantation house, not hidden out back, as was the custom. And passersby could see the implements of oppression -- whips and stocks -- that the owners used to control their property.
Even in 1800, this was extreme for Frederick County, this brutal, Caribbean style of bondage, with its French emigre masters, aggressive displays of subjection, and its 90 slaves.
Last week, in the midst of a summer-long archaeological dig, experts using surface-penetrating radar found what are believed to be remnants of two cabins that once made up the small slave village that served L'Hermitage.
And the National Park Service says the find adds another page to the story of the mysterious plantation, whose tropical-influenced main house still stands, an unlikely witness near the banks of the Monocacy, more than 200 years after it was built.
"It's a huge deal," said National Park Service archaeologist Joy Beasley, cultural resources program manager for Monocacy National Battlefield, outside Frederick, where the plantation is located. "It's an extraordinary site and very unusual, and I do not know of anything like it anywhere else."
. . . .
A dark portrait of what is likely L'Hermitage appears in the 1798 account of the Polish writer and patriot Julian Niemcewicz, who happened to pass by in a carriage and probably was told about the plantation by his driver.
Niemcewicz reported that Boisneuf lived with many slaves "whom he treats with the greatest tyranny."
"One can see on the home farm instruments of torture, stocks, wooden horses, whips etc.," Niemcewicz wrote. "Two or three negroes crippled with torture have brought legal action against him."
Beasley and another Park Service archaeologist, Sara Rivers-Cofield, now with the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, point out that the account may be affected by anti-Catholic, anti-French feeling among the mostly Protestant county residents. But in sum it is probably accurate. . . .
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