Notes: Maryland Armory Book, John Shaw, Armorer, 1813-1820

The following 8 entries of the 351 in all concern the defenses and State House of Annapolis from 1813 – 1820. John Shaw (1745-1829) was the superintendent of the State House and grounds as well as the Annapolis Armorer and well known cabinetmaker. His Armory Ledger Book (74 pages) lists company commanders and the disbursements of war materials obtained for their companies during the War of 1812. It is an indispensible archival resource for the period.

“October 18, 1813 –“Delivered to Captain Pinkney by verbal order of the Governor, 17  9-pounders blank cartridges for a feu de joy for [Major] Gen’l [Henry H.] Harrison’s Victory over [Major General Henry] Proctor – 50 lbs of [gun] powder.” 

“November 2, 1813 – Sent to Brigadier General William Madison’s camp at Herring Creek, the following articles of ammunitions, viz., 29 fixed Six Pdr. Cartridges / 9 fixed Six Pdr Cannister / Musket Cartridges, 6 Boxes of 6,000 and 1 Keg / 600 flints in the box with cartridges / 1 Barrel 90 pound Cannon Powder.”

General William Madison (1762-1843) was the younger brother of President James Madison. William commanded the 1st Virginia Regiment  (600 men) at the skirmish at Kirby’s Mill in Anne Arundel County on October 31, 1814. Nine barges of Royal Marines and seamen (200-300 men) came ashore in a raiding party. Captain Robert Barrie of  HMS Dragon (74 guns) wrote we had  “a little affair with Nathan the other day against at least six times our number…” Also present was Captain James Bird’s U.S. Light Dragoons (125 men) who charged the British three times and sent them returning to their barges.

August 27, 1814 – Delivered to Adjutant Duvall at Fort Madison, 28 muskets & 28 Cartridge boxes.” 

“February 8, 1815 – Delivered to Captain Wells for a salute on account of [Andrew] Jackson’s Victory the 8th of January – 18 cartridges, 75 lbs. of [gun] powder.”

“February 22, 1815 -“Fired the guns & Illuminated the State House on account of General Washington’s Birthday & the confirmation of Peace – 75 lbs of [gun] powder.”

“May 29, 1818 – Fired a Salute of 20 guns for the Arrival of the President of the United States [James Monroe] last night in this city.”

December 6, 1818 – Rigged out a flagstaff on the State House to hoist the Colours on the Halyards on the top being broke.”

“July 4, 1819 – Fired a Salute of 21 guns in Honor of the Day & Hoisted the Flag – used 1 keg of [gun] powder.”

Source: Records of the War Department, Post Revolutionary War Records, Office of the Adjutant General, National Archives. (NA RWD AGO MABK 1813-1820).

Published in: on August 8, 2012 at 7:24 pm  Comments Off on Notes: Maryland Armory Book, John Shaw, Armorer, 1813-1820  

The Annapolis Armory

Though no images of the armory survive, early records mentioned the Armory of Annapolis in August 1716 for funding for “an handsome house be built for the lodging & Securing the publik Magazine of Arms in the City & also that part of the Ammunition consisting of Ball lead, Match & Flints…” It was completed a year later. A further description offered these notes: “The Armory stood at the north side [of the State House] at an equal distance from the Court House,…a wooden gilt chandelier suspended from the vaulted roof…”

With the declaration of war and the arrival of the British fleet in the bay in 1813, the Armory was too small for the storage of tens of thousands of military accroutrements needed to supply the militia. Supplies such as ball-lead, Du-Pont gunpowder, muskets, rifles, cannons, etc., all had to be contracted by the state and then sent to Annapolis for storage until distribution. It is very likely several large warehouses were used to store the enormous amount of supplies needed to furnish the Maryland militia during the war. Three other state armories were established that required supplies from Annapolis, Baltimore, Frederick-Town and Easton on the Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Each was managed by an Armorer.

The Annapolis Armorer was none other  than John Shaw (1745-1829), a cabinet-maker, custodian, and keeper of the state records.

Sources: The Ancient City, A History of Annapolis, 1649-1887 by Elihu S. Riley (Annapolis, 1887); Buildings of the State of Maryland at Annapolis, by Morris L. Radoff (Annapolis: Hall of Records Commission. 1954).

Published in: on April 12, 2011 at 11:41 am  Comments Off on The Annapolis Armory  

Levin Winder (1757-1819): Governor of Maryland

Levin Winder by Florence Mackubin

Levin Winder by Florence Mackubin. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1043

Levin Winder was born in Somerset County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore along Monie Creek on September 4, 1757 to William and Esther (Gillis) Winder. He later served as captain in the 4th Maryland Regiment during the Revolution and rose in rank to lieutenant-colonel on June 3, 1781. After the war he returned to the eastern shore and resumed his occupation as a planter.

In 1806 he was elected as a federalist to the House of Delegates, serving three successive terms as an avid opponent of the national policies of the Republican Party and the war declaration. In June 1812, as a result of the Baltimore riots, the General Assembly elected Winder, defeating Governor Robert Bowie (1750-1818) by a vote of 52-29. Taking office that November Winder became the wartime executive and brigadier general of the 2nd Division, Eastern Shore, Maryland Militia. With the federalist continuing their opposition to the war the political affairs led to standstill between Maryland and the federal government. The bay depredations of the British navy the following spring, as well as threatening Annapolis, enabled Winder to call a special session of the Maryland Legislature on May 13, 1813 reporting “…that considerable alarms have permiated the state, in consequence of the appearance of a large naval force within the waters of the Chesapeake.”

With the advice of his Executive Council who assisted in coordinating the states’ war efforts, they continued issuing officer’s commissions, war supplies, and protection of the Chesapeake tidewater – with little financial or military assistance from the federal government.

Winder became soon aware of the Madison administration and that of the Secretary of War John Armstrong of ignoring the defense of Maryland. Although an anti-war governor, Winder had to contend with protecting the Maryland tidewater region from the increasing British attacks. Upon learning the federal government had supported Virginia in her defense, Winder remarked, “Virginia has but to ask and she received; but Maryland, for her political disobedience is denied.”

Despite the political troubles with the federal government, Winder galvanized the Maryland militia with supplies and several militia acts to protect the state from British incursions and attack serving as governor from 1812-1816. He died on July 1, 1819 and was buried on his estate on Monie Creek near Princess Anne, Somerset County, though the site of his grave has yet to be discovered.

Sources: Gerson G. Eisenberg, Marylanders Who Served the Nation:  A Biographical Dictionary of Federal Officials from Maryland (Annapolis:  Maryland State Archives, 1992), 233; Frank F. White, Jr.  The Governors of Maryland 1770-1970.  (Annapolis:  The Hall of Records Commission, 1965).



Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 7:33 pm  Comments Off on Levin Winder (1757-1819): Governor of Maryland  

British Spies enter Annapolis, August 1814

On August 14, 1814, onboard HM frigate Menalaus, Captain Sir Peter Parker reported he had anchored his ship off Maryland’s Eastern Shore opposite Annapolis unnoticed, while two of his officers rowed in a ships boat six miles across the bay and went ashore to reconnoiter the town. One of the officers, Lt. Benjamin Benyon, a Royal Marine commented that “… the Town is very pretty, the finest building is the State House which is in the centre of the Town, its built of brick, on the top of it is a large dome, this erected by the great Washington. This Town is well fortified, there are three thousand troops in it…”

Captain Parker informed the admiral that “…I may with safety give it as my opinion that Annapolis would face a very easy conquest (Two of my Officers walked round Fort Madison in the Night without being discovered.)…” That the officers and seamen had crossed the bay, approached Fort Madison, landed and walked freely unnoticed, suggest that the harbor defenses were not properly being guarded. Certainly a stronger presence should have been posted when a large British expeditionary forces had just entered the Patuxent River and eventually marched towards the U.S. Capitol.

Sources: Captain Peter Parker, RN, to Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane, August 30, 1814; Journal Kept during the Years 1813-1814 aboard HMS Menelaus, By Lieutenant Benjamin G. Benyon, RM;. (Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio).

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 6:36 pm  Comments Off on British Spies enter Annapolis, August 1814  

Annapolis: Diplomatic Port of Entry & Colonel John Stuart Skinner

On the evening of March 12, 1813, a British courier, Mr. Moore arrived in Annapolis on board the British packet Francis Feeling, Capt. Anthony Bell. Mr. Moore, that evening dined with Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832) at his town house. It was during this meeting that Carroll learned and thus informed his son that “the significancy of the place [Annapolis], and its being the station for flags of truce, will except it from that calamity [of war].” Thus Annapolis was designated an official port of entry, securing the state capitol from any acts of aggression.

In 1807 John Steuart Skinner (1788-1851) an Annapolis planter and lawyer was appointed notary public representing Maryland, who served as secretary for a republican meeting held at the State House on May 30, 1812. Their resolution was to “express in a public manner their sentiments on the present posture of affairs with Great Britain,” and to draft resolutions representing the City of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County.

On July 6, 1812, Congress approved “An Act for the Safe Keeping and Accommodation of Prisoners of War” that was followed by a “Provisional Agreement, for the Exchange of Naval Prisoners of War” on November 28 with the British government. In March 1813 Skinner was appointed colonel as agent for the U.S. State Department and for U.S. flags-of-truce for dispatches and prisoner exchange. His first mission came on February 27 when the British Packet, Francis Feeling entered Annapolis harbor under the guns of Fort Madison for dispatches to be received or sent between the U.S.Government and the British naval forces. It would be one of many such missions carried out by Skinner during the war that would enable him to acquire a diplomatic friendship with Rear-Admiral George Cockburn.

That fall Colonel Skinner was ordered to Baltimore with a U.S. Navy purser’s commission for those U.S. vessels being built in Baltimore and for the U.S. Chesapeake Flotilla. In September 1814 he would accompany lawyer Francis Scott Key on a diplomatic mission to the British fleet to secure the release of a Dr. William Beanes held on board HMS Tonnant. On Sept. 8 he and Skinner were transfered to an American flag-of-truce vessel, the President and together witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry (Sept. 13-14) that became the inspiration for a new national song, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

In the years following, Skinner became the most influential editor in America for several agricultural journals he founded among of which was The Plough, the Loom, and the Anvil. He became the president of the Maryland Jockey Club and postmaster for Baltimore (1816-1849). He died on March 21, 1851 and is buried in Westminster Church burying ground in Baltimore. 

Sources: Charles Carroll of Carrollton to his son, March 12, 1813. Unpublished Letters of Charles Carroll of Carrollton…Ed. Thomas M. Field (New York: U.S. Catholic Historical Society, 1902); “Biographical Notice of John S. Skinner,” by Benjamin P. Poore The Plough, the Loom, and the Anvil, (New York, 1855).

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 6:19 pm  Comments Off on Annapolis: Diplomatic Port of Entry & Colonel John Stuart Skinner  

Daniel Wells (1794-1814) of Annapolis: First Baltimore Sharp Shooter, Sept. 1814

Louisa Wells was born on August 11, 1809 and her older brother Daniel Wells, Jr., on December 30, 1794 both of Annapolis, the children of Daniel and Mary Wells of Annapolis. During the war, Daniel Wells, Sr., served as a lieutenant in Captain Jonathan Pinkney’s Artillery company in Annapolis.

In 1813, Daniel Wells, Jr., age 20, was in the apprentice employment of Baltimore merchant George Mackenzie to learn the saddler trade and fulfilling state contracts for militia cartridge boxes. In the late summer of 1814 Daniel enlisted in the 1st Battalion of Maryland Riflemen in Capt. Edward Aisquith’s First Baltimore Sharp Shooters causing great consternation for his safety within the family. Having departed for Baltimore to rejoin his company after the fall of Washington, the next news that his family received was that Daniel had been killed in a skirmish on September 12, 1814, near North Point.

His sister Louisa Wells (1808-1891) remembers that “Not long after this, Daniel Well’s cap was sent home. It was the tall, stiff cap worn by Captain Aisquith’s Sharp Shooters, and it was matted with the blood and hair of the young patriot. Two holes showed where the ball had entered one side of his head and passed out at the other side.”

As the story of Daniel Wells and Henry McComas, “The Boy Martyrs” grew, the family was able to collect several relics of the war including the Sharp Shooters  muster roll with Daniel Wells name entered “Killed in the advance 12 September 1814.” Louisa later married Adrian A. Posey who served in Captain Lawrence Posey’s company, the 1st Regiment from Charles County during the war. Daniel Wells and his friend Henry G. McComas remains lie under a 21-foot marble obelisk in Ashland Square, Gay and Aisquith Streets in East Baltimore.

Sources: The Sun, August 26, 1889; Mary Wells (1749-1823) and Daniel Wells, Sr., (1768-1818), Baltimore Patriot, January 27, 1818 and February 3, 1823; Louisa (Wells) Posey (1808-1891). The Sun, January 13, 1891.

Published in: on April 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm  Comments Off on Daniel Wells (1794-1814) of Annapolis: First Baltimore Sharp Shooter, Sept. 1814  

“The Alarm Guns Have Just Fired – Every Man Is In Arms!” September 10, 1814

On September 7, following the capture of Washington on August 24, the British consolidated their naval and military forces at Tangier Island, Va. The British fleet, consisting of ships-of-the-line, frigates, sloops, schooners, troop transports, and bomb ships sailed up the Chesapeake – an armada of fifty warships.

At 1:30 p.m. on September 10th the alarms guns at Forts Madison and Severn were fired and church bells tolled as the British fleet, stretching to the horizon made their passage past Annapolis. “They could be distinctly ascertained from the haziness of the weather.” Panic overtook the city as residents gathered their belongings in wagons, militia companies assembled on the town greens, as express riders carried the news to Baltimore and Washington. The offices of the Maryland Gazette have all been called out for the city’s defense. Militia look-out posts on the Patapsco River ten miles northward raised their signal flags to like flags in Baltimore. The broad pennants of three British Admirals – Cochrane, Cockburn and Malcolm flew from the mastheads of His Majesty’s Ships Marlborough, Albion and Tonnant. Two weeks before in a letter to President Madison, Vice Admiral Cochrane declared his intention “to destroy and lay waste such towns and districts upon the coasts as may be found assailable.” Annapolis would be spared as the British sailed northward towards Baltimore.

Maryland and Virginia militia companies began to march to Annapolis, then to Baltimore. Seven days later, with defeat at Baltimore and the last major campaign in the Chesapeake, Annapolis for the last time witnessed the passing of the Royal Navy.

Sources: Maj. Barney to Samuel Smith, September 10, 1814, Maine Portland Gazette, September 19, 1814.

Published in: on April 1, 2011 at 7:21 am  Comments Off on “The Alarm Guns Have Just Fired – Every Man Is In Arms!” September 10, 1814  

St. John’s College Liberty Tree, July 4, 1812

Mayor Claude and children in Liberty Tree, MSA SC 1477-1-5592

Mayor Claude and children in Liberty Tree, MSA SC 1477-1-5592

On July 4, 1812, the thirty-sixth year of American Independence, the citizens of Annapolis gathered on St. John’s College green under the shade of a majestic tulip poplar tree. It had once sheltered the soldiers of the French and American armies in 1781 on their march to Yorktown, Virginia.

On this day four weeks after the declaration of war, citizens of Annapolis assembled under the venerable poplar as their fathers had done for the purpose of “expressing their devotion to the sacred cause of their country.” A handsome dinner was prepared with state officials and military officers in attendance amidst patriotic toasts and the discharge of saluting cannons.

St. John’s College was also where a promising young Francis Scott Key studied law who very likely sought the shade of the tree in study.

In September 1999 Hurricane Floyd damaged the tree and was removed. It messured 102 inches in diameter and stood 60 feet in height. On March 30, 2007 a tulip poplar was planted to begin a new liberty tree. 

Source: Maryland Gazette, July 9, 1812.

Published in: on March 31, 2011 at 9:25 pm  Comments Off on St. John’s College Liberty Tree, July 4, 1812  

“Guardians of Annapolis”: Harbor Defenses

Rough plan of the defences of the harbour of Annapolis in Maryland

Rough plan of the defences of the harbour of Annapolis in Maryland / taken from a penciled sketch made by Brig. General Wm. Winder, 1814.

As early as 1776 the Annapolis Council of Safety petitioned for the erection of several earth fortifications at four strategic points to protect Annapolis harbor. These were at Horn Point, Greenbury Point, Beaman’s Point and Windmill Point. By the late 18th century the bay had become a crucial transportation route for the Continental army, supplies and communications. To protect the colonial capitol, in 1808 these four points of land became the foundations of the following U.S. fortifications.

Spring 1813 – With the arrival of British naval forces in the Chesapeake, Governor Winder reported to the legislature that “due to the defenseless situation of the forts”  he ordered a detachment of 1500 militia to Annapolis for the city’s protection and to supplement the small detachments of U.S troops at the forts.

Fort Severn (1808-1904) – On November 1808 the land was ceded to the U.S. War Department. In January 1809 President Jefferson reported to Congress: ” A circular battery of mason-work at Windmill Point, for the protection and defense of Annapolis is nearly completed – the cannon are mounted. Another battery [Fort Madison]on the bank of the Severn, below the town, is also nearly finished.”

It was described as a circular 14′ high stone masonry work, mounting twelve guns at Windmill Point. During the war it was intermittently garrisoned by Captain Samuel Sterett’s Co. 5th U.S. Infantry, Aug – Dec 1812; Lieutenant Satterley Clark, 1st Regiment, U.S. Artillery, June 1813. In 1845 Fort Severn was transferred to the U.S. Navy for the U.S. Naval Academy and in 1909 was demolished. Today the site is occupied by Bancroft Hall.

Fort Madison (1809-1909) – Located on Carr Point, Fort Madison, was described by U.S. Secretary of War Wm. Eustis in Dec. 19, 1809: “Fort Madison, an enclosed work of masonry, comprehending a semi-elliptical face, with circular flanks, calculated for thirteen guns: with a brick magazine, and barracks for one company.” On April 19, 1813, Fort Madison fired her alarm guns when several Maryland privateers sought shelter from being chased by British warships. The fort remained garrisoned until transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1845. It was removed in 1909. The site is the U.S. Yard Patrol boats across the river from Bancroft Hall. Among the troops who garrisoned the fort were Capt. George C. Collin’s Baltimore Union Artillery, 1st Regt. Md Artillery, Aug 1812.

It was demolished in 1909 by the U.S.Navy, the site to be used for the U..S. Naval Academy.

Fort Nonsense (c. 1808- c. 1815) – Very little is known of the site other than it was located on Carr Point and may have been used during the Revolutionary War as a lookout post through the War of 1812. Located below Fort Madison on a high prominence it appears to have been a small circular earthen redoubt of 2 acres. Remnants of the redoubt have survived of the three forts that had defended Annapolis during the war. Today it is located on U.S. Navy property and is off limits to civilians.

Sources: “Fort Severn, Forerunner of U.S. Naval Academy,” by Ruby R. Duval, Shipmate, Oct. 1958; Correspondence between Gov. Levin Winder and U.S. Secretary of War John Armstrong, March – April 1813, Baltimore Patriot, May 22, 1813.

Published in: on March 24, 2011 at 9:17 pm  Comments Off on “Guardians of Annapolis”: Harbor Defenses  

Annapolis, 1783-1812

…our fellow Citizens in Arms are ready to do their duty
and believe with me that the Liberties of America
can never be lost
while every citizen is a Soldier
and every Soldier the Sentinel of his own…”

Governor Robert Wright to the Honorable General Assembly, November 7, 1807.

A Front View of the State House & c. at Annapolis the Capital of Maryland

A Front View of the State House & c. at Annapolis the Capital of Maryland. Maryland State Archives, Thomas Bond Collection, MSA SC 194

American Revolution, 1776-1783: Prelude to 1812. – Following the Battle of Yorktown in Virginia in October 1782, the last major campaign of the American Revolution, that General George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental army within Maryland’s Old State House Senate Chamber on December 19, 1783. Following the ceremony, private citizen-farmer from Virginia, George Washington, left the State House, mounted his horse and left for Mount Vernon for Christmas Dinner. On January 14, 1784, the Treaty of Paris was ratified here, officially ending the Revolutionary War. Twenty-eight years later in a declaration of war on June 18, 1812, America once more was at war with England.

On May 7, 1784, the chamber was the scene of Thomas Jefferson’s appointment as the first United States minister plenipotentiary to foreign governments. In 1786, what became known later as the Annapolis Convention was convened, a gathering of the delegates from the thirteen states of the Union to consider better regulation measures of commerce; but only the mid-Atlantic states came. Without the full support of all the states a resolution was called to meet in Philadelphia the next year. It would be in Carpenters Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed that the assembly of states drafted and approved the Constitution of the United States in 1788.

Prologue to War – The news reached the capitol within the day. The Annapolis Gazette, July 2, 1807 informed its readers that HM frigate Leopard had fired a warning shot, then boarded in force the U.S. frigate Chesapeake. “The Chesapeake is lying in Hampton Roads [Virginia] without any colors! And strange to tell, the Leopard is triumphantly riding at anchor within our waters near the [Virginia] capes.” The Republican Star reported that “We do not, indeed, that this savage outrage has a precedent in naval annals.” For the residents of Queen Anne’s County on the Eastern Shore it was personal. One of the three American crew taken off and impressed into service was John Stachen, a native Marylander who had enlisted on board the Chesapeake two years earlier. This infringement on an American frigate brought the impeding crisis of America’s sovereign neutrality into a ready state of war. Five years later on June 18, 1812 the United States of American declared war on Great Britain.

A Maryland Declaration of War – The response to war was not unexpected. During the autumn of 1811 the Maryland State Senate introduced six resolutions that were unanimously adopted, with the house of Delegates following three weeks later with the resolutions adopted by a vote of 34 to 23 in support of President James Madison in the impeding crisis.

“That in the opinion of this legislature, the measures of the administration with respect to Great Britain have been honorable, impartial and just; that in their negotiations they have evinced every disposition to terminate our differences on terms not in compatible with national honor, and that they deserve the confidence and support of the nation…”

On November 23, 1812, Levin Winder was elected Governor of Maryland. A federalist, Winder opposed the war. The House delegates voted for him, but the majority of the Senate was controlled by the Republicans. For the remainder of the war, without federal support, Winder depended, as the U.S. Secretary of War responded, to depend on the resources of the state.

Sources: The Governors of Maryland, 1777-1970, by Frank F. White, Jr. (Annapolis: Hall of Records Commission, 1970)

Published in: on March 24, 2011 at 9:10 pm  Comments Off on Annapolis, 1783-1812