First Company of Maryland Pikemen, 1807…“All able bodied young men…”

In the late summer of 1807 following the HM Frigate Leopard naval encounter with the US Frigate Chesapeake on June 22nd, off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, that prompted a near declaration of war with England, the United States and her militia prepared for a conflict that came later with a declaration of war on June 18, 1812.
One of the unusual companies raised in Baltimore was the First Company of Maryland Pikemen commanded by Robert Goodloe Harper, a prominent lawyer who later served as aide-de-camp to Brigadier General John Stricker at the Battle of North Point (Sept. 1814).
Unlike infantry companies who were trained to the use of musket and bayonet, pike-men or lansquenets as they were known in Europe during the Middle Ages, utilized a long 10-25 foot wooden tapered pole with an iron spearhead affixed that exhibited numerous advantageous as a defensive weapon. Against cavalry attacks they were more cost efficient to produce than the short bayonet – having a longer reach with the help of a strong rope that went through a ring near the tip – thus it could be pulled upwards from the base held by the ground in the face of cavalry or advancing infantry at close quarters. It is adapted to many citizens who could not otherwise afford the $20 for a musket, cartridge box, belts, and other necessary accoutrements in carrying a firearm – in all the pike proved a decided superiority.
For artillery defense the usage of pike was indispensable. If enemy cavalry sable or infantry bayonet penetrated to the site of a cannon, the cannon is lost – no cavalry would attempt forcing a body of pikemen, while infantry, the great length of the pike would ultimately win in the contest of “tug of war.”
While the idea of pikes were utilized onboard warships against boarding operations and at fixed fortifications like Fort McHenry, where pikes were used, no records of a company of pikemen were found during the War of 1812 in Maryland.
As for the First Company of Maryland Pikemen in 1807 their existence was not long and soon disbanded. Such companies would have proved a strong defensive phalanx in defending Baltimore’s Hampstead Hill had the British army made the attempt to assault on September 13, 1814. As late as 1815 a Baltimore citizen asked, Would it not be practicable, and highly expedient to raise a force of 2000 men of colour, in this city, to act as pikemen?
Sources: “On the Use of a Pike,” Federal Gazette (Baltimore), July 27, 1807; “Military Hints,” American & Commercial Daily Adv., February 11, 1815; “First Company of Maryland Pikemen,” Federal Gazette, July 27,1807.

Published in: on February 22, 2014 at 1:38 am  Comments Off on First Company of Maryland Pikemen, 1807…“All able bodied young men…”  

The 1814 Memorial Cannons of Patterson Park


On August 14, 1903 at a meeting of the annual Society of War of 1812 in Maryland it was proposed to distribute the War of 1812 cannon described as “…musty and formidable old weapons of war… planted in the streets in different sections of the city as [traffic]“buffers…”

On February 7-8, 1904 the great Baltimore fire destroyed 140 acres of 1500 buildings, etc., of a major part of central downtown Baltimore along the waterfront. In the aftermath of cleaning and rebuilding newly found cannons were also uncovered. Through the auspices of the Society of the War of 1812 in Maryland and the Society of the Daughters of the War of 1812 in the United States these would find new sites to help Baltimore City commemorate military sites associated with the Battle for Baltimore in 1814. Two of the primary sites were Riverside Park (the site of Fort Look-out in South Baltimore); Battery Babcock Monument (McComas St., South Baltimore) and the best known – Patterson Park established in 1825 upon grounds that highlighted the main land defenses protecting the City of Baltimore in 1814 known then as Hampstead or Laudenslager’s Hill.

Today five of these cannon (iron 6-Pdrs) found in the aftermath of the fire are mounted on concrete pedestals with the date “1814” imprinted on each, two of which are known to have been found during the waterfront construction of the Fell’s Point Recreation Pier. They were designed by Mr. John Appleton Wilson (1851-1927), an active member of the Society of the War of 1812 in Maryland, as well as the Baltimore Municipal Art Commission and American Institute of Architects. In 1879 he and a cousin William Thomas Wilson, formed a partnership and named their new firm J.A. & W.T. Wilson, Architects.

Sources: Baltimore American and The Sun newspapers, 1873-1915.

Published in: on February 14, 2014 at 4:53 pm  Comments Off on The 1814 Memorial Cannons of Patterson Park  

The Garrison of Fort McHenry, September 1814

During the bombardment of Fort McHenry on September 13-14, 1814 the small garrison of the U.S. Corps of Artillery (60 men) were augmented by the following federal and militia companies. The total force amounted to 1,010 men. 

Major George Armistead, Commander -U.S. Corps Artillery

Captain Frederick Evans – U.S. Corps of Artillery (60 men)

Capt. Thomas Sangsten – 12th U.S. Infantry (110 Men)

Capt. Joseph Hook, 36th U.S. Infantry (125 men)

Lieut. William Rogers, 36th U.S. Infantry (130 men)

Capt. James H. Hook, 38th U.S. Infantry (100 men)

Capt. John Buck, 38th U.S. Infantry (100 men)

Capt. Matthew S. Bunbury – U.S. Sea Fencibles (60 men) 

Capt. William H. Addison, U.S. Sea Fencibles (50 men)

Lieut. Solomon Rodman, U.S. Chesapeake Flotilla (60 men)

Capt. Joseph H. Nicholson, U.S. Volunteers (75 men)

Captain John Berry, Washington Artillery, 1st Regt. Maryland Artillery (100 men)

Lieut. Charles Pennington, American Artillerist, 1st Regt. Maryland Artillery (75 men)

Source: “Report of Fort McHenry, September 13 & 14, 1814 in the Bombardment.” Records of the War Department, Office of the Adjutant General, Record Group 107. 


Published in: on December 9, 2011 at 5:49 pm  Comments Off on The Garrison of Fort McHenry, September 1814  

Promotion for Major George Armistead, U.S.Army

On September 20, 1814, President James Madison sent a letter to Major George Armistead with a breveted promotion of lieutenant-colonel to date from September 12, 1814. The actual letter has never been found, though the following was posted in the Baltimore Federal Gazette on September 26, 1814.

We are much gratified by having it in our power to announce, that the President of the United States has evidenced his approbation of the gallant conduct of Major George Armistead of the corps of artillery as commander of Fort McHenry, during the late attack and bombardment, by giving him a brevet appointment of Lieut. Colonel in the Army of the U. States.” 

Published in: on August 8, 2011 at 9:39 pm  Comments Off on Promotion for Major George Armistead, U.S.Army  

Levi Claggett & John Clemm: Fallen Soldiers of Fort McHenry

In the aftermath of the bombardment of Fort McHenry, September 13-14, 1814, the Baltimore Patriot printed a obituary notice on two of the four defenders who had fallen during “the perilous fight.” The eloquence of the notice is an example of the words and expressions of those who had fallen during the conflict in the War of 1812.


This afternoon, at 4 o’clock, the Baltimore Artillery Company of Fencibles, under the command of Captain [Joseph Hopper] NICHOLSON, will parade for the purpose of rendering the last tribuite of respect to Lieutenant LEVI CLAGGETT, & Sergeant JOHN CLEMM, who fell in defence of this city and their country’s rights, at Fort M’Henry, during the bombardment of that fortress by the enemy.

To have fallen in such a cause, would have, of itself, entitled the memory of the dead to respect and sympathy. But, they needed no such adventitious circumstance to excite the most poignant regret at thier untimely departure. They formed a prominent part of the rich price, which was paid for victory and safety. In civil life, they were men of the most amiable manners, honorable principles, and respectable standing in society. In the hour of danger, they evinced ardent and collected courage. Their friends lament their loss, with sorrow not loud but deep. May the reflection, that they died in a cause and at a time, when every tonque was eloquent in their praise; that they departed in the path of honor; that the gratitude of their countrymen will embalm their names in every heart, afford to the bereaved of their connections and friends, the only alleviation for such a loss.

Their brethren in arms will cherish their memory, with affectionate care. They sleep on the soldier’s bed, the bed of honor; and while their loss may call forth the manly tear of fraternal regret, their example will animate to deeds, such, as living, they would have approved and aided.

SOURCE: Baltimore Patriot, September 21, 1814.

Published in: on May 31, 2011 at 3:16 pm  Comments Off on Levi Claggett & John Clemm: Fallen Soldiers of Fort McHenry  

Henry Lightner (1798-1883): The Drummer Boy of Fort McHenry

On the morning of Sunday, September 11, 1814, drummer Henry Lightner as well as other militia volunteers at Fort McHenry sounded the alarm at the approach of the British invasion fleet.  At sixteen years, Henry served in Captain John Berry’s Washington Artillery of the 1st Regiment, Maryland Volunteer Artillery. Captain Berry commanded the shore batteries along with two other militia companies.

Earlier, the company had marched from Baltimore to Fort McHenry earlier to the tune of Henry Lightner’s drum accompanied by fifes. It may well be that he played a favorite tune of his “The Girl I Left Behind.” As a member of the Association of Old Defenders’ of 1814  his presence was well known as he played the tune in the years to follow in many parades every Defenders’ Day in September. A tinner by trade in his adult years he was a member of the Methodist church. In the latter years of the 19th century as each of the participants in the defense of Baltimore past away, akin to the passing of the minute men of the days of the American Revolution, newspapers printed their passing – mutual respect for the citizen-soldiers of 1812.

Henry Lightner died in Baltimore on January 24, 1883 and was buried in Baltimore Cemetery.  

“The Drummer Boy’s Funeral.- The funeral of Mr. Henry Lightner, the drummer-boy of 1812, who died on Thursday in the 85th year of his age, took place yesterday afternoon, from the residence of his son-in-law, Mr. Richard McCullough, No. 49 East Eager street. Rev. Luther T. Widerman, pastor of Monument-Street M.E. Church, conducted the funeral services, and was assisted by Revs. A.M.Courtney, and A.S. Hank. The pallbearers were selected from the congregations of Monument-Street, Greenmount-Avenue and Madison-Square M.E. Churches and from Harmonia Lodge, I.O.O.F., a delegation from which also attended. Mr. W.H. Daneker, secretary of the Old Defenders’ Association, was present.” 

 The Sun, January 27, 1883. 

Sources: The Sun (Baltimore), January 25, 1883 and September 9, 1882.

Published in: on May 8, 2011 at 9:35 pm  Comments Off on Henry Lightner (1798-1883): The Drummer Boy of Fort McHenry  

Recruitment Notice: “First Marine Artillery of the Union”

In the summer of 1814, Captain George Stiles (1760-1819), veteran sea captain of Fell’s Point issued a recruitment notice for those to enroll in this amphibious corps of 200 seamen and maritime artisans. The First Marine Artillery of the Union was organized in 1808 as a naval militia corps under the auspices of the City of Baltimore. During the War of 1812 “they were as a host to Baltimore.” This indefatigable corps of seamen built the marine dual gun batteries at Fort McHenry, Fort Babcock, and the Lazaretto as well as manning the gunboats of the harbor. In September 1814 they were stationed upon the defenses of Hampstead Hill (Patterson Park).  

First Marine Artillery on the Union

Meet at your gunhouse at 3 o’clock on Saturday next, in uniform complete, to exercise the heavy field ordnance. Knowing as you do, that the weight of this metal requires much strength, renders it unnecessary for any entreaties to be advanced by your captain, for your prompt attendance.

The object of this early hour is to admit agreeable to your constitution, new members; we have a right to expect every master and mate in port. The cloud gathers fast and heavy in the East, and all hands are called – few, very few, are the number of masters or mates belonging to this port that will be justified in excusing themselves from service by one of their skippers not being so firm as the other, or that he has seen five or forty; if he cannot sponge and ram as well as his messmates, he can pass a cartridge.

It is well known by all Tars the just stigma that is fixed by the ship’s crew on the man that skulks below, or under the lee of the long boat, when all hands are called; their services were not wanting until the present; but now your city calls all to arms, you are therefore invited and entreated to fall into our ranks.

Many 18 pounders are already manned and many more fit for service; come and join as we give a long pull, a strong pull and a pull altogether – and save the ship.

By order of the Captain, ROBT. G. HENDERSON, Secretary.

Source: Baltimore American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, July 22, 1814.

Published in: on April 12, 2011 at 11:10 am  Comments Off on Recruitment Notice: “First Marine Artillery of the Union”  

Captain Frederick Evans (1766-1844): U.S. Corps of Artillery

”Fell at the feet of Capt. Frederick Evans during the bombardment of Fort McHenry, Sept. 13, 1814.”

The inscription above is enscribed (since worn away) on an unexploded 13-inch British mortar shell that was taken home by Captain Frederick Evans soon after the bombardment of Fort McHenry, Sept. 13-14, 1814. Though Lt. Colonel George Armistead was the commanding officer, his second was Captain Evans of the U.S. Corps of Artillery.

Frederick Evans was born near Trappe, northwest of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on March 30, 1766 to George and Elizabeth Evans. In June 1792 at the age of twenty-eight, he served as a lieutenant colonel of the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment of the Northumberland County militia. Like his father, Frederick was a surveyor by trade and elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature from 1809-1811.

With the outbreak of war he received a commission as a captain in the 2nd U.S. Artillery on July 6, 1812 and ordered in May 1814 to Fort McHenry. During the bombardment the corps were stationed within the Star Fort along with a company of U.S. Volunteers. He was honorably discharged on June 15, 1815 and returned to his home in Thompsontown, Pa.

Captain Evans died on December 1, 1844 and was buried in the Old Creamer Hoimestead Cemetery on the Susquehanna RIver in Thompsontown. The bomb shell remained in the family’s lumber saw mill until 1937 when it was donated to the National Park Service at Fort McHenry for exhibit.

Sources: Dunlap’s American Daily Adv., (Pennsylvania) November 19, 1794; Philadedelphia Gazettte, July 1, 1797;  The Story of Snyder County by George F. Dunkelberger (Baltimore: Gateway Press, 1997); History of Thompsontown and Delaware Township (Thompsontown Committee, 1977).

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 5:51 pm  Comments Off on Captain Frederick Evans (1766-1844): U.S. Corps of Artillery  

Private Thomas V. Beason, An 1814 Defender of Fort McHenry – Found!

“I am happy to inform you (wonderful as it may appear) that our loss amounts to four men killed, and 24 wounded.” Lt. Colonel George Armistead, Sept. 24, 1814.

Of the four defenders who were killed during the bombardment of Fort McHenry in September 1814 – Lt. Levi Clagett, Sergeant John Clemm, Privates Charles Messenger and Thomas V. Beason, none have been found – save one!

In December 1872, Jacob Cobb one of the Old Defenders’of Baltimore in 1814, discovered while walking in South Baltimore within an old burying ground near Fort Avenue and Webster Street a crumbling tombstone, upon which was deciphered the name of “Thomas V. Beeson.” The Association of the Old Defenders’ of 1814 at once made arrangements for the re-interment of the remains to Mount Olivet Cemetery on Frederick Road west of the city. The remains were transferred to a handsome casket and were re-entered with appropriate ceremonies.

Beason had served as a private in Captain John Berry’s Washington Artillerist, 1st Maryland Artillery, posted on the shore batteries of Fort McHenry during the bombardment, when a British mortar shell fragment killed him.

One of the speakers and Old Defenders’ who attended the ceremony “referred to the debt of gratitude due to the deceased by those whom he had defended and thought no more beautiful expression of that obligation could be made than the erection of a monument over his remains.”  Several of the Old Defenders’ were present to act as pall bearers.

A search of Mount Olivet Cemetery has yet to find his grave, perhaps one of the many gravestones that lie flat upon the ground covered by grass.

Source: “An Old Defender Re-interred – Interesting Ceremonies,” The Sun, December 25, 1872





Published in: on April 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm  Comments Off on Private Thomas V. Beason, An 1814 Defender of Fort McHenry – Found!  

Isaac Monroe: U.S. Volunteers: “…and Yankee Doodle played…”

Among the celebrated Old Defenders’ of Baltimore was Isaac Munroe.  He was born near Boston in 1774, learned the printer’s trade and eventually in his maturity founded the Boston Patriot. In 1812 he removed to Baltimore and in 1813 founded the Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser newspaper that chronicled the Battle for Baltimore in 1814.

September 17, 1814. Three days after the bombardment of Fort McHenry, Isaac Munore, editor of the Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser wrote a letter to a fellow editor of The [Boston] Yankee. As a private in Captain Joseph H. Nicholson’s U.S. Volunteers, the Baltimore Fencibles at Fort McHenry he had personally witnessed the preparations and bombardment. His letter provides crucial evidence of those moments that gave birth to a new national song. Here are extracts from the letter:

“I will give you an account of the approach of the enemy before this place, so far as it came under my observation…while we were marching to town, the enemy tacked about, and just at dusk were seen under press of sail, with a fair wind, approaching the town. There movements were closely watched at the fort…We were all immediately rallied, and arrived at the Fort before 12, although the rain poured down in torrents. On our arrival we found the matches burning, the furnaces heated and vomiting red hot shot, and everything ready for a gallant defense..Tuesday morning, at which time they had advanced to within two and a halfmile of the Fort, arranged in most elegant order, all at anchor, forming a half circle, with four bomb vessels and a rocket ship…

…two of their headmost frigates opened upon us, but finding their shot not reaching us, they ceased and advanced upa little nearer. The moment they had taken their position, Major Armistead mounted the parapet and ordered a battery of 24 pounders to be opened upon them; immediately after a battery of 42’s followed, whe the whole fort let drive at them. We could see the shot strike the frigates in several instances, when every heart was gladdened, and we gave three cheers, the music playing Yankee Doodle….

…The bomb vessels advanced a little, and commenced a tremendous bombardment, which lasted all day and all night…the most tremendous bombardment ever known in this cuntry, without means of resisting it, upwards of 1500 bombs having fallen in and around the Fort…”

“…till dawn of day [on September 14], when they appeared to be disposed the to decline the unprofitable contes. At this time, our morning gun was fired, the flag hoisted, Yankee Doodle played, and we all appeared in full view [upon the ramparts] of a formidable and mortified enemy, who calculated upon our surender in 20 minutes after the commencement of the action.”

 He died on December 28, 1859 and “was respected for his integrity and general uprightness of character.” His final resting place is unknown.

Sources:  The Yankee (Boston), September 30, 1814; “An Yankee Doodle played: A Letter from Baltimore, 1814” by Scott S. Sheads, (Maryland Historical Magazine, No.76. Fall 1981), 380-382; Civilian & Telegraph (Cumberland, MD), December 29, 1859.


Published in: on April 3, 2011 at 9:24 pm  Comments Off on Isaac Monroe: U.S. Volunteers: “…and Yankee Doodle played…”