A Presidential Pardon at Baltimore:1814

On November 9, 1814 a military court-martial was held in the case of Private Thomas McGraw in Capt. Samuel McDonald’s Company of the 6th Maryland Regiment, who had fought at the Battle of North Point. He was charged with “neglect of duty, and offering violence to a guard in the execution of their duty.” The violence was “an assault on an officer with a loaded pistol.” The court found McGraw guilty on both charges and sentenced be that he “suffer the punishment of death by being shot.”

The date of the execution was schedule for December 3 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. 

On Saturday last, he [McGraw] was taken out under a strong guard,dress in funeral habiliments and preceded by a coffin, to the camp near this city. After gooing through all the awful forms attached to so melancholy a ceremony, just as the platoon was going to fire on him, the Commanding general was pleased to respite the execution…

At a most opportune moment, a courier arrived from the War Department with a full pardon by none other than President James Madison, and McGraw, much to his relief was released from confinement. Without the court-martial records we may never know why, under such an alleged crime he was accused of, was given a pardon.

Such are the winds of war and luck for Thomas!

Sources: “General Orders,” Baltimore American & Commercial Daily Adv., December 12, 1814; “Military Discipline,” Alexandria Gazette, December 8, 1814; “Brigade Orders,” Baltimore Patriot, December 2, 1814.

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm  Comments Off on A Presidential Pardon at Baltimore:1814  

British at the Gates: Three Country Estates East of Baltimore:

Following the Battle of North Point and the death of Maj. General Robert Ross, the British army under Col. Arthur Brooke advanced on the morning of September 13 towards the outskirts of Baltimore west on the Philadelphia Road (Rt.40) along Herring Run. It was within this area three miles east of the American main defenses on Hampstead Hill (Patterson Park) that Col. Arthur Brooke and Rear Admiral George Cockburn reconnoitered the American lines, finding themselves at the gates of Baltimore of three country estates. They halted on the highland heights (present site Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital).

Joseph R. Foard (1765-1869). The British immediately began to reconnoiter and visit the farms in the area. The heights offered Colonel Brooke and Admiral Cockburn an unobstructed view of the American lines before them. First they visited the 245 acre farm of Joseph R. and Mary Foard’s farm fronting on the north of the Philadelphia Road. Foard served as second lieutenant in Capt. Jehu Bouldin’s Independent Light Dragoons. Along with neighbor and fellow dragoon Thomas Kell,  Foard had barely escape the day before near North Point by the British advance guard sending his servant to warn his family to leave and go north to safety with relatives. No sooner had the household departed than a house servant, having tarried too long, barely escaped as the British approached the farm firing at him. The British advanced guard took procession of the farm shooting the cattle in the field. Finding a militia uniform in the house, the British cut it into pieces and began to destroy the household furniture.

Within two weeks of the battle Foard posted a newspaper notice declaring “Having sustained very heavy losses and damage in my Household Property, from the depredations committee upon it by the British army…” he asked any citizens if any of his property had been found to return it. The British continued next to the country estate of Lt. Thomas Kell whose family also had departed for safety.

Judge Thomas Kell (1772-1846). Lieutenant Kell’s estate of “Orangeville” was situated on a high knoll with a commanding view of Hampstead Hill situated at the present intersection of North Point Boulevard and Pulaski Highway. Here Colonel Brooke and Admiral Cockburn and their officer’s staff made temporary headquarters. Admiral Cockburn related “I not know what kind of a hole Baltimore is in, for I can see the very eyes of the people and yet cannot do execution.”

Lt. Colonel Joseph Sterett (1773-1821)- Lt. Colonel Joseph Sterett and his wife Molly Harris’s  260 acre estate of “Mount Deposit”  lay to the north of Judge Kell’s estate along the Philadelphia Road, two miles east from Baltimore, overlooking Fell’s Point and the harbor. At midnight on September 12, Colonel Sterett having returned with his regiment from the North Point battlefield made arrangements to remove his family. He then took post on Hampstead Hill within sight of his estate along with the gathering militia and federal forces.  As Col. Brooke and Admiral Cockburn surveyed the American defenses before them, their commissioned officers and accompanying soldiers took leisure on Sterett’s estate. A British subaltern and four fellow officers decided to venture forth.

 “About a couple of hundred yards in front of videttes, stood a mansion of considerable size, and genteel exterior … That a place so neat in all its arrangements, and so well supplied with out-houses of every description…When a crowd of stragglers, artillerymen, sappers, sailors and soldiers of the line, rushed into the hall. In a moment, the walls of the building re-echoed with oaths and exclamations, and tables, chairs, windows, and even the doors, were dashed to pieces, in revenge for the absence of food… through a chasm in a brick wall under ground, the interior of a wine cellar, set round in magnificent array, with bottles of all shapes and dimensions. In five minutes, the cellar was crowed with men, filling in the first place, their own haversacks, bosoms …In less than a quarter of a hour, not a single pint, either of wine of spirits, remained…”

 Col. Sterett’s daughter, Louisa remembered vividly:  from the family narratives the events that took place at “Surrey” on September 12-13, 1814: “Fearing that the outrages and atrocities perpetrated by Cockburn and his men might be repeated… the family coach and large farm wagon made their exit by the west road as the British entered on the east by [Judge] Kell’s woods.”

A colored woman Ellen Smith and her children seized what family valuables and secreted them to their slave quarters when British officers denied any soldiers to enter the negro quarters. On a sideboard three officers, Captain Brown, Wilcox and McNamara of the Royal Marines left an inscription on the parlor mantel; “Captains Brown, Wilcox and McNamara, of the Light Brigade, Royal Marines, met with everything they could wish for at this house. They returned their thanks, notwithstanding it was received through the hands of the butler in the absence of the Colonel.”

Today the structural two story remains of “Surrey” still survives in northeast Baltimore, boarded up once used as a community center.

 Sources: The Sun, October 18, 1866; April 10, 1869; Sept. 12, 1903; Sept. 12, 1888; Baltimore American & Commercial Daily Adv., September 29, 1814; Baltimore Gazette , November 26, 1831; Judge Thomas Kell (1772-1846) was a Judge Circuit Court  and later Maryland Attorney General (1824-1831); The Torch Light and Public Adv., (Hagers-Town, Md.), October 25, 1827; A Subaltern in America; Comprizing His Narrative of the Campaign of the British Army, at Baltimore, Washington, &c.,.by George Robert Gleig (Baltimore: E.L. Carey & a. Hart, 1833), 153-154; The Sun, September 12, 1888.

Published in: on April 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm  Comments Off on British at the Gates: Three Country Estates East of Baltimore:  

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!  

Brigadier General Thomas Marsh Forman (1758-1845)

“I am [an] advocate for the cause which I espoused in 1776, and believing that the clouds which at present darken our political horizon portend a storm which will call for the exertions of every friend to the independence of our country.” T.M. Forman, 1812.

In the annuals of the Battle for Baltimore, Brigadier General Thomas M. Forman of Maryland’s Cecil County estate of Rose Hill, on the Sassafras River, he has never received his due award for his command of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division of the Maryland Militia, upon Hampstead Hill. Unlike his Maryland contemporary officers, Brig. General John Stricker, Brig. General William Winder and Maj. General Samuel Smith, Forman left no official report, but his twenty-two letters home to his new wife Martha Ogle, documents a rare personal insight into a husband and wife separated by war during “the perilous fight.”

Thomas M. Forman was the son of Ezekiel (1736-1795) and Augustine Marsh Forman born on August 20, 1758 on Kent Island, Queen Annes Co., Md. At the age of seventeen Thomas left to join Washington’s Continental Army at Long Island, New York enlisting on December 4, 1775, in Captain John H. Stone’s company of Colonel William Smallwood’s 1st Maryland Regiment at the Battle of Long Island (Aug. 1776); he was with Washington when he crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Eve to engage the British at the Battle of Trenton in Dec. 1776; Brandywine (Sept. 1777), Valley Forge (1777-78), and Monmouth Courthouse (June 1778). The following winter of 1777 he received a captaincy commission in the regiment commanded by his uncle General David Forman (1745-1797).

Afterwards he served in the Maryland General Assembly (1790-1800) then settled to his family’s estate at Rose Hill. In May 1814, he married Martha Browne Ogle whose dairy detailed life at Rose Hill during the war. In August 27, 1814 Forman was ordered along with his command of the 1st Brigade (Cecil and Harford Counties) to Baltimore to aid in the defense upon Hampstead Hill. Though his brigade took no active role in the battle, his letters home to his wife provide an intimate portrait of this nearly unknown Maryland planter and militia officer. On Sept. 4, he wrote his wife Martha:

“My dear wife, No part of my duty is so pleasant as wanting to be with my dear wife, as is reading her only letter, that dear letter, which in the heat of battle shall be placed over my heart…We have assembled seven generals: Smith, Winder, Stricker, and Stansbury of Baltimore, Douglas and Singleton of Virginia; and your humble servant.”

He returned to Rose Hill on November 17, 1814 to attend to his estates as farmer and 50 slaves. In October 1824 he was designated to represent Maryland upon taking his carriage to await the arrival of the Marquis de LaFayette at the Maryland State line to escort him to Frenchtown, then to Baltimore by steamboat. In 1829 he received a military appointment as major general of the 2nd Division of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a post he held until his death on May 8, 1845. He is buried in the family cemetery with his wife Martha at Rose Hill. (private property).

Source: Plantation Life at Rose Hill: The Diaries of Martha Ogle Forman, 1814-1845; Ed. by W. Emerson Wilson (Historical Society of Delaware, 1976); Forman Papers, Maryland Historical Society, MS.1277, 1777; “Adjutant General Papers,” War of 1812. Maryland State Archives, (SC-931-1, Box 66, Folder 12).

Published in: on April 3, 2011 at 11:19 pm  Comments Off on Brigadier General Thomas Marsh Forman (1758-1845)  

“Defence of Fort McHenry” – Words of the National Anthem

September 14, 1814, 9 A.M.“At this time our morning gun was fired, the flag hoisted, Yankee Doodle played, and we all appeared in full view of a formidable and mortified enemy, who calculated upon our surrender in 20 minutes after the commencement of the action.” Joseph Hopper Nicholson, U.S. Volunteers at Fort McHenry to a friend, September 17, 1814.

It was at this moment,  that a 38 year old Georgetown lawyer, Francis Scott Key, witnessed from an American flag-of-truce vessel, the President, admist the British fleet, the great garrison flag (42’x 30′) over Fort McHenry. The following is from a handbill that was distributed to every soldier at Fort McHenry soon after the bombardment.



The annexed song was composed under the following circumstances – A gentleman had left Baltimore, in a flag of truce for the purpose of getting released from the British fleet, a friend [Dr. William Beanes] who had been captured at [Upper] Marlborough. He went as far as the mouth of the Patuxent, and was not permitted to return lest the intended attack on Baltimore should be disclosed. He was therefore brought up the Bay to the mouth of the Patapsco, where the flag vessel was kept under the guns of a frigate [HMS Surprise], and he was compelled to witness the bombardment of Fort M’Henry, which the Admiral had boasted that he would carry in a few hours, and that the city must fall. He watched the flag at the Fort through the whole day with an anxiety that can be better felt than described, until the night prevented him from seeing it. In the night he watched the Bomb Shells, and at early dawn his eye was again greeted by the proudly waving flag of his country.


O! say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?

And the Rocket’s red glare, the Bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our Flag was still there;


O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,

O’er  the Land of the free, and the home of the brave?


On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected new shines in the stream,


‘Tis the star spangled banner, – O! long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,

A home and a country, should leave us no more?

Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps pollution.

No refuse could save the hireling and slave,

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,


And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,

O’er the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.


O! thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,

Between their lov’d home, and the war’s desolation,

Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land,

Praise the Power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto – “In God is our Trust;”

And the star-spangled Banner in triumph shall wave,

O’er the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

*  *  *  *  *

On September 20, 1814, the Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser published the words. Within the year every newspaper in the eighteen states had also published it.

Sources: One of the rare copies of the “Defence of Fort McHenry” handbills is at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore.

Published in: on April 3, 2011 at 10:50 pm  Comments Off on “Defence of Fort McHenry” – Words of the National Anthem  

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…”  

Elizabeth Sands (1789-1890): Angel on the Battlefield

Elizabeth Warner was born on March 7, 1789 in Darlington, Harford County, Md., the daughter of clockmaker Cuthbert and Ann Warner who removed their family to Baltimore shortly thereafter.

Following the Battle of North Point, Sept. 12, 1814, Elizabeth and several other ladies tended to the wounded and dying on the field. Three of her brothers had served in the battle; John S. Warner (Capt. Aisquith’s First Baltimore Sharp Shooters) and Thomas and Andrew E. Warner both captains in the 39th Maryland Militia. She made her brother John’s rifle uniform of “bottle green, including his hat with a double row of black bugles [buttons on his coat (?)].”

After the war Elizabeth, described as having “a sprightly conversation and is highly entertaining” was made “an honorary member” of the Old Defenders’ Association of 1814,  On each Defenders’ Day in September upon the anniversary of the battle, she wore with pride “the blue and gold badge of the association”, and through her remaining years witnessed in her later years the Defenders’ parade from a window at her home on Eutaw and Madison streets. 

In July 1824 she married John Sands who made “handsomely engraved minatures of the General Marque de Lafayette during the French officer’s to Baltimore. John Sands died in 1829. Elizabeth died on August 3, 1890 at the age of 101 years outliving all the known War of 1812 veterans of Maryland. Her final resting place is unknown.

Sources: The Sun, Sept. 7, 1887; March 6, 1888; July 26, 1890; Aug. 4, 1890; Sept. 29, 1890; Baltimore Patriot, Aug. 24, 1824.

Published in: on April 3, 2011 at 8:47 am  Comments Off on Elizabeth Sands (1789-1890): Angel on the Battlefield  

Federal Hill: Major General Samuel Smith Monument

Major General Samuel SmithOverlooking Baltimore Inner Harbor waterfront on Federal Hill stands the statue of Major General Samuel Smith (1752-1839), Revolutionary War officer, merchant, ship-owner, and U.S. Senator earned him the experience and fortitude in the momentous crises before to successfully command Baltimore during the War of 1812 and it’s darkest hour the Washington-Baltimore campaign of 1814

The statue itself was by German sculptor Hans Schuler (1874-1951) who studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. The original site location where the statue was erected in 1917 was Wyman Park at North Charles and 29th Street dedicated on Independence Day, July 4, 1918 funded by the 1914 centennial celebration four years earlier.

In 1953 Baltimore’s City of Recreation and Parks Department moved the sculpture to Sam Smith Park at the corner of Pratt Street and Light Street, the future waterfront site of the 1980 Rouse Company project – Harborplace Market. In 1970 with the Inner Harbor renewal project underway the statue was relocated to its present site on Federal Hill, where in 1814 a gun battery had been erected and the citizens of Baltimore witnessed the fiery bombardment of Fort McHenry.

Today, Federal Hill, a National Historic Landmark, shares its high honor with Maryland’s pre-imminent citizen soldier, both overlooking the city that gave birth to a new national hymn “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

[Monument Inscriptions]



Source: (Extract) New Discoveries and Interpretations: War of 1812 in Maryland by Scott S. Sheads (unpublished, 2011)

Published in: on April 1, 2011 at 8:20 pm  Comments Off on Federal Hill: Major General Samuel Smith Monument  

Lt. Colonel George Armistead Monument, Federal Hill

Armistead Monument

Armistead Monument

On April 25, 1818, Brevet Lt. Colonel George Armistead (1780-1818), age 38, died at the home of his brother-in-law Christopher Hughes, Jr. His funeral procession included the 1814 defenders’ of Fort McHenry and citizens who proceeded to Old St. Paul’s Cemetery while minute guns were fired from the Federal Hill Observatory. Here among the enclosing stone walls of the burying ground his remains were laid to rest. On the high earthen eminence of Federal Hill overlooking Baltimore’s waterfront is a marble monument to the commander of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.

The City Spring, 1827 – Nine Years after his death the first monument was authorized by Mayor Jacob Small on March 24, 1827 and February 4, 1828 for its erection at the Old City Spring on Calvert and Saratoga Sts., the best known of the city’s many natural springs, located in what was a fashionable ornamental resort of Baltimore’s social elite. Its construction was directed by German merchants Peter Hoffman and Jesse Hollingsworth, the grounds designed by architect John Davis. By the Civil War the monument had already become dilapidated and in ruins from vandals and neglect. On September 12, 1882 was rebuilt and dedicated upon Federal Hill, a municipal park where it may be seen today.

The Monument – The monument represents “a cenotaph surmounted by a short column, and rests upon a plinth, or terrace, of the same material, forty feet square and four feet high. At each angle is placed a cannon, erect, having a [cannon] ball apparently issuing from its mouth.”

[Monument Inscriptions]

[North Side] – This monument is erected in honor of the gallant defender of Fort McHenry near this city during its bombardment by the British fleet on the 13th and 14th September 1814. He died universally esteemed and regretted on the 25th of April 1818 in the 39th year of his age.

[West side] – Appointed Second Lieutenant of 7th Infantry January 8th 1799. Appointed Ensign of Infantry January [illegible] 1799. Appointed First Lieutenant of the 7th Infantry May 14th 1800. Transferred to the 1st Regiment of Artillerists and Engineers February 16th 1804. Appointed First Lietenant in the Regiment of Artillerists April 17th 1802. Appointed Assistant Military Agent at Fort Niagara [NY] May 1802.

[East side] – Transferred to the [U.S.] Artillery Corps under the Act of May 20th 1814. Appointed Brev. Lieut. Col September 20th 1814 for gallant services in defense of Fort McHenry September 12th, 13th, and 14th 1814 [as] such from September 12th 1814.

[South side] – Erected by the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore September 12th 1882. Wm. Pinkney White, Mayor, in pursuance of a resolution approved May 3rd 1882, as a substitute for the monument erected by a former Mayor and City Council, in pursuance of resolutions approved March 4th 1827 and February 4th 1828, which stood in the Calvert street Spring grounds until it became defaced and destroyed by time during a period of thirty-five years.

Source: (Extract) The War of 1812 in Maryland: New Discoveries & Interpretations by Scott S. Sheads (2011, unpublished); Baltimore” Past and Present with Biographical Sketches of the Representative Men (Baltimore: Richardson & Bennett, 1871, 296; “Baltimore Water Works,” History of Baltimore City and County, by J. Thomas Scarf (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881); Federal Gazette, April 25, 1812; Baltimore Gazette, April 6, 1827.

Published in: on April 1, 2011 at 8:15 pm  Comments Off on Lt. Colonel George Armistead Monument, Federal Hill  

Fort Covington (1813-1836)

During the summer of 1813 several shore fortifications were under construction contiguous to Fort McHenry as precautionary defenses to the west of Fort McHenry guarding the Ferry Branch approach to Baltimore. Among these was Fort Covington named for Brig. General Leonard Covington (1788-1813) a Maryland native who was killed at the Battle of Chrysler’s Field in Upper Canada, Nov. 11, 1813. Prior the site was known as Fort Patapsco or Fort Wadsworth, named for Decius Wadsworth, U.S. Chief of Ordnance Department.

The fort was designed by Capt. Samuel Babcock, U.S. Corps of Engineers as a V-shaped 10’ high brick wall enclosure. In front facing the harbor was a 16 foot high ditch and parapet calculated for a battery of 10 or 12 18-Pdr cannon mounted en-barbette (to fire over the earthen walls), with quarters sufficient for a company and a powder magazine. Completed that fall and renamed, it was garrison by Captain Matthew S. Bunbury’s naval company of U.S. Sea Fencibles.

During the Battle for Baltimore, Sept 12-14, 1814 the services of the Fencibles were replaced by Lt. Henry S. Newcomb’s U.S. naval command of eighty sailors who had arrived from Philadelphia with Commodore John Rodgers command of the U.S. frigate Guerriere. On the wind-swept stormy night of Sept, 13 Fort Covington along with nearby Battery Babcock and Fort Look-Out, successfully repulsed a British flotilla advance having past to the west of Fort McHenry. The advance was checked and the British withdrew to the safety of the fleet in the outer harbor.

In the post war years a small detachment guarded the government property until 1836 when all of its materials were sold at public auction. No remains are left today near the site of The Sun newspaper facilities.

Sources: Capt. Samuel Babcock to U.S. Secretary of War John Armstrong, Dec. 1, 1813; Lt. Henry S. Newcomb to Commodore John Rodgers, Sept. 18, 1814. Rodgers Papers, Library of Congress; The Rockets Red Glare: The Maritime Defense of Baltimore in 1814 by Scott S. Sheads (Centerville, Md., Tidewater Pub., 1986).

Published in: on April 1, 2011 at 8:15 pm  Comments Off on Fort Covington (1813-1836)