Salutes and Huzzas ! The American Frigate Java: Oliver Hazard Perry Commands

On August 1, 1814, at the shipyard of Messrs, William Parson and William Flannigan in Fell’s Point, the U.S. Navy’s newest frigate rated at 44 guns, was launched in the elegant naval tradition of her day. As she entered the water she was saluted by numerous discharges from U.S. Barges and the U.S. sloops of war, the Erie and Ontario that were launched a year earlier.

“She moved into her ‘destined element’ (as the phrase is ) in a very handsome style, amidst general and joyful cheers; that a very numerous assemblage of ladies and gentlemen attended…the Yager Band of music enliven the scene with appropriate marches and airs…”

Twenty thousand spectators, nearly one half the population of Baltimore had turned out to greet her and her commander Captain Oliver Hazard Perry, the “Hero of Lake Erie.”

The skilled craftsmen who built the Java, and those who cheered her at this moment, were unaware of other frigates and ships of war that were now moving under a full press of sail towards the Chesapeake from the British naval base in Bermuda. The festive spirit subsided as the war clouds approached Baltimore harbor.

Among the citizens who cheered her was John Murray, a free black ship’s carpenter. Born in Baltimore, the sixty-three old had been a caulker to shipbuilders since the inception of that craft on the Point. His well known self attained skill in playing a “few imperfect tunes” on the violin had earned him the name of “Fiddler Jack.”

She would take no part in the Battle for Baltimore as she was yet to be fitted with the armaments of war and her masts and rigging. Her commander stated, “It is, at this moment, said the enemy are now standing up the river for this place with about 40 sail. I shall stay by my ship and take no part in the militia fight. I expect to have to burn her.”

Sources: The Sun, December 20, 1861; Baltimore Patriot, August 1, 1814; American & Commercial Daily Adv., August 2, 1814. Dillon, Richard, We have met the Enemy (New York: 1980, 188.

Published in: on April 11, 2011 at 10:15 pm  Comments Off on Salutes and Huzzas ! The American Frigate Java: Oliver Hazard Perry Commands  

Brig. General Perry Benson (1757- 1827): Defender of St. Michaels, Md.

“In Memory of General Perry Benson, Son of James and Hanna Benson, born August 6, 1857. Captain of the Maryland Line, commended for gallantry and twice wounded in battle in the Revolutionary War. Major General of the Maryland Militia in the War of 1812. Died October 2, 1827. His remains were removed from Wheatland 1901.”  Benson gravesite.

During the American Revolution Captain Benson served under Major General William Smallwood’s First Maryland Brigade at Harlem Heights, N.Y., (1776); the Carolina campaigns (Battle of Cowpens (1781); Guilford Courthouse (1781) and Hobkirk’s Hill, South Carolina (1781). After the war he accompanied George Washington as a lieutenant colonel to quell the 1784 Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania.

On June 22, 1798 he was commissioned a brigadier general and commanded the 12th Brigade, of Caroline, Talbot and Dorchester Counties. During the War of 1812 he commanded the militia at the Battles of St. Michaels on August 10, 26, 1813. General Benson died on October 2, 1827 at the age of 72 years and is buried in the family graveyard at Newcomb, Talbot County.

Sources: Easton Gazette, October 2, 1827; History of Talbot County, Maryland, 1661-186, by Oswald Tilghman, (Baltimore: Regional Pub., Co., 1967), 303-324; “Perry Benson,” by “Revolutionary War Hero’s Grave Found,” Easton Star Democrat, July 23, 1964.

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 8:04 pm  Comments Off on Brig. General Perry Benson (1757- 1827): Defender of St. Michaels, Md.  

Hezekiah Niles (1777-1839) News Editor-Niles Weekly Register

Born on October 10, 1777 in Chester County, Pa., to a Quaker family, Hezekiah Niles became one of the most influential journalists of the early 19th century as editor of Niles’ Weekly Register, published in Baltimore weekly from 1811 to the last issue in 1849.

Niles’ apprenticed in Philadelphia as a printer, then in Wilmington, Delaware for several years, until 1805,when he moved to Baltimore, and in 1811 printed the first issue of Niles’ Weekly Register. It is considered one of the most important primary source documents for studying the War of 1812 period. Niles was also known as the great compiler for the amount of  information it contained. It was in fact, illustrations not included, the most widely read national news magazine of his day. His services during the War of 1812 was that of a private in Captain Peter Pinney’s co., 27th Md. Regiment.

He died on April 2,1839 in Wilmington, Delaware of paralytic condition at the age of sixty-two years of age. “His life was well spent, for he raised himself by his industry and integrity…he labored in a purely philanthropic and patriotic manner to promote the views which in his opinion, were conducive to public benefit.”

Source: The Sun, April 3, 1839;

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 8:01 pm  Comments Off on Hezekiah Niles (1777-1839) News Editor-Niles Weekly Register  

John Montgomery (1764-1828):Captain, Baltimore Union Artillery

John Montgomery was born in Carlisle, Pa., studied and practiced law in Harford County, Md., and served as a state delegate (1793-1798); U.S. Congress (1807-1811) and as Attorney General of Maryland (1811-1818). He was commissioned a captain of the Baltimore Union Artillery, 1st Regiment Maryland Artillery and took an active role at the Battle of North Point, Sept. 12, 1814, the only American artillery of four guns at the battle, forming in the center of the American lines on the Old North Point Road to meet the British advance.

After the war he served two terms as Mayor of Baltimore (1820-22 and 1824-1826). He died on July 17, 1828 and is buried in Mount Carmel Methodist Church Cemetery, Bel Air, Harford County. “In Memory of JOHN MONTGOMERY, who died in Baltimore, A.D. 1828, aged 63 years. Also Mary, his wife, and his 2 Sons, John H. & James N. Montgomery.”

Sources: Baltimore Gazette & Daily Adv., July 23, 1828; Biographical Directory of the United States Congress;. Wilbur F. Coyle, The Mayors of Baltimore (Reprinted from The Baltimore Municipal Journal, 1919), 27-29.  

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 7:47 pm  Comments Off on John Montgomery (1764-1828):Captain, Baltimore Union Artillery  

Last of the “Old Defenders’ of Baltimore in 1814” September 1880

Following the War of 1812, the defenders’ of Baltimore returned to their occupations, raised their families, and told their heroic stories to their grandchildren. By the 1840’s they were regarded as a national treasure much like their revolutionary forbearers before them. As each veteran from the war passed away, their obituaries were published throughout the country.

On April 1, 1842, the surviving registered members formally organized the “Association of Old Defenders of Baltimore in 1814” for the purpose of keeping alive the memory of those who fought in the defense of Baltimore in September 1814. They agreed to meet annually until such time when the last five members were no longer able to attend.On September 6, 1884, The Sun reported that the organization had disbanded since the number of surviors had dwindled. As a result, the Society of the War of 1812 in Maryland was organized on September 12, 1892 by the descendants to annually commemorate Defenders’ Day in Baltimore and keep the “Old Defenders’” stories alive.

Who was Maryland’s last “Old Defender”? On September 12, 1880, the last defenders’ gathered at the Druid Hill Mansion (site of the Maryland Zoo) and had their portrait taken seated in front of the portico. In the photograph taken there were twelve left.
Of the 1,259 registered members of the Old Defenders’ Association recorded at its founding in 1842, the last known Maryland defender may have been Cecil County native, Elijah Bouldin Glenn (1796-1898). Glenn was a private in Captain Peter Pinney’s company, 27th Maryland Regiment and had fought at the Battle of North Point. Glenn died on July 5, 1898 at the age of 102.

Source: (Extract) “The Last of the Old Defenders’ of Baltimore, September 12, 1880.” by Scott S. Sheads, The War of 1812 in Maryland: The War of 1812 in Maryland: New Discoveries and Interpretations. (2011, unpublished).

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm  Comments Off on Last of the “Old Defenders’ of Baltimore in 1814” September 1880  

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  

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  

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  

Negro Frederick, alias William Williams, 38th U.S. Infantry at Fort McHenry, Sept. 1814

“FORTY DOLLARS REWARD – For apprehending and securing in jail so that I get him again, NEGRO FREDERICK; Sometimes calls himself FREDERICK HALL a bright mulatto; straight and well made; 21 years old; 5 feet 7 or 8 inches high, with a short chub nose and so fair as to show freckles, he has no scars or marks of any kind that is recollected; his clothing when he left home, two months sine, was home made cotton shirts, jacket and Pantaloons of cotton, and yarn twilled, all white. It is probable he may be in Baltimore, having  relation there, a house servant to a Mr. Williams, by the name of Frank who is also a mulatto, but not so fair as Frederick. BENJAMIN ODEN, Prince George’s County, May 12th, 1814.”

In the Spring of 1814 the slave Frederick Hall ran away from his owner Benjamin Oden (1762-1836) of Prince George’s County. On April 14, Frederick, alias William Williams was enlisted as a private in the 38th U.S. Infantry by an Ensign Martin. Federal law however prohibited the enlistment of slaves because they “could make no valid contract with the government.”

It seems the officer who enlisted Williams made no inquiries, nevertheless Williams received his bounty of $50 and was paid a private’s wage of $8 per month.  In September the 38th U.S. Infantry were ordered to Baltimore to Fort McHenry, taking part in its defense, within the dry ditch surrounding the Star Fort with 600 other U.S. Infantry soldiers. Records at the National Archives reveal that Williams was “severely wounded, having his leg blown off by a cannon ball.” He was taken to the garrison hospital at Fort McHenry where he died.. His final resting place remains unknown.

After the war in 1833-34 Mr. Oden petitioned the government for Williams land bounty, but since Williams was a slave, and “therefore, inasmuch as a slave cannot possess or acquire title to real estate by the laws of the land, in his own right, no right can be set up by the master as his representative.” Mr. Oden’s claim was therefore dismissed.

Sources: Baltimore American and Commercial Daily Adv., May 18, 1814; “On Claim To A Bounty Land Warrant for the Military Services of a Slave by His Owner,” American State Papers, Volume 6, Public Lands, No. 1223, 23rd Congress, 1st Session. April 7, 1834, p. 644, 969; Oden Papers, 1755-1836, MS. 178, Maryland Historical Society.

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 5:34 pm  Comments Off on Negro Frederick, alias William Williams, 38th U.S. Infantry at Fort McHenry, Sept. 1814  

Samuel A. Neale (1795-1880): An African-American at the Battle of North Point

On August 18, 1880 Professor Samuel A. Neale, age eighty-five, a distinguished colored citizen of Frederick, Maryland and former graduate and faculty member of Emory College, Pennsylvania  died at his home in Frederick, Maryland. He was one of the Old Defenders’ of Baltimore during the War of 1812.

In late August 1814, Lt. Colonel Frisby Tilghman (1773-1847), commanding the 1st Cavalry District of Washington and Frederick Counties, the American Blues, of 80 dragoons, rode  to Bladensburg, Maryland where with the American army on August 24th defended the approach of the British expeditionary forces. Col Tilghman’s command were ordered to harass the approaching British at Wood Yard, Maryland and to gain vital intelligence. In the aftermath of the American defeat Colonel Tilghman’s command left with the army for Baltimore. Accompanying Tilghman was an African-American slave who served as a steward to Surgeon William Hammond, then as an aid carrying his medical instruments on the field. According to a pension application Neale claims he was armed and equipped as a soldier. At Baltimore he was present at the Battle of North Point where he was accidentally wounded by one of Dr. Hammond’s pistols, perhaps in cleaning or handling it. The petition is endorsed by Hon. Wm. P. Raulsby, chief judge of the sixth judicial circuit; Hon. John A. Lynch, associate judge of the same circuit; Hon. P.H. Marshall and others.

In 1870, Samuel Neale received an annual pension of eighty dollars, in four equal and quarterly installments of twenty dollars to each soldier or surviving widow from the Maryland Legislature or his services and was endorsed by none other than the Hon. William P. Raulsby, chief judge of the Sixth Judicial District of Maryland and the Hon. John A. Lynch, associate district judge.

On August 19, 1880 at the age of 85 years, Samuel Neale died and was buried at the Frederick Catholic Graveyard leaving his wife Ellen, 72 and his children Rebecca and Sophia all mulattos. In his obituary in the Frederick, Md., Examiner it stated Neale, age 80 “was a prominent and respected colored man …who served his country with fidelity during the War of 1812.”

Sources: “Petition of a Colored Veteran for a State Pension,” The Sun, January 27, 1870; “An Act to repeal the Act of eighteen hundred and sixty-seven,” Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 1870, Volume 188, page 3448; The British Invasion of Maryland, 1812-1815 by William M. Marine (Baltimore, 1913; Genealogical Pub., Co., 1977), 89; Frederick, Md., Examiner, June 19, 1872.

Published in: on April 7, 2011 at 11:25 am  Comments Off on Samuel A. Neale (1795-1880): An African-American at the Battle of North Point