Queenstown on the Chester River: August 13, 1813

Just before dawn on August 12, 1813, four miles east of Kent Narrows, Queens Annes County, Major William Nicholson (1770-1815) commander of the 38th Md. Regiment established his headquarters and encamped on Bowlingly estate (1733), Queenstown Creek overlooking the Chester River. Major Nicholson informed his superior Lt. Colonel Thos. Wright of the situation he and his command found themselves:

“I had strong reasons to believe the [British] could [bring forth] a land force of 3000 men, and of course all the barges and men belonging to the shipping by water. In this position I could not but be sensible of the extreme danger of my situation, and felt that there was but little for me to do, but use great caution and vigilance.”

On Friday, August 13. Major Nicholson received news that 300 Royal Marines and Royal Artillery armed with Congreve rockets were advancing east along the Kent Island Road (Rt. 18). By 3:15 a.m. his 244 militia assembled and finding “the enemy was advancing in such force, as to make it impossible that [he] could oppose them.” Two miles west of Queenstown, his advanced guard of twenty militia stood between Queenstown and the advancing British. Soon, musket volley’s commenced, leaving Nicholson no hope that not an individual of the twenty militia remained alive, having faced such odds. However, the militia withstood, if only briefly, a force of 300 Royal Marines. And so it continued, a steady retreat, fire, retreat, fire, and retreat again, in an orderly fashion as the British steadily advanced. The twenty militia fell back to Maj.Nicholson’s main lines – the British now 400 yards away and advancing. A thankful Nicholson wrote “…If anything I could say, would add to the reputation of those [twenty] gentlemen, how freely would I say it.”

By 4 a.m. With the British pressing forward, Major Nicholson received a report from behind his lines, relating that a large British naval force in barges were entering Queenstown Creek behind his position. The British confronting Major Nicholson in front were a company of Royal Marine Artillery, the 102nd Regiment Foot and two battalions of Royal Marines.

Finding himself in a precarious situation with overwhelming forces advancing both in front by land and behind by water, tightening the noose around him, Major Nicholson judiciously pulled back through Queenstown towards Centreville six miles distant, while the British occupied Queenstown before returning to their barges, and by land to Kent Island.

Among the militia who fought at Queenstown was Private William Grason of Wye River Farm who later entered state politics served as Governor of Maryland (1839-1842). The skirmish at Queenstown was Queen Anne’s County only conflict during the war.

Source: Major William Nicholson to Lt. Colonel Thomas Wright, August 16, 1813. Easton Republican Star, August 24, 1813.

Published in: on March 30, 2011 at 9:00 pm  Comments Off on Queenstown on the Chester River: August 13, 1813  

Captain James Roe (c.1784-?): 35th Maryland Regiment, Belle-Air, Kent County, 1814

The 35th Maryland Regiment was one of two regiments assigned to Queen Anne’s County during the war under the Maryland Militia Act of 1811. In August 1814 upon the advance of HM frigate Menelaus, Capt Peter Parker, RN, in the upper bay off Kent County. Brigadier General Benjamin Chambers, 6th Brigade, brought into service the 21st Maryland Regiment under Lt. Colonel Phillip Reed and Captain James Roe’s militia company of 100 men.  Captain Roe received his commission on October 17, 1810 by Governor Robert Bowie.

On August 31, 1814, HM frigate Menelaus landed their marines and seamen on the bay shore of Kent County and marched inland towards Belle-Air where intelligence reported their was a large militia camp and military depot of supplies. At midnight the British attacked the 21st Regiment upon the farm fields of Isaac Caulk. The Maryland militia made a heroic stand against overwhelming numbers and steadily withdrew from the field towards Chestertown five miles away. The action however caused the British commander Sir Captain Peter Parker to be mortally wounded. While Captain Roe’s company of fifty-nine militia were attached to the 21st Regiment from Aug 31 to Sept 7 they took no part in the midnight skirmish as they were encamped to guard the militia stores at Belle-Air.

In 2008 at the Poplar Grove/Brampton Plantation in Queen Anne’s County, documents were found relating to the War of 1812 among those “A Roster of the Attendance of Capt. Ja’s Roe’s Company Stationed at Bell Aire, August 31, 1814 – this campaign commenced.” While little is still unknown about Captain Roe and his company their role gives an insight of the company’s role during the Battle of Caulk’s Field on August 31, 1814.

Source: James Wood Poplar Grove Collection, Maryland State Archives, SC-5807; Maryland Militia in the War of 1812, Volume 1 (Eastern Shore), by F. Edward Wright (Westminster, Md.), 8, 38.

Battle of the Ice Mound, February 7, 1815 – Dorchester County

On February 7, 1815 in what will be the last known skirmish of the British in the Chesapeake, HM schooner Dauntless was off shore having sent her tender’s crew previously on James Island near the mouth of the Choptank River to raid livestock on nearby farms. On February 7 the Dauntless ships log recorded; “at daylight saw ourselves surrounded with ice and by 7 o’clock the ship was fast…Noon. Fine hard weather saw nothing of our boats…8 p.m. fresh breezes with severe frost the boats not having returned fear they are frozen in.”

The tender had come within 400 yards off shore and soon became enclosed by ice. The militia gathered by Joseph Fookes Stewart (1777-1839), a private in Captain Thomas Woolford’s company of the 48th Maryland Regiment gave his report that the tender was “described afloat between the body of ice attached to the shore and the cake which had drifted in from the bay, and at about 400 yards distance from the shore. – They descried, too, a mound of ice, which had been formed at about 150 yards from the tender…” The militia made there careful way across the pack ice and commenced firing their muskets, the crew of tender retired with their own.

Lieutenant Matthew Phibbs, R.N., the tender’s commander, a midshipman, three Royal Marines and thirteen sailors soon found themselves in a difficult situation. On board was a black man named Abraham Travers and a black woman cook named Becca. For nearly two hours the musketry continued until suddenly the entire crew of nineteen men and a colored woman came up from the tender’s hold and surrendered under a white handkerchief, were made prisoners and taken ashore.

Onboard the militia found a 12-Pounder carronade, a swivel gun, seventeen muskets and six pistols and amounts gunpowder. The militia known to have accompanied Stewart in the capture and listed in his report were: Moses Navy, William Geohagan, John Bell, Moses Geoghegan, Robert Travers, Henry K. Travers, Daniel Travers, Mathias Travers, Nicks North, William Dove, Thomas Tolly, John Tolly, James Hooper, Hugh Roberts, Moses Simmons and a unknown black man. In all sixteen militia had taken the HM schooner Dauntless tender. Afterwards in a deposition to attain the prize money, Stewart gathered another twenty six other militia who had served. On February 27, H.M. ship Dauntless departed the Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

A question arises of why had not the tender’s crew utilized their carronade? It may have been due to the constant musket fire poured upon them and realizing their being encased in ice, surrendered.

Joseph F. Stewart died at his residence on August 4, 1839 at Tobacco Stick (Madison), Dorchester County. Though the attack was successfully made, a musket ball only has a range of 75 yards! The carronade taken from the tender was named for two of the twenty captured. Commander Lt. Matthew Phibbs, and a African-American cook Becca. By tradition the carronade on exhibit at MAdison, Md., has come to be called “Becky Phipps”.

The site of the captured “Becky-Phillips” carronade is on the westserb side of the Taylor’s Island Bridge on Maryland Route 16.

Sources: Stewart, Robert G. “The Battle of the Ice Mound, February 7, 1815” (Maryland Historical  Magazine, vol. 70, No.4, Winter, 1975), 372-378; Captain’s Logbook, HMS Dauntless, Public Records Office, Admiralty 52/3902, London; Joseph was the son of John T. and Elizabeth Fookes of Church Creek, Cambridge, Md; “Battle of the Ice Mound,”Baltimore American and Commercial Daily Adv., February 22, 1815; Somerset Herald (Md.), August 20, 1839.

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 9:48 am  Comments Off on Battle of the Ice Mound, February 7, 1815 – Dorchester County  

Frenchtown: April 29, 1813 – Cecil County

I have the honor to acquaint you that having yesterday gained information of the Depot of Flour…being with some Military and other Stores situated at a Place called French Town, a considerable distance up the River Elk. Rear Admiral George Cockburn to Admiral John Warren, April 29, 1813.

The first British landing incursion in Maryland occurred at Frenchtown and Elk Landing (Elkton), Cecil County on April 29, 1813. Thirty-six years before in August 1777, three hundred British warships, carrying 15,000 British and German Hessian troops had anchored off Elk Landing, fifteen miles above Frenchtown, then marched north to Philadelphia. That winter while General Washington’s continental army encamped at Valley Forge, the British occupied and entertained themselves in hospitable and warm Philadelphia.

In late April 1813, British warships again sailed up the Chesapeake towards Frenchtown a prosperous commercial port on the Elk River, a mile below Elkton on the upper bay. (Located on Frenchtown Road off Route 213.)

Frenchtown Gun Battery was an unfinished earthen battery mounted with four 6-pounder field guns which commanded the river channel at the Lower Wharf Landing, The battery was commanded by Captains Edward Oldham and William Garrett of the local militia all under the command of Major James Sewall of the 49th Maryland Regiment. He hastily assembled thirty to forty militia stage drivers and merchants along the Frenchtown waterfront as citizens began removing store goods, livestock and personal valuables into the back country.

April 29 – At 7 a.m. British barges advanced upon the town. While the militia “made a brave but ineffective effort to intercept their advance” the militia quit the battery and retreated. A Private Jess Ash offered his assessment, “I met the enemy in company with perhaps 40 others at Frenchtown, where the [British] crews of 11 barges, proved too strong for our resistance, and which caused our retreat, without effecting anything.” By 1:00 p.m. the British had captured and destroyed the town. Amidst the destruction were large quantities of U.S. army clothing, saddles, bridles and other cavalry equipage destined for the American army in Canada.

From Frenchtown the British moved onto Elkton but were repulsed by several earthen artillery redoubts along the river approach.

British ships that anchored nearby in the Elk River were HMS schooners Highflyer, Mohawke and Fantome, Arab, Lynx, Dolphin and Racer, and ships-of-the-lines Marlborough and Dragon from which the British barges had launched their attack.

Sources: George Cockburn Papers, Library of Congress, MSS 17576, Reel 4, Containers 6-7; Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser, April 30, October 1, 1813; Donald G. Shomette, Lost Towns of Tidewater Maryland, (Centreville, Md.: Tidewater  Publishers, 2000), 254; “Extract from the Journal of H.B.M. tender Highflyer, April 28 -May 6, 1813.” Baltimore Patriot, October 18, 1813; (George Cockburn Papers, Library of Congress, MSS 17576, Reel 4, Containers 6-7); Alexandria Gazette, May 5, 1813.

Published in: on March 27, 2011 at 6:45 pm  Comments Off on Frenchtown: April 29, 1813 – Cecil County  

Sir Captain Peter Parker, R.N. (1785-1814)

Sir Peter Parker

Sir Peter Parker. From Lossing’s Field Book to the War of 1812

In October 1902, eighty-eight years after the War of 1812, a monument was dedicated on Caulk’s Field battlegrounds on Maryland’s Eastern Shore of Kent County. It commemorates both the British and American militia midnight encounter here on August 31, 1814. Sir Capt. Peter Parker was a descendant of several Royal Navy flag officers, he receiving command of H.M. frigate Menelaus in 1810. A popular often told story has been that Capt Parker, having received a mortal wound, was carried from the field to the Thomas Mitchell House (Maryland Pkwy. off Rt. 21) where he died in the kitchen, the soldiers having “got a blanket and sheet to wrap Sir Peter in.” The legend became interwoven into the popular culture of the War of 1812 and has become an integral myth of Kent County’s history. The house today is a popular bed and breakfast inn. Captain Parker’s remains however were never carried to the Mitchell House, but directly to his command, H.M. frigate Menelaus lying off today’s Parker Point. The origin of the story first appeared in the Daily National Intelligencer (D.C) soon afterward the battle.

Lieutenant Henry Crease, R.N., who assumed command upon Capt. Parker’s death, stated in his report: “It was at this time, while animating his men in the most heroic manner that Sir Peter Parker received his mortal wound which obliged him to quit the field and he expired in a few minutes.” After been taken onboard his remains were “placed into a coffin filled with whiskey.” The morning after, Captain Peter Parker’s right shoe exhibited a great deal of blood inside was found with the inscription found inside: “No. 20169 Parker, Capt. Sir Peter. Bt.” On September 3, the British made another raid in Kent County at the bay-shore farm of the same Thomas Mitchell who served as Commissary of Supplies for the Kent County militia, thus the story became linked to his death at the Mitchell house.

On September 7, the HM frigate Menelaus sailed down the bay “with her pennant half-mast high, a sign indicative of the death of Sir Peter Parker.” The Menelaus anchored with the ships in Baltimore harbor during the Battle for Baltimore. Afterwards his remains were transferred to H.M. frigate Hebrus for conveyance to Bermuda and buried at St. George’s Church, Bermuda. In the Spring of 1815 his remains were conveyed to St. Margaret’s Church at Westminster, London where he was buried.

Sources: Baltimore Federal Gazette, September 7, 1814; Baltimore Patriot, September 5, 1814; The Bermuda Historical Quarterly, Winter, 1944), 189-195; Logbook, HMS Tonnant, September 12, 1814 (Public Records Office, Admiralty Records 53/1385); Lt. Henry Crease, RN, HMS Menelaus to Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane, September 1, 1814 (Alexander Cochrane Papers, Library of Scotland with copies at the Library of Congress, MS2329).

Published in: on March 25, 2011 at 7:15 pm  Comments Off on Sir Captain Peter Parker, R.N. (1785-1814)  

Congressman Charles Goldsborough (1765-1834)

Photo of portrait of Charles Goldsborough by C. Gregory Stapko. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1006

He was the son of Charles and Anna Maria (Tilghman) Goldsborough of Hunting Creek, Cambridge, Md., a member of one Maryland Eastern Shore’s most oldest and prominent familes.

On April 2, 1813, two months after British warships entered the Chesapeake to enforce the blockade, Charles Goldsborough informed a congressional colleague, Harmanus Bleecker of New York, concerning the British depredations and consequent suffering among his constituents:

“…our bay trade has suffered extremely. Some of my poor neighbors are among the suffers, having lost their vessels and with them the principal source of support to their families…Our intercourse with Baltimore is entirely cut off, and consequently all of our means of procuring money. Should this blockade of the part of the bay continue three months longer, the Inhabitants of the Eastern Shore will be in extreme distress both for supplies for their families, and money to purchase them with. The War physics [is] working very well. No man, (not even the leading democrat) speaks in favor of the war. All express a wish for its termination. There will be nothing among us but poverty and privation…The old Muskets, which had been lying by for years in ignoble idleness and rust, were rubbed up, and some new ones procured. All the uniform coats which had been formerly got for show were now put on for fight; every hat was garnished with a red muslin band, the drums beat to Arms, and [the] American standard was unfurled…”

The British had anchored off Goldsborough’s Horn Point farm, but made no attempt to land. The British departed on March 20th, and sailed up the Chesapeake.

In June 1812, as a federalist he was one of three Maryland congressmen to vote against a declaration of war. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania in 1784, he had served in the Maryland State Senate (1791-1795, 1799-1801); U.S. House of Representatives (1805-1817) and as Governor of Maryland (1818-1819). He died on December 13, 1834 and was buried at Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery in Cambridge, Md.

Sources: Eisenberg, Gerson G. Marylanders Who Served the Nation: A Biographical Dictionary of Federal Officials from Maryland. (Annapolis: Maryland State Archives, 1992); Easton Album by Norman Harrington (Easton: Historical Society of  Talbot County, 1986).

Published in: on March 25, 2011 at 10:25 am  Comments Off on Congressman Charles Goldsborough (1765-1834)  

Joseph Hopper Nicholson (1770-1817)

Joseph Hopper Nicholson, MSA SC 3520-1893

Joseph Hopper Nicholson was from one of the most influential and oldest families on Maryland’s Eastern Shore at Centreville, whose linelage dates back to 17th century Maryland. Born on May 15, 1770 in Chestertown, Queen Annes County, Maryland he graduated from Chestertown [Washington] College in 1787 and served in the Maryland House of Delgates (1796-1798), U.S. House of Representatives(1799-1806). In 1804 he conducted the impeachment hearings of Associated Chief Justice 0f the U.S. Supreme Court, Samuel Chase of Maryland. Two years later he introduced a House bill that became known as the “Nicholson Resolution” that became the first of several Non-Importation Acts that resulted in the unpopular Embargo Act of 1807. He resigned in 1806 to become the Chief Judge of the Maryland’s Court of Appeals in Baltimore, holding this post until his death.

On May 16, 1812 at Baltimore’s Old Fountain Inn, fifty delegates of the Democratic-Republican Party, with Judge Nicholson presiding as chairman, met to present several resolutions in a memorial to the President James Madison on the momentous decision that the nation was now affixed upon – a declaration of war with England. Foremost of the delegates was Hezekiah Niles, the influential editor of the Niles’ Weekly Register, who reported the evening’s proceedings arguing that England “… forcibly impresses our seamen, and detains them inhumanely in an odorous servitude – she obstructs our commerce in every channel…she had murdered our citizens within our own waters…” Such were the sentiments of the delegates many of whom were connected by livelihood to the popular “free trade and sailor’ rights” issues, one of several that led the U.S. to declare war upon England on June 18, 1812.

Judge Nicholson was a well known and eloquent orator rose to address the gathering:

“…We have assembled here to-night, for the purpose of determining whether we will give it our support in the might struggle into which [our country ] is about to enter …Is there an American sword that will not leap from its scabbard to avenge the wrongs and contumely treatment under which we have suffered? No, my countrymen, it is impossible. Let us act with one heart, and with one hand; let us show to an admiring world, that however we may differ among ourselves about some of our internal concerns, yet in the great cause of our country, the American people are animated by one soul and by one spirit…”

In May 1814, he organized a U.S. Volunteer militia artillery company known as the Baltimore Fencibles, whose muster rolls included mercantile merchants, ship-owners and bankers. In May 1814 with an invasion of the Chesapeake eminent, Nicholson informed the U.S. Naval Secretary “We should have to fight hereafter, not for ‘free trade and sailors’ rights,’ not for the conquest of the Canadas, but for our national existence.” During the bombardment of Fort McHenry they manned the guns within Fort McHenry. After the war he conbtinued on the judicial bench until his death in Baltimore on March 4, 1817. He was buried at Wye House, home of the Lloyds of Maryland in Talbot County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Source: “Joseph Hopper Nicholson: Citizen-Soldier of Maryland,” by Scott S. Sheads (Maryland Historical Magazine, vol. 98, No. 2, 2003).

Published in: on March 25, 2011 at 10:05 am  Comments Off on Joseph Hopper Nicholson (1770-1817)  

William Grason (1788-1868)

The son of Richard and Ann Grason, William Grason was born on March 11, 1788 in Queen Anne’s County, Md.  He attended St. John ‘s College in Annapolis (c. 1801); enlisted in the U.S. Navy (1802) and later in 1813 served as a 3rd sergeant in the 38th Maryland Regiment under Colonel William H. Nicholson at the Battle of Queenstown, August 13, 1813 on the Chester River. He attained a commission as lieutenant on Sept. 12, 1813.

After the war he served in the Maryland House of Delegates (1828-29); Governor of Maryland (1839-1842); and as Maryland Senator (1852-1853). He died on July 2, 1868 at the age of 80 years and was buried on his estate “Wye River Farm” near Queenstown, Queen Anne’s County, Md.

Sources: Marylanders Who Served the Nation by Gerson G. Eisenberg (Annapolis: Maryland State Archives, 1992); The Sun, July 4, 1868.

Published in: on March 13, 2011 at 7:10 pm  Comments Off on William Grason (1788-1868)