Major General Samuel Smith takes Command at Baltimore: August 25, 1814

“The victorious [British] army are in full march for this city, and will be here in 36 hours…”

For Brig. General William Henry Winder, nephew of the federalist governor of Maryland, the wind-swept stormy night of August 25, 1814 is one of apprehension and decision for his next military move as he rode towards Baltimore. A severe thunderstorm augmented the retreating passage from one of the darkest days of the War of 1812 as the U.S. capitol lay in smoldering ruins and national humiliation following Winder’s defeat at Bladensburg, Md.

At Montgomery County Courthouse, General Winder dashes off a letter to Brig. Gen. John Stricker at Baltimore; “There remains no doubt but the enemy are on the advance to Baltimore …Are the people animated there? Have you any reinforcements from Pennsylvania?” In the immediate crises, Baltimore seemed next as unfounded rumors spread that the British army were on the retreating heels of the Baltimoreans.

On August 25, a Committee of Vigilance and Safety was organized to coordinate Baltimore’s defense. A delegation of military and naval officers presented themselves; Commodore Oliver H. Perry, Major George Armistead of Fort McHenry, Commandant Robert Spence and Brig. Gen. John Stricker who unanimously agreed with three commitee members (Robert Stewart, Col. John Edgar Howard and Richard Frisby) that Major General Samuel Smith “take the command of the Forces which may be called into federal service.” Civilian and military confidence in Winder had diminished over his defeat at Bladensburg.

Outside the City Council Chambers, Samuel Smith is waiting, to be summoned, like Washington on his day of appointment to command the Continental army in 1775. General Smith informed the U.S. Secretary of War on August 27 that he had been “appointed by his Excellency Gov. Winder to the command of the quota of  Maryland under the general order of the 4th July 1814 and that I have assumed command conformably to my rank…”  of major general in the militia and now being called into federal service outranked Brig. General Winder as commander of Baltimore’s defense.

Smith’s experience as an Revolutionary officer, his leadership in the U.S. Senate and ability as a successful merchant, provided the necessary qualifications. On August 25 the Committee of Vigilance and Safety gathered in the Council Chambers. A committee member Richard Frisby remembered the critical conversation that took place in the council chambers when Colonel John E. Howard entered the chamber and rose to speak:

Mr. President, I believe that I have as much property at stake as most others and I have four sons in the field of Battle. I had sooner see my Sons dead and my property in Ashes, than agree to any capitulation with the enemy. No my friends never. All my property is here. My Wife, my Children, my friends, and all that is nearest to me on Earth are here, but I had sooner see them all buried in Ruins, and myself along with them, than see Baltimore make a last and disgraceful surrender to the Enemies of our beloved Country.”

His fellow Baltimoreans and gathered officers with” unbounded confidence in his patriotism, judgment, and valor” cheerfully rally around his standard in defense of their homes and firesides. General Smith, after a moments pause, in a most feeling and animated tone of voice answered.

“My friends I have but one life to lose, and that I have at all times been willing to hazard in defense of my beloved country. Tell the members of your convention that I willingly obey their call, and, confidently expect their hearty cooperation in every necessary means of defense….” Soon the General was on horseback animating his fellow citizens to buckle on their armor and prepare to defend their homes and all that is dear to freemen.

Sources: Samuel Smith Papers, MSS 18974, Reel 5, Cont. 7-8, Library of Congress. Dated 1839; Secretary Theodore Bland to the Committee Aug. 25, 1814.

Published in: on April 11, 2011 at 7:04 pm  Comments Off on Major General Samuel Smith takes Command at Baltimore: August 25, 1814  

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.  

Old St. Paul’s Cemetery: In Memoriam of 1812 Patriarchs

“May they rest in peace in their narrow beds, covered by verdure ever fresh, and wild flowers ever blooming; and may the kindliest dew of Heaven distill upon their graves an emblem of our tears.” Niles’ Weekly Register, March 30, 1814.

Throughout Maryland are thousands of War of 1812 veteran graves and historic burying grounds yet to be found, recorded and remembered, as we begin to celebrate their achievements that gave inspiration for a new national hymn. One of the least visited, yet one of the famous burying grounds is also Baltimore’s oldest – Old St. Paul’s Cemetery of the Second Presbyterian Church in downtown Baltimore. Within its high protective stone walls are many citizen-soldiers who fought or contributed with legislature support to keeping the fire hearths burning on the home front in support of their neighbors and fellow citizens.

For nearly three years when the war raged on the bay, the voices of citizen-soldiers, the fife and drums of regimental music and company flags unfurled to the breezes continue to play no more. Herein within this sacred burying ground are the quiet voices of our past. Like those of the Revolution, they returned to their private pursuits as farmers, mariners, political and martial pursuits, until they too, passed on, leaving only their reputations and the records of their lives. Here are four notable burials:

Lt. Colonel George Armistead (1780-1818). Born in Caroline County Virginia he was one of five brothers, all of whom served in the War of 1812. In 1813 he delivered the captured British from Fort George, Upper Canada to President Madison, and subsequently commanded of Fort McHenry until his death on April 27, 1818.

Lieutenant Colonel Jacob H. Hindman, (1789-1827) A native of Centreville, Maryland served in the 2nd U.S. Artillery in 1812 and was brevetted a lieutenant colonel for his distinguished service in the defense of Fort Erie and Fort George, and at the Battle of Chippewa (July 1814) all on the Canadian frontier. Colonel Hindman died on February 17, 1827 at the age of 58 years.

Christopher Hughes, Jr. (1785-1849) A Baltimore native he commanded the Baltimore Independent Artillery in 1813 before becoming one of the U.S. peace delegates at the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814, concluding the War of 1812. He was the brother-in-law of Lt. Colonel George Armistead, and died on September 18, 1849 at the age of sixty-three.

Jacob Small, Jr. (1772-1851). A former mayor of Baltimore and member of the Baltimore Mechanical Volunteers at the Battle of North Point, he designed the 1817 Aquila Randall Monument, still extant along the Old North Point Road.

“The patriarchs of the Revolution [and the War of 1812] are fast passing away: another and yet another year, and perhaps not one of those gallant spirits, who aided America in her struggle for freedom and independence, will be left to the living object of our gratitude & veneration…The Freedom achieved by their swords, and the institutions established by their wisdom, are now left in our hands.” Honorable Robert H. Goldsborough, 1827.


Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 7:55 pm  Comments Off on Old St. Paul’s Cemetery: In Memoriam of 1812 Patriarchs  
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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  

Battle of “Slippery Hill,” Queen Anne’s County, August 13, 1813

On August 13, 1813 British land and naval landing forces attacked Queenstown, Maryland in Queen Annes County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The attack was launched from Kent Island, a temporary naval base that would also launched two attacks on nearby St. Michaels (Aug. 10, 26) in Talbot County. Here the 38th Maryland Regiment under the command of Major William Hopper Nicholson skirmished with approximately 300 British troops under the command of Col. Sir Thomas Sidney Beckwith as they advanced on Queenstown along the Kent Island Road (Route 50 ). Fearful of being cut off by a second British amphibious force, Major Nicholson’s forces withdrew to Centreville. It has popularly being called the Battle of “Slippery Hill” for the low rise of ground on the site intersection of Route 18 and Bennett Point Road half-way between Grasonville and Queenstown.

Following is his official account of the battle.


Having laid before you my letter of the 13th inst. to Brig Gen. Chambers stating the enemy’s movements on Queen’s Town, and my retreat in consequence thereof, it remains for me to give you a detailed statement of the affair, together with the reasons which influenced and determined me to retreat without engaging the enemy.

Previous to entering on this detail, it may not be irrelevant for the information of those who have minds enough to comprehend the subject, to give a slight sketch of the geographic position of the country, laying between the enemy’s force on Kent Island, and my little charge at Queens Town – Kent Island, of which the enemy were in possession, and which was completely surrounded by their vessels of war, in the southern extremity of Queen Anne’s county; the greatest breath about 6 miles; is watered on its western side by the Chesapeake Bay, on its eastern margin by the Eastern Bay, and is separated from the Main by what is usually termed the Narrows, which is in fact a strait from the Eastern Bay to Chester River, and runs nearly north and south, is navigable on full common tides for small shallops; and its breath caries from about 100 yards, to half a mile or more.

This narrows or strait, is skirted on both sides by extensive marshes, intersected with cripples, which are frequently dangerous, more especially to the marsh connected with the main. To approach the Island from the Main you must traverse a narrow causeway upwards of a mile in length across the marsh. Piney Neck, or the district of country which extends from Queenstown to the Narrows, is watered on the N.W. by Chester River, navigable for ships of large size for an extent of about six miles to the mouth of Queen’s Town Creek, which forms its best gead about ¼ mile from the main road, near to which stands the little village in which my force was quartered. The same district of [the] country is watered on the S. and E. by the Eastern Bay, and that branch of Wye River called Back Wye, for an extant of about 20 miles, navigable in its whole course for craft and barges to within a short distance of Queenstown.

Into this tract of country, nearly surrounded by water, I was destined to defend with the following force, viz., 6 companies of infantry, amounting to 273 men, of whom 25 were sick, and three absent on furlough, leaving 214 effectives – two light six pounders, commanded by Capt. [Thomas] Wright, about 35 strong; and 100 Cavalry, commanded by Major [Thomas] Emory.

To this force I had strong reasons to believe the enemy could oppose 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 to avoid a surprise. To prevent all intercourse with the island, which was so great as to be highly criminal.

On the morning of the 12th, I determined to push the two companies amounting to 62 men, (and a part of the 244 effectives) commanded by Capts. [Charles] Hobbs and [John D.] Taylor, into the [Piney] neck, if they should be willing to engage is so hazardous an enterprise; and accordingly communicated my wishes to them.

They, without a moments hesitation, accepted my wishes, and with great alacrity paraded their companies, and entered on a perilous duty, which they, equally with myself, tho essential to the safety of our whole force. They had my written permission to occupy such grounds as to them might seem most advantageous for the duty assigned them. They were by no means to invite an attack, to communicate with me at least once in 12 hours, for which purpose they had four troopers sent on with them, to be entirely subject to their orders.

They were not to occupy the same ground any two nights successively. With these instructions, the very intimate knowledge which the officers & men professed of the country, added to the great zeal & activity of the officers, I was satisfied that if they should be attacked by a superior force, they would effect a safe retreat, if by an equal force, I had no fears for the result. In the course of the afternoon of the 12th, a variety of circumstances combined to induce me to believe that I should be attacked the next morning, & that chiefly, if not altogether on the land side.

I therefore took my officers separately & pointed out to each of them the positions their men were to occupy on the land side, in the event of an attack by land, and the same if attacked by water. We were unanimously of opinion, that the posts selected were of such strength, as to enable us to do great execution to a much larger force than their own; and against any thing like an equal force, we felt confident of success.

Against an attack from 2 or 3 points, I felt the insufficiency of my force to provide, and did not attempt it. Having dispatched Adjutant [John] Tilghman, and one or two officers into the neck, about 11 o’clock, and having finished visiting my guards, about 1-2 past 12, [midnight], I retired to my room. At 1-2 past 1 o’clock the Adjutant returned from reconnoitering, without having gained any information of the enemy’s intentions.

At 10 minutes before 3 o’clock of the 13th, I was aroused by the quick approach of horsemen, and found them to be my cavalry videttes of the out posts, with the intelligence that the enemy was approaching in great force on the main road from Kent Narrows to Queens Town. I immediately called up my officers, and at 15 minutes past 3, my force paraded in order of battle, with the exception of the cavalry. The want of accommodations for the men and horses, compelled me to quarter them about 1½ miles from the village, but this occasioned no delay; for in the course of 10 or 15 minutes Major [Thomas] Emory in person, (much to the honor of this body) reported his cavalry as formed on the ground I had directed, and ready for action.

A few minutes only had elapsed, when an express arrived to me from Captains [Charles] Hobbs and [John D.] Taylor, with the information that the enemy was advancing in such force, as to make it impossible that I could oppose them with mine; and that they expected to effect a safe retreat. This intelligence created great anxiety for the fate of my picquet guard, which was stationed about 2 miles in advance of Queens Town, on the road by which the enemy was approaching. I immediately mounted my horse, and pressed forward towards my picquet.

When I had advanced within ½ a mile of the post, the firing commenced between them and the enemy, and the vollies of musketry left me without hope that an individual of them was alive. I returned immediately to my main body, and found them at their posts, all cheerful and anxious for the onset of the enemy, notwithstanding his numbers, a fresh volley of musketry created feelings which I can never forget, it assured me that my picquet was not annihilated as I supposed, but (to their immortal honor) that they had abused my orders of the night before, rallied, and a second time attacked the enemy. I instantly sent the Adjutant on to meet them, and they arrived safe at our line, about 400 yards in advance of the enemy, without the loss of a man, and only one very slightly wounded.

If anything I could say, would add to the reputation of those gentlemen, how freely would I say it, in giving their names to the public, I do all that I can. It shall be known, that a picquet guard composed of the following gentlemen, stood firm at their posts, received the attack, and returned the fire of a column of British troops 2000 strong, supported by 4 field pieces, retreated, formed again, and gave the enemy their second fire.

Picquet Guard

 Capts. James Massey,  J.H. Nicholson, Jr.  Privates, John D. Emory, John Green, Solomon E. Wright, Dennis Sullivan, James Chairs, John Hassett, Samuel Gleen, ames Jackson, W. Seward (slightly wounded), Jacob Price, Thomas Deroachbroome, John Dodd, Jeremiah Vincent, Thomas Cox, Peter Ross, William Emerson, Samuel McBosh [and] Archibald Roe

About 4 o’clock, my cavalry videts, stationed on Chester River came in, bringing the painful intelligence that a large number of barges were entering Queens Town creek. In a few minutes after a signal rocket from the barges told me the news too true; at the same moment one of my guards stationed on the creek came with the information that they had formed their line across the mouth of Queens Town creek. The signal rocket was answered from the land side, and I instantly called in all my guards except three, out of twenty, stationed at Mr. Hall’s landing [Bowlingly Plantation] on the creek, who I left for the purpose of conveying intelligence to me of the enemy’s approach; for I was firmly resolved to engage the enemy in my front, if it could be done without subjecting the force I commanded to certain capture. I had sent major Blake to take a view of the enemy on the water, who returned with the information that they had landed, & that he was fired on by them.

The force in my front was about 150 yards from us, and was plainly seen from both my left and right flanks. In this situation I concluded, that noting but a silent retreat could effect my escape this I ordered, and dispatched the surgeon of the regiment to major Emory of the cavalry with the order; but from some misconception of the surgeon, major Emory did not consider the order as official; and of course, did not commence his retreat with that promptness of movement, for which his command is remarkable. I discovered the delay, and as soon as possible sent on the adjutant, with orders for the cavalry to press their retreat; this was done under a heavy fire of rockets, round and grape shot, equally upon the cavalry, infantry and artillery, from the enemy’s land force, and from a fire of rockets, round and grape shot, upon the infantry and artillery, from the forces on the water side.

There was no confusion among any of the troops; all retreated in perfect order, and the column was well formed (for militia) during the whole retreat; indeed it became absolutely necessary to give a positive order to quicken their pace before I could effect it; early on the retreat I discovered that my column occupied more ground that was necessary for it; and apprehensive that some irregularity existed in the advance, I rode up to the front to discover the cause, and found captains Massey and Nicholson’s commands in single file. This order if companies had been necessary in the first instance in consequence of the original retreat of the companies being intercepted by the enemy’s force on the water side. I therefore found it necessary to change the disposition of their retreat, and immediately upon my giving the order for the formation of a column by those two companies, it was executed on the march, with a neatness and promptness that does equal honor to the officers and men.

During the whole of the time that we waited in order of battle the enemy’s approach, the most perfect order and submission pervaded my little command, frequently enlivened with observations and with, that bespoke minds perfectly at ease, and determined to do their duty to their country. Capt. [G.W.T.] Wright of artillery, in particular, addressed his command in a very spirited and handsome style; exhorting by every thing that was sacred and dear to them as freemen, to discharge their duty, which was received with the most cordial assurances of support from the whole force.

Having thus detailed the objects of my first retreat, it becomes necessary that I should account for my continuing to this place. The head of the column having reached the appointed place of rendezvous, about one and a half miles from the town, I was riding very leisurely along in the rear with the adjutant, and had just ordered him to ride forward and halt the column, when information was sent to me, by a person who had been on the water’s edge during the whole time, that the enemy were landing a large force from twenty barges on a point of Mr. Wright’s [Blakeford Plantation]. I was well aware, that the landing a force at that place could have no other object in view, but the intercepting my retreat, and I instantly ordered the head of the column to advance, and continue the retreat to this place; where every man arrived in safety.

The firing of my picket guard killed two of the enemy, and wounded five; and their commander in chief Sir Sidney Beckwith, had his horse killed. The deserters, who were with the land force, state their numbers to have been, one company of marine artillery (4 pieces) 100 strong, the 102nd regiment of foot, 300 strong; 2 battalions of marines 1600, and one rocket company 50 strong. This was the force in my front to which I had determined to give battle, but the appearance of the enemy attacking my rear, compelled me to give up my attention. His numbers by water not known; but was contained in 45 barges, and by those who had the best opportunity of examining, is stated to have been at least 1350.

It affords me the great pleasure to add, that captains [Charles] Hobbs and [John D.] Taylor made good their retreat across Wye River in batteaux and canoes; and the troopers who were under their command effected theirs by swimming their horses across. I will only observe, that not a breath of censure can in any way attach to a single individual of my command. The ready and cheerful obedience which I experienced from every officer, and private, gave me full confidence that I could rely on the execution of my orders; and I was not disappointed; on me alone therefore must rest the responsibility of the retreat. May I again, sir, solicit, that a Court of Inquiry be directed to site on me.”

I am sir,

WILLIAM H. NICHOLSON, Major 38th Regt. Md. Militia, Centreville, 16th, Aug. 1813

 Source: Major William Nicholson, 38th Regiment, Maryland Militia, to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Wright of the 38th Regiment, Maryland Militia, Centreville, Md., August 16, 1813; Easton Republican Star, August 24, 1813.

Published in: on April 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm  Comments Off on Battle of “Slippery Hill,” Queen Anne’s County, August 13, 1813  

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!  

Battle of North Point – American Prisoners of War, September 12, 1814

In the aftermath of the Battle of North Point, fifty-three American militia found themselves prisoners of war and were conveyed to the British fleet via Bear Creek to His Britannic Majesty’s frigates Havanna, Severn and Surprise. In a collective letter upon which their names were listed they described their confinement;

“We had the misfortune to be captured in the affair of Monday last at Bear Creek and were on Tuesday brought on board this ship where we are detained as prisoners of war…we are in captivity & distressed (not one of us having a change of raiment, a blanket, or cent of money – some have no coats, others no vests or shoes). Should not an immediate arrangement be made for our benefit, we expect to be sent to England…We pray an immediate attention may be paid to our situation by a flag of truce…Several of us being already very unwell, we fear confinement by fever which will be certain death in our situation…”

 Independent Company, 5th Maryland Regt.; Thomas Bailey, Talbot Jones, Edward Murray, Frederick Seyler, and William Jenkins.

Independent Blues – 5th  Maryland Regt.; Francis M. Wills, George Heidelbach, William Levely, Richard Lawson, John Huzza.

First Baltimore Sharp Shooters – 1st Battalion Maryland Riflemen; Thomas G. Prettyman, and John Howard.

Patriot Company, 5th Maryland Regt.; Benjamin Meredith.

United Volunteers, 5th Maryland Regt.; Henry W. Gray, and John G. Poug.

Union Volunteers, 5th Maryland Regt.; George Collins, and Henry Suter

1st Mechanical Volunteers, 5th Maryland Regt.; John Redgrave.  

51st Maryland Regt.; Andrew Miller, John Kepler, Morgan Carson, Adam Miller, Andrew Cole, Peter Stedman, Patrick B. Powell, John Kesler, and Adam Miller.

27th Maryland Regt.; John Fordyce, Ephraim Nash.

39th Maryland Regt; William Baltzell, Lewis Baltzell.

Non-combatants – Daniel Wells, Joseph G. Whitney

Two other British warships also held American prisoners of war from North Point.

 Onboard HM frigate Surprise – William B. Buchanan, Ezekiel Partett, Peter Abraham, James Gettings, Edward H. Dorsey, John Lowleas, William Balson, John Griffin, Thomas Herring, George Boyle, Richard Polkinhorn, Thomas Norris, Andrew Kaufman, and George T. Hersey.

 Onboard HM frigate SevernJohn Chesley, John Baxley, Nicholas Wilson, Joseph Chaoman, and John Dougherty.

 In October they were released under the efforts of Colonel John S. Skinner, prisoner of war exchange agent for the U.S. State Department, who only recently had been with attorney Francis Scott Key on board a flag-of-truce vessel and had witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry.

Sources: Letter dated September 17, 1814, onboard HBM frigate Havanna. Samuel Smith Papers, Reel 2, Container 2-3., Library of Congress; Baltimore American & Commercial Daily Adv., September 26, 1814.

Published in: on April 5, 2011 at 9:41 pm  Comments Off on Battle of North Point – American Prisoners of War, September 12, 1814  

Lieutenant Gregorious Andre (1787-1814) of the Union Yagers

During the late evening of September 11, 1814, Captain Dominic Bader’ directed Lieutenant Gregorious Andre to employ a line of riflemen along a tree line of a clearing in preparation to meet the Brtiish the following day. They were one of five companies of the First Battalion of Maryland Riflemen. Near mid-day, moments before the Battle of North Point ensued on the 12th; the riflemen skirmished with the advancing forward vanguard of British Light Infantry, before falling steadily back to the main American lines. In a curious note in his official report to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Vice-Admiral Alexander F.I. Cochrane privately reported, noting a curious affair:


“One of the American field officers [Lt. Andre] in the late affair was Shot upon a Tree rather a Strange place for a Commander of a Regt., [company] but I understand he went there to direct his men how to fire with Most effect, but staying there rather too long he was brought down by a Soldier.”


On September 12, 1828, fourteen years after the Battle of North Point, his son, John Andre accompanied a detachment of the Baltimore Union Yagers to the battlegrounds. Here having partaken of a repast, prepared for their solemn remembrance of Lieutenant Andre, they formed a hollow square around the tree “where that brave and lamented officer met his untimely fate…” Lieutenant A.B. Wolfe, commanding the corps addressed those gathered in an “eloquent and impressive manner.”  Following the brief ceremony the corps returned to their homes.

Andre was a native of Bremen, Germany was buried along with others that had been mortally wounded that day at Old Christ Church Cemetery on Broadway, the present site of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was later reburied in Green Mount Cemetery.


Sources: Baltimore Patriot, September 18, 1828. Gregorious Andre received his commission on July 24, 1813;  Admiral Cochrane to First Lord of the Admiralty, September 17, 1814. The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History, Vol. 3 (Washington: Naval Historical Center, 2002), 289-291.

Published in: on April 5, 2011 at 5:22 pm  Comments Off on Lieutenant Gregorious Andre (1787-1814) of the Union Yagers