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)  

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  

Brigadier General John Stricker (1759-1825): Defender of the Battle of North Point, Sept. 12, 1814

“…Every praise was due to him; the city being threatened, it became the duty of the citizens to be foremost in its defense. He claims the honor, and its brave officers and men under his command hailed with delight the opportunity of meeting the enemy’s attack…” Division Orders, September 19, 1814.

He was the son Colonel George Stricker (1832-1810) a Revolutionary War officer born on February 15, 1759 in Frederick, Maryland. During the revolution he served in General William Smallwood’s’ First Maryland Regiment at the battles of Brandywine, Monmouth, and Princeton.

On August 28, 1807, he was commissioned a brigadier general of the Maryland Militia and commanded the Third Brigade of Baltimore City of the Third Division of the Maryland Militia. On September 11, 1814, Stricker led the Third Brigade and other militia from Pennsylvania and western Maryland to meet the British on what would be the Battle of North Point the following afternoon. He commanded 3,200 militia to confront the 4500 British veterans troops approaching Baltimore. In a two hour battle the Americans, under heavy fire and a flanking movement by the British withdrew steadily to Baltimore. On September 15th General Stricker wrote his official account of the battle.

General Stricker resigned his militia commission on November 10, 1814 and resumed his merchant career and became president of the Bank of Baltimore in 1824 until his death on June 23, 1825. He was buried in Westminister Burying Grounds in downtown Baltimore.

Source: Easton Republican Star, April 20, 1814 and January 25, 1825; “General John Stricker,” by John Stricker, Jr.” Maryland Historical Magazine, September 1914, vol. 9, No. 3), 209-218.

Published in: on March 30, 2011 at 12:50 pm  Comments Off on Brigadier General John Stricker (1759-1825): Defender of the Battle of North Point, Sept. 12, 1814  

“Onward to Canada”: The First Baltimore Volunteers, 1812-1813

Not only was Captain Stephen Moore’s militia company the only Maryland company to serve outside the state during the war, but became the only militia company on September 28 to began the arduous march northward into Canada in the fall of 1812.

The company was organized as U.S. Volunteers for a year enlistment under the act of February 6, 1812 authorizing the President to accept volunteer militia corps, serving under the same rregulations and pay as the U.S. Army.  On September 9, they left Baltimore with an elegant silk flag made by the patriotic ladies of the seventh ward. After arriving at a rendezvous encampment, they marched northward to Sacketts Harbor, New York on April 27, 1813. From there they proceeded with the American army to attack York ( Toronto), the capital of Upper British Canada. In a letter home, Captain Moore related his near death during the attack:

“…at the opening of the main street [of York], the enemy sprung a mine upon us, which destroyed about 60 of his own men, and killed or maimed about 1230 of our men. This horrible explosion has deprived me of my left leg, and other wise grievously wounded me. I was taken from the field, carried on board the commodore’s ship, where my leg was amputated, and I now likely to recover. Two of my company were killed at the same time, and four or five more of my brave fellows were severely wounded…”

The Americans captured York, which they held on to for five days. The Baltimore “Bloodhounds” as they were nicknamed, proudly placed their ensign on the highest pinnacle of the Government House in the Capitol of Upper Canada. It had been made by the ladies of Baltimore. On September 7, 1813, at Fort George, Upper Canada, the Baltimore Volunteers were discharged and returned home, where they re-organized under Lt. Colonel Benjamin Fowler’s 39th Maryland Regiment, who would take an active role in the Battle of North Point, September 12, 1814.

1st Lieutenant John Gill  in the Spring of 1814 applied for a captain’s commission for a post in the newly organized national U.S. Sea Fencibles at Baltimore. These corps of seamen, under the U.S. War department were to serve as artillerist in protecting the harbors of the U.S. With two companies already assigned to Baltimore (out of ten raised in the U.,S.) the U.S. Senate declined Gill’s post.

Sources: Baltimore American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, September 2, 1812; The Baltimore Whig, September 12, 1812; Niles’ Weekly Register, October 3, 1812; Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser, June 1, 1813; Easton Republican Star, May 25, 1813.

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm  Comments Off on “Onward to Canada”: The First Baltimore Volunteers, 1812-1813  

Baltimore Hibernian Corps of Union Greens

“Fostered under thy wing, we die in thy defense…It is a pleasing spectacle to view those foreigners who have made this country their home, embodying themselves for the defense of the Republic.”

Union Greens Button

In June 1807  following the naval encounter between HM frigate Leopard and the US frigate Chesapeake that nearly brought a declaration of war. Among the Baltimore Irish militia companies raised were the United Republican Greens, the Baltimore Republican Greens and the Baltimore Union Greens. Company funding appears to have come from the Baltimore Hibernian Society whose organization fostered charitable assistance, immigrant advice and Maryland settlement. Their color standard was green, and like the button they wore was depicted “with a spread Eagle, and a Harp fostered under the wing. Upon the flag were these words proceeding from the Eagle’s mouth:  “Fostered under thy wing, we die in thy defense.” Among their duty assignments in 1813 was upon Camp Look-Out Hill (today Riverside Park in South Baltimore).

During the Battle of North Point, Sept. 12, 1814, the company was commanded by Captain John M. Kane and assigned to the 27th Maryland Regiment and served on the front lines of formation to the left of the Old North Point Road.

Sources: Republican Star, Aug. 11, 1807; Hibernian Chronicle, June 22, 1811; American & Commercial Daily Adv.., August 10, 1808 and October 27, 1813.

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 10:31 pm  Comments Off on Baltimore Hibernian Corps of Union Greens  

Capt. Thomas Quantrill & the “Homespun Volunteers,” Hagers-town, Md.

“Volunteers —Attention!- ALL the volunteers attached to my Company, are ordered to repair to my quarters for the purpose of being uniformed – they are also ordered to bring their arms with them as they will be supplied with new arms for the purpose of marching immediately, according to orders. Thomas Quantrill, Capt. Hagers-town, August 11, 1812.”

Capt. Thomas Quantrill (1790-1854) was a blacksmith and slave-holder in Hagerstown, Md., who received on June 16, 1812 a militia commission for a rifle company known as the Homespun Volunteers, of the 24th Maryland Regiment from Washington County. In August 1812 they marched for Annapolis and garrisoned Fort Madison as part of Maryland’s militia quota for the War Department. A correspondent noticed that “they possessed all the essential qualities deemed necessary to form good soldiers…and will be found in merit, second to no company attached to the service…” In January they returned home having performed their first duty during the war.

In late August 1814 following the capture of Washington,  Captain Quantrill and his company marched for Baltimore and were attached to Lt. Colonel Joseph Sterett’s 5th Maryland Regiment, then transferred to the 39th Maryland Regiment who were in the front lines of the Battle of North Point, Sept. 12, 1814. Thomas and two others of the company of seventy-seven men were wounded.

After the war Capt. Quantrill migrated to Canal Dover, Ohio, married and had four sons, one of whom was William Clarke Quantrill (1837-1865) who became notorious in the Kansas border wars and his  infamous August 21, 1863 raid on Lawrence, Kansas.

Captain Thomas Quantrill died in Canal Dover, Ohio on December 7, 1854 apprently of tuberculosis.

Sources: Frederick-town Herald, Aug. 29, 1812: Maryland Adjutant General Papers, Militia Appointments, 2 1794-1816, Maryland State Archives, DE67-1; Niles’ Weekly Register, August 29, 1812;  Cincinnati Daily Gazette, May 14, 1869; Hagers-town Gazette, July 14, 1812.

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 9:30 pm  Comments Off on Capt. Thomas Quantrill & the “Homespun Volunteers,” Hagers-town, Md.  

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  

Camp Eagleston on Bear Creek

At the north side of the entrance to Sollers’ Point on Bear Creek was Camp Eagleston named for the nearby farm of John Eagleston, a private in Captain Samuel McDonald’s company, 6th Maryland Regiment. The camp was one of several strategic militia outposts along with Colegate Creek, Swann Point and North Point to detect British naval movements. On August 5, 1813 the British established a naval base of operations on Kent Island for their subsequent attacks on Queenstown (Aug. 13) and St. Michaels (Aug. 10, 26). Baltimore was threaten by several barges that had entered the mouth of the Patapso River that summer. With the Baltimore militia brought into federal service, various infantry regiments were encamped here among them Lt. Colonel Benjamin Fowler’s 39th Maryland Regiment (519 men). A year later on September 12, 1814, British naval barges with Congreve rockets entered Bear Creek towards the head of Bear Creek where the Battle of North Point had begun.


Source: William Jameson to Samuel Smith, August 7, 16, 1813. Samuel Smith Papers, MSS 18974, Reel 4, Containers 5-6, Library of Congress.

Published in: on March 27, 2011 at 1:15 pm  Comments Off on Camp Eagleston on Bear Creek