The 1814 Memorial Cannons of Patterson Park


On August 14, 1903 at a meeting of the annual Society of War of 1812 in Maryland it was proposed to distribute the War of 1812 cannon described as “…musty and formidable old weapons of war… planted in the streets in different sections of the city as [traffic]“buffers…”

On February 7-8, 1904 the great Baltimore fire destroyed 140 acres of 1500 buildings, etc., of a major part of central downtown Baltimore along the waterfront. In the aftermath of cleaning and rebuilding newly found cannons were also uncovered. Through the auspices of the Society of the War of 1812 in Maryland and the Society of the Daughters of the War of 1812 in the United States these would find new sites to help Baltimore City commemorate military sites associated with the Battle for Baltimore in 1814. Two of the primary sites were Riverside Park (the site of Fort Look-out in South Baltimore); Battery Babcock Monument (McComas St., South Baltimore) and the best known – Patterson Park established in 1825 upon grounds that highlighted the main land defenses protecting the City of Baltimore in 1814 known then as Hampstead or Laudenslager’s Hill.

Today five of these cannon (iron 6-Pdrs) found in the aftermath of the fire are mounted on concrete pedestals with the date “1814” imprinted on each, two of which are known to have been found during the waterfront construction of the Fell’s Point Recreation Pier. They were designed by Mr. John Appleton Wilson (1851-1927), an active member of the Society of the War of 1812 in Maryland, as well as the Baltimore Municipal Art Commission and American Institute of Architects. In 1879 he and a cousin William Thomas Wilson, formed a partnership and named their new firm J.A. & W.T. Wilson, Architects.

Sources: Baltimore American and The Sun newspapers, 1873-1915.

Published in: on February 14, 2014 at 4:53 pm  Comments Off on The 1814 Memorial Cannons of Patterson Park  

Battle Acre: A Deed of Land by Dr. Jacob Houck (1792-1850) “for the purpose of erecting a Monument thereon….”

On the eve of the 25th Anniversary of the Battle of North Point, a prominent physician of medicine and purveyor of his famous “Houck’s Remedies” gave to the State of Maryland an acre of land on the battlefield for the princely sum of One Dollar. His gift today is known as Battle Acre along the North Point Road in Baltimore County.

He was born in Frederick County, the son of a prominent merchant, and came to be a graduate of the Maryland University School of Medicine. In December 1839 he purchased the land called “Swan Harbour” and soon thereafter built “one of the most splendid hotels in the vicinity,” that became known as “Houck’s Pavilion” that for years thereafter served as a prominent annual commemorative gathering site for the Old Defenders’ of Baltimore. 

The following is an extract of the deed of land to the State of Maryland.

“Know all men by these presents, that I Jacob Houck of the city and county of Baltimore in the State of Maryland am held and firmly bound unto the State of Maryland in the full and just sum of one Dollar lawful money to be paid to the said state, or to its attorney to the payment whereof. I bind myself, my heirs Executors and Administrators firmly by these presents, sealed with my seal, and dated this eleventh day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty nine.

Whereas the said Jacob Houck in consideration of the sum of one dollar to him paid at or before the sealing and delivery hereof, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged and also delivered good causes and valuable considerations herein thereunto moving, hath contracted to give grant and convey or to cause and procure to be granted and conveyed unto the said state this or part of a tract, piece or parcel of herein after described the same constituting a part of the North Point Battle Ground “for the purpose of erecting a Monument thereon.” Now the Condition of the foregoing obligation is such, that the said Jacob Houck, or his heirs do and shall within six months next ensuing the date hereof, grant and convey, or cause and procure to be granted and conveyed to the State of Maryland aforesaid, to be held by the said State for ever, for the use and purpose aforesaid. All that Lot or parcel of Land situated and lying in Baltimore County aforesaid being part of a tract called “Swan Harbour” which is contained  within the meter and bounds, courses and distances following, that is to say; Beginning for the same part at a stone standing in the ground on the southwestern most side of the road leaving from the City of Baltimore to North Point…” [the remainder of document shows survey points of distances.]

For 75 years no monument was erected, despite the elaborated ceremonies held on September 12, 1839. A granite monument was finally dedicated in 1914 on the centennial of the battle.

Jacob Wever Houck was the father of Mrs. Ella Virginia Houck (Mrs. Reuben Ross Holloway/1862-1940) who often was described as the “number one patriot in Baltimore” who consistently advocated for the making The Star-Spangled Banner” the official national anthem and other patriotic causes. Dr. Jacob Houck, Sr. died in 1850 and is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in West Baltimore.

Source: Baltimore County Court (Land Records) TK 292, pp. 246-247 Jacob Houck, “Swan Harbor,” 11 September 1839 [MSA CE 66-342]. His son, not to be confused with his father, was Dr. Jacob Wever Houck, Jr. (1822-1888); The Sun, May 23, 1888.

Published in: on May 17, 2011 at 10:55 pm  Comments Off on Battle Acre: A Deed of Land by Dr. Jacob Houck (1792-1850) “for the purpose of erecting a Monument thereon….”  

Lt. Colonel George Armistead (1780-1818): Commander, Fort McHenry

On September 13-14, 1814, in the third year of the War of 1812, this 34 year old Virginia born artillery officer ordered an American flag raised over the ramparts of Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor following a 25-hour British naval bombardment. The flag itself inspired a Maryland lawyer to write a song that would become the U.S. national anthem on March 3, 1931.

George Armistead was born near Bowling Green in Caroline County, Virginia, on April 10, 1780, to a well-established Virginia family along the Rappahannock River. He was one of six sons and three daughters born to John and Lucinda (Baylor) Armistead.

He entered the U.S. military in 1799 and rose through the ranks, serving at Fort Niagara, New York (1801-1805); Fort Pickering, Arkansas Territory (1807-1808); and Fort McHenry, Baltimore (1809-1813), where he arrived in January 1809 as second in command. In Baltimore he wedded Louisa Hughes (1789-1861), daughter of a wealthy Baltimore silversmith. In 1812 he returned to Fort Niagara, where on May 27, 1813, he distinguished himself during the American siege of Fort Niagara by capturing the British flags. For his gallantry he was appointed a major in the Third Regiment U.S. Artillery. Armistead returned to Baltimore in June 1813, and remained until his death five years later.

Armistead’s name has been immortalized in U.S. history because of one simple act. In August 1813, he requisitioned a U.S. ensign measuring 42′ x 30′ having fifteen stars and fifteen-stripes that gave inspiration to the defenders’ of Baltimore and inspired a new national song. Ever since, he has been known as the “Guardian of the Star-Spangled Banner.”

After the bombardment, President James Madison brevetted Major Armistead to the rank of lieutenant colonel to date from September 12, 1814. Upon this promotion, Armistead remarked to his wife that “he hoped they would both live long to enjoy.” Four years later, at the age of thirty-eight, Armistead died of causes unknown and was buried with full military honors by a grateful city.

His brother-in-law Christopher Hughes Jr. (1786-1849) served as secretary to the American Peace Commission at Belgium that concluded the War of 1812 on Christmas Eve, 1814. It is Hughes who brought the Treaty of Ghent to Annapolis, then Washington for the President’s signature

Fifty years later, his soon-to-be equally famous nephew, Brigadier General Lewis Addison Armistead, C.S.A. (1817-1863) died of wounds suffered in the Confederate assault (Pickett’s Charge) at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. Two months after the battle his remains were secretly brought to Baltimore and buried next to his famous uncle. A hero of Gettysburg lies with the hero of Fort McHenry within the grounds of Old St. Paul’s Cemetery in downtown Baltimore.

Two monuments honor Lt. Colonel George Armistead in Baltimore. The earliest, erected in 1882, stands atop historic Federal Hill overlooking Baltimore’s downtown waterfront; the other, at Fort McHenry, dedicated during the Battle for Baltimore Centennial Celebration in September 1914

Source: Guardian of The Star-Spangled Banner: Lt. Colonel George Armistead and The Fort McHenry Flag by Scott S Sheads (Baltimore: Toomey Press, 1999).

Published in: on April 14, 2011 at 5:38 pm  Comments Off on Lt. Colonel George Armistead (1780-1818): Commander, Fort McHenry  

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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Daniel Wells (1794-1814) of Annapolis: First Baltimore Sharp Shooter, Sept. 1814

Louisa Wells was born on August 11, 1809 and her older brother Daniel Wells, Jr., on December 30, 1794 both of Annapolis, the children of Daniel and Mary Wells of Annapolis. During the war, Daniel Wells, Sr., served as a lieutenant in Captain Jonathan Pinkney’s Artillery company in Annapolis.

In 1813, Daniel Wells, Jr., age 20, was in the apprentice employment of Baltimore merchant George Mackenzie to learn the saddler trade and fulfilling state contracts for militia cartridge boxes. In the late summer of 1814 Daniel enlisted in the 1st Battalion of Maryland Riflemen in Capt. Edward Aisquith’s First Baltimore Sharp Shooters causing great consternation for his safety within the family. Having departed for Baltimore to rejoin his company after the fall of Washington, the next news that his family received was that Daniel had been killed in a skirmish on September 12, 1814, near North Point.

His sister Louisa Wells (1808-1891) remembers that “Not long after this, Daniel Well’s cap was sent home. It was the tall, stiff cap worn by Captain Aisquith’s Sharp Shooters, and it was matted with the blood and hair of the young patriot. Two holes showed where the ball had entered one side of his head and passed out at the other side.”

As the story of Daniel Wells and Henry McComas, “The Boy Martyrs” grew, the family was able to collect several relics of the war including the Sharp Shooters  muster roll with Daniel Wells name entered “Killed in the advance 12 September 1814.” Louisa later married Adrian A. Posey who served in Captain Lawrence Posey’s company, the 1st Regiment from Charles County during the war. Daniel Wells and his friend Henry G. McComas remains lie under a 21-foot marble obelisk in Ashland Square, Gay and Aisquith Streets in East Baltimore.

Sources: The Sun, August 26, 1889; Mary Wells (1749-1823) and Daniel Wells, Sr., (1768-1818), Baltimore Patriot, January 27, 1818 and February 3, 1823; Louisa (Wells) Posey (1808-1891). The Sun, January 13, 1891.

Published in: on April 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm  Comments Off on Daniel Wells (1794-1814) of Annapolis: First Baltimore Sharp Shooter, Sept. 1814  

Federal Hill: Major General Samuel Smith Monument

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

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

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

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

[Monument Inscriptions]



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

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

Tripoli Monument, U.S. Naval Academy

Naval Monument. From Lossing's Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812.

Naval Monument. From Lossing's Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812.

The ornate, allegorical Tripoli Monument, as it is better known today, is one the oldest military monuments in the U.S. that honors the heroes of the First Barbary War (1801-1805) against the North African Barbary pirates; Captain Richard Somers, Lieutenant James Caldwell, James Decatur Henry Wadsworth, Joseph Israel and John Dorsey. Commodore David Porter (father of David Porter, Jr. of 1812 fame) initiated the project to create a memorial for the six U.S. naval officers who perished.

In 1804, to protect our Mediterranean trade, President Thomas Jefferson ordered the nation’s tiny naval force to protect U.S. trade against the pirates, who demanded ransom for safe passage of merchant ships. “Millions for defense, but not on cent for tribute” had became the rallying cry for this war. Jefferson’s action established the doctrine of extension of power overseas and created a permanent United States Navy.
The monument was carved in 1806 in Italy by Giovanni Charles Micali, of Leghorn, Italy, who designed and executed the Tripoli Naval Monument, with marble from Carrara. The disassembled monument arrived in New York in November 1807 onboard the US frigate Constitution and was soon on its way to the U.S. Naval Yard at Washington..

The monument suffered damage during the British occupation of the yard during the War of 1812, whether it was due to the British or the firing of the yard remains still unclear. The monument remained at the Navy Yard until 1831, when Congress ordered it placed in the center of the reflecting pool at the base of the steps on the west side of the Capitol. In 1860 it was moved to the U.S. Naval Academy.


Published in: on April 1, 2011 at 7:00 am  Comments Off on Tripoli Monument, U.S. Naval Academy  

“The Boy Martyrs of 1814”: Daniel Wells and Henry G. McComas

During the Battle of North Point, in a pre-battle skirmish these two “boys” (18 & 21 years of age) are reputed to have killed Major General Robert Ross, RA. as the army advanced towards Baltimore on September 12, 1814. This popular event heighten great interest in the “folklore” of the Battle for Baltimore.

The popularity of the Wells and McComas story was further heighten on the evening of September 15, 1859 at the Holliday Street Theatre in Baltimore, when the famous playwright, dramatis, actor and theatre manager Clifton W. Tayleure (1832-1891) produced in three acts “The Boy Martyrs of Sept. 12, 1814: A Local Historical Drama.” It was complete “with representations of The Battle of Bladensburg, The Rescue of the Colors, The Bombardment of the Fort, Death of Ross, and the Battle of Baltimore.”

Only a year before were the remains of Daniel Wells and Henry G. McComas were removed from their temporary graves at Green Mount Cemetery and reposed in state in the Hall of the Maryland Institute, then to Ashland Square in west Baltimore where they were interred, awaiting the completion of the monument in their honor in May 1872.

Sources: “The Boy Martyrs of Sept. 12, 1814: A Local Historical Drama.” (Boston: Wm. V. Spencer, 1859); The Sun, September 11, 1858.

Published in: on March 24, 2011 at 9:01 pm  Comments Off on “The Boy Martyrs of 1814”: Daniel Wells and Henry G. McComas  

The Aquila Randall Monument, 1817

Aquila Randall Monument

Aquila Randall Monument. From Lossing's Pictorial Field Guide of the War of 1812

“Dulici et decorum est pro Patria mori”

On Baltimore County’s historic Patapsco Neck along the Old North Point Road at the intersection of Old Battle Grove Road stands the second oldest known military monument in Maryland and the third oldest known in the United States. It is one of Maryland’s least visited War of 1812 sites – the Aquila Randall Monument. On July 21, 1817, Captain Benjamin C. Howard’s First Mechanical Volunteers formed up early in town and marched six miles to the North Point battleground. Accompanying them were wagons conveying the monument blocks to be assembled and dedicated on site that day. The monument’s construction was directed by Lt. Thomas Towson, a stone mason “who aimed at simplicity and neatness.” With a final application of whitewash it was dedicated to honor Private Aquila Randall a member who was killed in a skirmish just before the Battle of North Point, September 12, 1814. The company was joined by other 5th Maryland Regiment officers at the monument while Captain Howard delivered a modest appropriate address:

“….I can picture to myself the sensation of those who in far distant days will contemplate this monument…and the melancholy event which has caused our assemblage at this spot…This monument which we are now erecting, will stand as a solemn expression of the feeling of us all…But I regret that the spot, which is made classic by the effusion of blood, the sport where the long line stood un-appalled by the system and advances of an experienced and disciplined foe, has been suffered to remain unnoticed. It is here where her citizens stood arrayed soldier’s garb, that honors to a soldier’s memory should have been paid. To mark the spot be then our care.…”

[Monument Inscriptions]

[West face] – How beautiful is death, when earned by virtue.

[East face] – SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF AQUILA RANDALL, Who Died, in bravely defending his Country and his home, On the memorable 12th of September, 1814,Aged 24 years.

[North face] – THE FIRST MECHANICAL VOLUNTEERS, Commanded by Capt. B.C. Howard, in the 5th Regiment, M.M. HAVE ERECTED THIS MONUMENT, As a tribute of their respect for THE MEMORY OF THEIR GALLANT BROTHER IN ARMS.

[South face] – In the skirmish which occurred at this spot between the advanced party under Major RICH’D K. HEATH of the 5th Reg.’ M.M. and the front of the British column, Major General ROSS, the commander of the British force, received his mortal wound.

Source: (An Extract) “A History: The Aquila Randall Monument and the Monument Hotel of Baltimore County,” by Scott S. Sheads. From The War of 1812 in Maryland: New Discoveries and Interpretation. (2011, unpublished).

Published in: on March 24, 2011 at 8:58 pm  Comments Off on The Aquila Randall Monument, 1817