Reminiscences of Thomas Beacham (1796-1878): 27th Maryland Regiment at North Point, 1814

“America has thus secured a character and standing among the nations of the earth she never would have obtained had it not been for the late war [of 1812].”

In the years following the War of 1812, Baltimore’s  Old Defenders, had resumed their individual livelihoods, while others took advantage of having served in the war to obtain US government bounty lands in the mid-west. Among those was Thomas Beacham who served for 90 days as a private in Captain Peter Pinney’s 27th Maryland Regiment at the Battle of North Point. In 1817 he left Baltimore and settled in Xenia, Ohio, where he married Elizabeth Butler on November 7, 1826. He followed his remaining years as an ordained minister. On June 25, 1847 Beacham wrote his reminiscences about his role at Baltimore. In 1852/55 he received 120 acres of land in the new state of Ohio, Queen County (1803). He died in 1878 at the age of 74 years in Xenia, Ohio.

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Reminiscences of Rev. Thomas Beacham

“….Our spades and shovels were employed in throwing up breast-works – our guns were all put in order, and we then waited the approach of the enemy until Sabbath, the 11th of September. In the morning we performed military duty, we then went to the house of God, and from this we were called always before 12 o’clock. The balls of the Observatory [on Federal Hill] were run up – the alarm gun fire – the city was in commotion, weeping and lamentation were heard in almost every house: and yet, we found at our headquarters more men numbered than we had before. We took up our line of march, and encamped near the spot “where came the tug of war.” In the morning [Sept. 12], at sun rise, we formed a line, and then, for the first time, I heard those affecting words, “load with ball cartridges;” after which we marched about one mile, and drew up for battle….On the right we saw the 5th [Maryland] regiment and a few rifle companies, and on the left was the 39th and 51st regiments. Two or three companies, with one of the four little cannons [of the Baltimore Union Artillery], volunteered to go and hunt up the enemy, and they found them just in sight.

There a desperate battle ensued, every man did his best, and a young man by the name of Wells; belonging to the company of [1st Baltimore] Sharpshooters, stopped the career of [Maj. General Robert] Ross. They now came on in earnest. In front was an extensive old field, and after filling this, they flanked our left. The three little six pounders (one having been spiked) commence4d, and never were three little guns more constantly at work, not to better purpose, for the space of an hour.

The hardest of the battle was with the 27th, and the first musket was fired from that regiment. On my right, I saw the valiant young man, with trailed guns and quick step, advance forward at least 30 rods, while hundreds were calling, “come back!” “come back!” all to no purpose. He fired and this was the signal – in a moment the whole line was in a blaze. Brave boy, I doubt whether he ever returned to his home.

Our Adjutant, [James] Donaldson, the beginning of a great man, had just passed in the rear, advising the men to shoot low. Hit them, said he, about the middle. We fought hard until a retreat was called for, and forty-two boys and two old men were killed in the company to which I belonged, (Captain Pinney’s.) We rallied again, with the 6th and other forces, about two miles from the city. We were now willing for another trial, but were soon ordered in front of the entrenchment. The 27th and 5th [regiments] were allowed to sleep at home that night, and the next morning, while rallying at headquarters, the sound of the first bomb saluted our ears.

Undaunted we marched out, and although thirty-three years have passed away, I have not forgotten the feeling caused by the loud cheer from the soldiers in the entrenchment, as the little 27th passed away to take our position in front. This day we were looking every moment for the onset which was to decide the fate of the city, but it came not. At night we drew nearer the entrenchment, and enjoyed all the comforts of a dark, rainy night, enlivened by the rocket’s blaze, and the dismal roar of the bomb. They had been at work all day and all night, and we could witness the truth of that patriotic sentiment, which a Baltimorean will always lobe and admire.

“The rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”In the morning we heard with astonishment, the enemy had fled to their ships… We mustered three months; sometimes walking as sentinels at the six gun battery [known as Battery Babcock on the Ferry Branch]. Our city was kept in peace and safety; some said the Lord would keep it so, and so he did. Baltimore was then almost as distinguished for soldiers of the cross of Christ as soldiers of the musket. I have never seen any history of the battle of North Point; these few particulars are from memory, and in the main are true. My home is in the west, yet I love Baltimore still.”

 [END]

Source: The Battle of Patapsco Neck, Sept. 1814: Reminiscences (Unpublished, 2009, 172 pp. Scott Sheads).

Published in: on February 26, 2014 at 12:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Dr. James Haines McCulloh, Jr. (1793 -1869), visits the North Point Battlefield, Sept. 13, 1814

Dr. James Haines McCulloh, Jr., (1793-1869) a Maryland native received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania on July 17, 1814 and subsequently received a commission in the U.S. Army as Garrison Surgeon at Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor. On the morning of September 13, 1814 he became the first American officer to visit the North Point battlegrounds while still being occupied by British forces, treating the wounded, and caring for the dead.  McCulloh was first American officer to receive the news of the death of Major General Robert Ross, R.A.  Below is his official medical report to Major General Samuel Smith on September 14, 1814 that provide the first American account of the North Point Battlefield after the action.

McCulloh mistakenly noted the 12th when he visited the battlegrounds, actually it was the morning of the 13th.

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Sir,                                                                               Baltimore, Sept 14, 1814

I left the trenches on Hampstead Hill about 6 o’clock on the morning of the 12th [13] Inst. & in about an hour fell in with the British picquet who were about a mile in advance from the Battle ground of the  [13th] Inst. I was immediately received & carried to their quarters of the Officers who commanded the picquet who very politely requested me to remain in his quarters until he could advertise the commanding General of my coming. This was immediately done & a surgeon of the nay ordered to direct me to any wounded countrymen. Within about 200 yards in the rear of a red house, I believe called Cooks House [Tavern]. I saw the riflemen & Light troops advancing in no great order & with the interval of 3 or 4 feet between each man. At a short distance behind the centre of this

[2]

advanced line came two pieces of Artillery brass 9 Pdr & one howitzer. I afterwards passed the several columns  that had halted while I passed. I think I may safely believe there were between 6 & 7000 troops – soldiers, marines, seamen & perhaps 200 blacks in the British uniform.  I was then shewn  the Meeting House in which some of our wounded men lay along with a few British.

And not finding my father here I instantly requested permission to go over the field of battle which was granted & one of the surgeons accompanied me. On reaching the field of action, the surgeon promised me the use of some letters to bring the wounded in which were somewhat easier than carrying. To procure these litters it was necessary we should pass over the ground which the British had met with the most serious opposition. I think there were at least 300 killed & wounded. In my view with the red uniform from the men who brought in my wounded I understood Gen’l [Robert] Ross was killed

[3]

which was in part confirmed by one of their surgeons telling me Gen’l Ross was shot through the lungs. In the cover of a few hours I had all the wounded brought in which were 28 in number. 2 of these died in the course of the night after. I had dressed them & extracted their balls, one of which was a grape. Towards evening a number of seamen came up from the shipping with cartridges in kegs & slung across their backs. Most of the seamen had white rags tied on their right arms. In the evening their whole body of men had left the Meeting House on the march to town, excepting a few marines about 9 or 10. That night there were a great  number of men around the Meeting House & who I suppose marched on. After the main body about 11 or 12 o’clock [p.m.] between 6 & 7 next morning [13th]  the whole army appeared in sight bring along with them what I supposed they had carried up with them in the night with large saws such as are used in sawing planks, pick-axes

[4]

spades &c., I have _____ Admiral or General Cockburn for he appeared to be called one or the other indifferently & Colonel or as greatly styled General Brooke. Admiral Cockburn appeared to have the command & with him I especially was conceived brought the parole & exchange of our wounded fellow citizens. He also mentions to me that in the course of a few hours they would draw in their pickets & that I would pass unmolested to procure my horse for coming up home I had to follow a lieutenant to the beach where the wounded were embarked & was there told the last of their men had now to go on board. I left them as soon as possible & rode up to town on my way & opposite Cook’s House [Tavern] I met some U.S. Dragoons [Captain John Bird’s] & perhaps a regiment of [Pennsylvania] militia had they arrived an hour sooner they must have unavoidably been engaged in battle. I must here give the British troops the character of having behaved in the most gentlemanly & attentive manner to their wounded prisoners & of not having

[5]

in a single instance as far as I could learn treated them with inhumanity or neglect making no difference between their & our own wounded. The conference I had with General Brooke relative to the water said to have been poisoned I have formerly mentioned to you. Though I only mention 28 of our wounded there were many more laying at the farm houses, etc., in the neighborhood which I did not leave until arrangements had been made for transporting them to the city. The reason the British troops did not attack our trenches was that they considered the position too strong & the hill being slippery in consequence of the heavy rain. Some officers told me that Admiral Cockburn wished to storm our lines & that the seamen had volunteered for the purpose but Gen’l Brooke would not acquiesce in his arrangement

[6]

The troops could have been easily surprised and cut down by our cavalry at almost anytime that I was with them. Their arms were stacked in the woods & the men roaming at large & firing with the muskets found in the woods at cattle, pigs, etc., the consequence of which would have been that the picquts could not have alarmed the main body with their firing & an enterprising & spirited corps of 1000 horsemen I think might have routed & surprised their whole force.  This as far as I can recollect are all circumstances worthy of being noted. And I conclude with my acknowledgements to you for interest you appeared to feel for our wounded countrymen & the speedy assistance procured for them.

I have the Honor to be, Yours Jas. McCulloh, Jr. Garrison Surgeon, U.S. Army.

[Source: Samuel Smith Papers, Library of Congress.]

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After the war McCulloh was assigned to Fort Detroit (Michigan) from April-November 15, 1815, until he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on 24 April 1816.  After the war, be began  a lifelong serious pursuit of the studies of archeological and anthropological, becoming a respected author of several treatises and books on the origins of native Indians of Central America and in 1822, became curator of the Maryland Academy of Sciences. He died in Baltimore on December 27, 1869. Grave site unknown.

 

Published in: on December 21, 2011 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

American Prisoners taken at Battle of North Point, Sept.12, 1814

On September 17, 1814 a letter from 29 American prisoners held on board His Britannic Majesty’s frigate Havanna was forwarded to Major General Samuel Smith in hopes of being assisted in their present situation. The letter has been modified for clarity.

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On Board H.B.M. frigate Havanna    September 17, 1814.

Sir,

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. Having had the honor of some communication with the commanding officers are of opinion an exchange may be obtained for us provided immediate application is made for that purpose which we have no doubt will be promptly attended to on the part of our countrymen so soon as they shall learn that we are in captivity & distressed (not one of us having a change of rainment, a blanket or cent of money – some have no coat others no vests or shoes). Should not an immediate arrangement be made for our benefit, we expect to be sent to England, in which case a majority of us would inevitably fall a sacrifice for want of necessary comforts.

We pray an immediate attention may be paid to our situation by a flag of truce which would be expected on our part. An should an exchange unfortunately not be effected, that we may be permitted to receive a supply of clothing, bedding & stores from our families – or from the [Baltimore] Committee of Supplies. Several of us being already very unwill we fear confinement by fever which will be certain death on our situation.

In full hope of speedy deliverance we are with due respect, Etc.

Independent Company 5th Regiment M.M. Thomas Bailey, Talbot Jones, Edward Murray, Frederick Seyler, William Jenkins.

Independent Blues: F.M. Willis, George Heidelback, William Lively, Richard Lawson, John Huzza.

[First Baltimore] Sharp Shooters, 1st Rifle Battn. – Thomas G. Prettyman, John Howard.

Patriot Company, 5th Regiment – Benjamin Meredith.

United Volunteers, 5th Regiment - Henry W. Gray, John G. Poug.

Union Volunteers – George Collins (wounded).

Light Blue, 5th Regiment – Henry Suter.

Mechanical Comapny, 5th Regiment – John Redgrove.

Capt. Deem’s Co., 51st Regiment – Andrew Miller.

Capt. Rogers Co., 51st Regiment – John Kepler.

Capt. Peters Co., 51st Regiment – Morgan Carson.

Capt. Smiths Co.,  51st Regiment – Adam Miller.

Capt. Kennedy’s Co., 27th Regiment – Andrew Cole

Capt. Edes Co., 27th Regiment – Peter Stedham.

Capt. Dillon’s Co., 27th Regiment – Patrick B. Powell.

Capt. Kennedy’s Co., 27th Regiment – John Fordyce (Vol. from Philadelphia)

39th Regiment – William Baltzell.

Capt. Dobbin’s Co., 39th Regiment  - Lewis Baltzell.

Capt. Schwartzour’s Co., 27th Regiment – Ephraim Nash.

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Source: Samuel Smith Papers, Reel 2, Cont. 2-3, Library of Congress.

Published in: on December 21, 2011 at 1:29 am  Leave a Comment  

John H.W. Hawkins (1797-1858); Notes on Maj. Gen. Robert Ross, RA

In 1859 the Life of John H.W. Hawkins was published in Boston. While only 17 years of age Mr. John Henry Willis Hawkins served having secured a rifle and took part in the Battle of North Point.  Among his comrades and aquantices were the veterans of the 1st Battalion of Maryland Riflemen of which Captain Edward Aisquith’s First Baltimore Sharp Shooters was one of five companies assigned who fought at the Battle of North Point. It is in this regard that we find the following two passages that have long been long associated with the death of Major General Robert Ross, RA. The likely source for these popular phases must fall upon a Dr. Samuel B. Martin, surgeon of the battalion who was a brother-in-law of the young Hawkins. It was Dr. Martin who had served at the Battle of Bladensburg and also interviewed a Mr. Gorsuch a few days after the battle at his farm where Ross had had breakfast that morning of September 12.

“I shall sup in Baltimore to-night, or in hell!”

The second phrase must be attributed to one of the Battalion members, likely Dr. Martin who was at the Battle of Bladensburg.

“Remember, boys, General Ross rides a white horse to-day!”

Source: Life of John H.W. Hawkins  Compiled by his son, Rev. William G. Hawkins, A.M. (Boston: John P. Jewett & Co., 1859.); The Sun, August 30, 1858.

Published in: on December 14, 2011 at 2:39 am  Leave a Comment  

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

During the early morning hours of September 12, 1814, Captain Dominic Bader’ of the Union Yagers, 5th Maryland Regiment, directed Lieutenant Gregorious Andre to employ a line of riflemen along a tree line of a clearing. Near mid-day, moments before the Battle of North Point ensued; the riflemen skirmished with the advancing forward vanguard of British light infantry, falling steadily back to the 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.”

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

On September 12, 1828, fourteen years after the Battle of North Point, his son, John Andre led a detachment of the 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.

 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 October 24, 2011 at 1:36 am  Leave a Comment  

“Ross Tree” under which Major General Robert Ross Died, Sept.12, 1814

In the second of two skirmishes that led to the Battle of North Point, Major General Robert Ross, having been shot by members of Captain Edward Aisquith’s First Baltimore Sharp Shooters, who were in the forward advance, was taken in route back to the British landing site. Along the North Point Road, his staff laid the General by the side of the road under a large poplar tree that over hung the roadside. It was here he breathed his last. An entry in the captain’s log of HM Ship-of-the-line Royal Oak states clearly that Ross’ remains arrived onboard that evening at 9 p.m., some eight hours after having been shot.

The tree was situated on the farm of Mr. Vincent Green, a veteran of the battle near the crossroads of North Point Road and present day Wells Avenue. In March of 1844 the venerable old tree was cut down for fear it may fall on an unsuspected traveler. It was known as the “Ross Tree.” “Such was the veneration in which it was held that many individuals secured pieces as relics.”

Sources: The Sun, March 22, 1844;  September 8, 1907.

THE LAST “OLD DEFENDER” DEAD. Final Extinction of a famous War Association of Baltimore.

On December 17, 1888, Mr. James C. Morford, aged 98, died, the last member of the Old Defenders’ Association of Baltimore. His death marked the extinction of the famous Old Defenders’ Association, that was organized in 1842 with 1,259 members. It was the custom of the members to attend church in a body on the Sunday previous to each 12th of September, each member wearing a cockade and a piece of crape, the latter out of respect to the memory of the dead comrades. He was the only survivor who attended the anniversary of September 12th last.

During the Battle for Baltimore, September 12-14, 1814 he served as a private in Captain James Sterrett’s company of the First Baltimore Hussars and was present at the Battle of North Point.

Source: St. Louis Republic (Missouri), December 18, 1888; New York Times, September 13, 1888.

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.

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

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

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

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

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 7:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

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  Leave a Comment  
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