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

Sir Peter Parker

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

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

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

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

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

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