A Congreve Rocket Burns Henry Waller’s Kent County Farmhouse, August 28, 1814

In late August 1814, HM frigate Menalaus, Captain Peter Parker, was ordered north of Baltimore to the Upper Chesapeake Bay as a diversion during the Baltimore campaign.

On Sunday, August 28 just before dawn, British Royal Marines and sailors landed on the shore of Fairlee Creek, Kent County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. At 10 a.m. the British encountered a militia troop of horse gathered around the 308 acre bayside farm of Henry Waller (b.1774), described as “among the best on the Eastern Shore, both for prospect and convenience.” consisting of a two-story farmhouse with extensive outbuildings for meat, grain, corn and milk, and an extensive apple orchard. To dislodge the militia, The British officer, Lt. Henry Crease ordered Congreve rockets and 18-pounder carronades be fired upon the shore, one of which failed to launch and burned furiously onboard the ship and was thrown overboard. Crease’s shore detachment returned to the Menelaus.

Later that afternoon a second British landing was made upon Waller’s Farm setting on fire the farm house and cornfields, while the Royal Marines fired musket volleys at the militia troop of horse “smashingly dress’d in Blue and long white feathers in their hats.” Royal Marine Benjamin Benyon admirably noted in his journal that the Waller house was, “by far the finest part that I have seen in America, the house was elegant.” The next morning, Lt. Benyon noted onboard H.M. frigate Menelaus that the Waller house “was burning most furiously & all the out houses and corn stalks.”

Seventeen years later, in 1829, the Federal Government began to receive claims for war damages of private property, one of whom was Henry Waller for the destruction of his property. He retained a Georgetown attorney named Francis Scott Key to represent his case. Mr. Waller did receive compensation for his home. One of the Congreve rockets that set his farmhouse ablaze is on display at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine (NPS) in Baltimore. It is one of the rare Maryland War of 1812 artifacts known to have survived the war with a provenance with it.

Sources: The Waller farm was formerly owned by Colonel James Lloyd (1745-1820), member of the U.S. Congress and Maryland Legislature. In 1807 he sold the farm to Henry Waller. After Waller house was destroyed, Henry sold the farm to Richard Frisby. Michael Owen Bourne, Historic Houses of Kent County: An Architectural History: 1642-1860, (Chestertown, Maryland: The Historical Society of Kent County, Inc., 1998), 295, 405-407; Baltimore Federal Gazette & Evening Advertiser, August 8, 1814; Captain Parker to Vice Admiral Cochrane, August 29, 1814. HMS Menelaus off Pooles Island. (Alexander Cochrane Papers, Library of Congress, MS 2329); Benyon Journal, August 28, 1814;

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Published in: on March 31, 2011 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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