On November 9, 1814 a military court-martial was held in the case of Private Thomas McGraw in Capt. Samuel McDonald’s Company of the 6th Maryland Regiment, who had fought at the Battle of North Point. He was charged with “neglect of duty, and offering violence to a guard in the execution of their duty.” The violence was “an assault on an officer with a loaded pistol.” The court found McGraw guilty on both charges and sentenced be that he “suffer the punishment of death by being shot.”
The date of the execution was schedule for December 3 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
On Saturday last, he [McGraw] was taken out under a strong guard,dress in funeral habiliments and preceded by a coffin, to the camp near this city. After gooing through all the awful forms attached to so melancholy a ceremony, just as the platoon was going to fire on him, the Commanding general was pleased to respite the execution…
At a most opportune moment, a courier arrived from the War Department with a full pardon by none other than President James Madison, and McGraw, much to his relief was released from confinement. Without the court-martial records we may never know why, under such an alleged crime he was accused of, was given a pardon.
Such are the winds of war and luck for Thomas!
Sources: “General Orders,” Baltimore American & Commercial Daily Adv., December 12, 1814; “Military Discipline,” Alexandria Gazette, December 8, 1814; “Brigade Orders,” Baltimore Patriot, December 2, 1814.