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).

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

Francis Scott Key’s Death Biography: Old St. Paul’s to Mount Olivet Cemetery

On January 14, 1843 three days following his death of pleurisy at the age of sixty-three, Baltimore’s Niles’ Weekly Register reported his death:

“Francis Key, Esq., late U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, died suddenly whilst on a visit to his son-n-law, Mr. Howard, of Baltimore on the 12th inst. He was a man of a very high order of talent…He was the author of the deservedly popular national song, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Key was visiting his oldest daughter Elizabeth Phobe Key Howard (1803-1897), the wife of Dr. Charles Howard (1802-1869), youngest son of Revolutionary War veteran Brigadier General John Edgar Howard (1752-1827). The site of the Howard’s home (c.1853) is where now stands the United Methodist-Episcopal Church (built 1870) at 10 East Mount Vernon Place. His father’s mansion of “Belvedere” was located further north. Following the funeral (in which no narrative is known to have survived) Key’s remains were placed in the brick vault of the Howard family in Old St. Paul’s Cemetery in Baltimore. Here he rested with his wife Mary Tayloe Lloyd Key (1784-1859) daughter of Governor Edward Lloyd of Wye House until removed to Frederick, Maryland in 1866 and buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery. In 1898 the Key Monument Association  dedicated the monument we view to day over Mr. & Mrs. Key’s grave.

“His patriotism will survive forever in his song.” Alexandria Gazette, January 14, 1843.

Published in: on February 14, 2014 at 4:24 pm  Comments (1)  

“Yo! Ho! “Free Trade and Sailor’s Rights” to Baltimore

On September 6, 1814 nearly a week after the American defeat at the Battle of Bladensburg, MD., on August 24 and three days from engaging the British flotilla decending the Potomac River from Alexandria, Va., having capitulated to Captain James A. Gordon, RN, the sailors of Commodores John Rodgers, Oliver Hazard Perry and David Porter returned to Baltimore.

“Fourteen wagons full of our noble seamen the first surmounted with the well known standard of ‘Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights’ the whole preceeded by the Hero of Valparaiso [Chile], and cheered by their boatswain’s whistle, passed through this city [Washington] on their way to Baltimore”

Captain David Porter of the U.S. frigate Essex (out of Salem, Mass.) following an 18 month cruise to the Pacific had been paroled following his defeat off the coast of Valparaiso, Chile during an engagment with HM frigate Phobe and sloop Cherub on March 28th and were allowed to return to New York (arriving July 7) onboard the Essex Junior having captured British whalers in the Pacific.

Upon his arrival in Baltimore he and his crew were summoned back to New York to take command of the Demologos the new catamaran battery steamboat “to teach the doctrines of the cannon law,” though not having taken part in the Battle for Baltimore.

Source: Baltimore American & Commercial Daily Adv., September 9, 1814.

Published in: on August 14, 2012 at 11:55 pm  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  

Major General Samuel Smith (1752-1839)

On April 22, 1839 Major General Samuel Smith, veteran of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 in which he commanded the Third Dividion of Maryland Militia during the Battle ofor Baltimore in September 12-14, 1814. Of the many obituaries this one from the Baltimore Sun is sufficient to draw attention to his many public services to the State of Maryland and the City of Baltimore. 

Death of General Smith. General Samuel Smith, died at his residence [Montebello] yesterday afternoon, at 5 o’clock, in the 88th year of his age. He was a man of whom Baltimore was justly proud. A brave soldier, a sound statesman, and an honorable high-minded patriot; he ever obeyed the call of his country, and in two wars fought her battles, and in peace aided her in the legislature councils. Elected as mayor of the city, for his services in having restored the city from a state of anarchy in good order and respect for the laws, he labored by every means that a debilitated frame would permit, to perform the duties of his office.

It was the last public honor conferred upon him, and it was one springing from the reverence of his fellow citizens for his virtue and integrity. He has lived to see the country for whose freedom he battled, a great and powerful nation, and the city he defended from the pollution of a foreign foe [during the War of 1812], rising to the height of opulence and prosperity. His long life has been well spent, and his name will be inscribed among the greatest of the American patriots – his memory revered, and his services remembered with gratitude. As a mark of respect, it is suggested that the flags of the public buildings and shipping be displayed at  half-mast today, and until his corpse is consigned to the tomb [in Westminster Cemetery in downtown Baltimore].”

Source: The Sun (Baltimore), April 23, 1839.

Published in: on June 27, 2011 at 6:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

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.

Levi Claggett & John Clemm: Fallen Soldiers of Fort McHenry

In the aftermath of the bombardment of Fort McHenry, September 13-14, 1814, the Baltimore Patriot printed a obituary notice on two of the four defenders who had fallen during “the perilous fight.” The eloquence of the notice is an example of the words and expressions of those who had fallen during the conflict in the War of 1812.

OBITUARY NOTICE.

This afternoon, at 4 o’clock, the Baltimore Artillery Company of Fencibles, under the command of Captain [Joseph Hopper] NICHOLSON, will parade for the purpose of rendering the last tribuite of respect to Lieutenant LEVI CLAGGETT, & Sergeant JOHN CLEMM, who fell in defence of this city and their country’s rights, at Fort M’Henry, during the bombardment of that fortress by the enemy.

To have fallen in such a cause, would have, of itself, entitled the memory of the dead to respect and sympathy. But, they needed no such adventitious circumstance to excite the most poignant regret at thier untimely departure. They formed a prominent part of the rich price, which was paid for victory and safety. In civil life, they were men of the most amiable manners, honorable principles, and respectable standing in society. In the hour of danger, they evinced ardent and collected courage. Their friends lament their loss, with sorrow not loud but deep. May the reflection, that they died in a cause and at a time, when every tonque was eloquent in their praise; that they departed in the path of honor; that the gratitude of their countrymen will embalm their names in every heart, afford to the bereaved of their connections and friends, the only alleviation for such a loss.

Their brethren in arms will cherish their memory, with affectionate care. They sleep on the soldier’s bed, the bed of honor; and while their loss may call forth the manly tear of fraternal regret, their example will animate to deeds, such, as living, they would have approved and aided.

SOURCE: Baltimore Patriot, September 21, 1814.

Jean Michel (Michael) Jamart (1780-1860)– An Old Defender of Baltimore

On February 5, 1860, Michael Jamart, a native of Paris, France died at the age of eighty, in Baltimore, one of the Old Defenders’ of Baltimore of 1814.

Mr. Jamart arrived in Maryland onboard the French seventy-four ship-of-the-line L’Eole in 1806, the ship having been nearly dismasted in a gale off the Virginia seaboard. The ship was towed to Baltimore from Annapolis, where under the direction of a French official was condemned and sold at auction, her armament of cannon were stored in a Fell’s Point warehouse. In 1813 the U.S. Government purchased the 18- and 36-pounder naval guns and mounted them at Fort McHenry, where they defied the British navy  during the War of 1812.

Mr. Jamart became an American citizen and enlisted in Captain Philip B. Sadtler’s rifle company, the Baltimore Yagers, 5th Maryland Regiment, who fought at the Battle of Bladensburg (August 24) and North Point (Sept. 12) in 1814.

After the war he became a “French Restorateur” at No. 40 Water Street near Gay, opposite the Exchange, offering “the delicacies of the French Restaurants.” As proprietor of the Exchange Coffee House, he continued his militia service as an officer with the Independent Blues until old age compelled him to decline his service.

He is buried in Greenmount Cemetery, Baltimore.

Source: Baltimore Patriot, September 9, 1830; The Sun, February 6, 1860.

Published in: on May 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm  Comments (2)  

Henry Lightner (1798-1883): The Drummer Boy of Fort McHenry

On the morning of Sunday, September 11, 1814, drummer Henry Lightner as well as other militia volunteers at Fort McHenry sounded the alarm at the approach of the British invasion fleet.  At sixteen years, Henry served in Captain John Berry’s Washington Artillery of the 1st Regiment, Maryland Volunteer Artillery. Captain Berry commanded the shore batteries along with two other militia companies.

Earlier, the company had marched from Baltimore to Fort McHenry earlier to the tune of Henry Lightner’s drum accompanied by fifes. It may well be that he played a favorite tune of his “The Girl I Left Behind.” As a member of the Association of Old Defenders’ of 1814  his presence was well known as he played the tune in the years to follow in many parades every Defenders’ Day in September. A tinner by trade in his adult years he was a member of the Methodist church. In the latter years of the 19th century as each of the participants in the defense of Baltimore past away, akin to the passing of the minute men of the days of the American Revolution, newspapers printed their passing – mutual respect for the citizen-soldiers of 1812.

Henry Lightner died in Baltimore on January 24, 1883 and was buried in Baltimore Cemetery.  

“The Drummer Boy’s Funeral.- The funeral of Mr. Henry Lightner, the drummer-boy of 1812, who died on Thursday in the 85th year of his age, took place yesterday afternoon, from the residence of his son-in-law, Mr. Richard McCullough, No. 49 East Eager street. Rev. Luther T. Widerman, pastor of Monument-Street M.E. Church, conducted the funeral services, and was assisted by Revs. A.M.Courtney, and A.S. Hank. The pallbearers were selected from the congregations of Monument-Street, Greenmount-Avenue and Madison-Square M.E. Churches and from Harmonia Lodge, I.O.O.F., a delegation from which also attended. Mr. W.H. Daneker, secretary of the Old Defenders’ Association, was present.” 

 The Sun, January 27, 1883. 

Sources: The Sun (Baltimore), January 25, 1883 and September 9, 1882.

Published in: on May 8, 2011 at 9:35 pm  Comments (4)  

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 (2)