Captain Edward Trippe (1771-1846) & the Steamboat Chesapeake

DIED. At Cambridge, Maryland in the 2nd instant, Captain EDWARD TRIPPE, aged 75 years, long and favorably known as commander of the first line of steamboats established between Baltimore and Philadelphia, and who, just before or about the close of the late war, superintended the construction of and afterwards commanded the first steakmboat that floated upon the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.”

During the War of 1812 the steamboat Chesapeake  was among the vessels that blocked the entrance to Baltimore harbor adjacent to Fort McHenry during the Battle for Baltimore in September 1814. The new 130-foot steamboat packet Chesapeake, presented her starboard wheelhouse with the inscription: CHESAPEAKE: UNION LINE towards the British warships.

SOURCE: Daily National Intelligencer, February 16, 1846; The Sun, December 29, 1882; John Rutter to Committee of Vigilance and Safety, November 30, 1814. War of 1812 Papers, Baltimore City Archives..

Published in: on October 31, 2011 at 12:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Kent Island, August 5-26, 1813

“MARYLAND INVADED…it appears the enemy have taken possession of Kent Island, and that the inhabitants of every description have removed to the main land…From the circumstance of landing cannon on Kent Island, it appears to be the intention of the enemy to keep possession of it for some time; and certainly a more eligible situation could not have been selected for their own safety and convenience or from which to annoy us.” Captain Charles Gordon, U.S.N., August 13, 1813.

On August 5, 1813, British boats carrying the First Battalion Royal Marines and the 102nd Regiment Foot under the command of Colonel Sidney Beckwith, a total of 2,034 soldiers landed and marched overland to the “Narrows,” separating the island from the Eastern Shore. Here they encamped establishing four other encampments at Broad Creek, Parson’s Point, Kent Point, and Kent Island Narrows with their field headquarters at the home of Thomas Harrison’s estate of “Belleview” near Broad Creek and hoisted a Union Jack over its rooftop.

Admiral John Borlase described Kent Island as a “valuable & beauty Island which is half as large as the Isle of Wright…a central Point between Annapolis, Baltimore, Washington and the Eastern Ports of the State of  Maryland..”   The British prepared Kent Island from which it would launch raids on St. Michaels (August 10 and 26) and upon Queenstown (August 13). Their occupation on land and with seventeen warships posed a formidable base from which raids could be conducted.

On August 27 the British departed to prepare for winter quarters, then renew their attacks in Maryland the following spring .

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm  Comments (1)  

Battle of “Slippery Hill,” Queen Anne’s County, August 13, 1813

On August 13, 1813 British land and naval landing forces attacked Queenstown, Maryland in Queen Annes County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The attack was launched from Kent Island, a temporary naval base that would also launched two attacks on nearby St. Michaels (Aug. 10, 26) in Talbot County. Here the 38th Maryland Regiment under the command of Major William Hopper Nicholson skirmished with approximately 300 British troops under the command of Col. Sir Thomas Sidney Beckwith as they advanced on Queenstown along the Kent Island Road (Route 50 ). Fearful of being cut off by a second British amphibious force, Major Nicholson’s forces withdrew to Centreville. It has popularly being called the Battle of “Slippery Hill” for the low rise of ground on the site intersection of Route 18 and Bennett Point Road half-way between Grasonville and Queenstown.

Following is his official account of the battle.

“Sir,

Having laid before you my letter of the 13th inst. to Brig Gen. Chambers stating the enemy’s movements on Queen’s Town, and my retreat in consequence thereof, it remains for me to give you a detailed statement of the affair, together with the reasons which influenced and determined me to retreat without engaging the enemy.

Previous to entering on this detail, it may not be irrelevant for the information of those who have minds enough to comprehend the subject, to give a slight sketch of the geographic position of the country, laying between the enemy’s force on Kent Island, and my little charge at Queens Town – Kent Island, of which the enemy were in possession, and which was completely surrounded by their vessels of war, in the southern extremity of Queen Anne’s county; the greatest breath about 6 miles; is watered on its western side by the Chesapeake Bay, on its eastern margin by the Eastern Bay, and is separated from the Main by what is usually termed the Narrows, which is in fact a strait from the Eastern Bay to Chester River, and runs nearly north and south, is navigable on full common tides for small shallops; and its breath caries from about 100 yards, to half a mile or more.

This narrows or strait, is skirted on both sides by extensive marshes, intersected with cripples, which are frequently dangerous, more especially to the marsh connected with the main. To approach the Island from the Main you must traverse a narrow causeway upwards of a mile in length across the marsh. Piney Neck, or the district of country which extends from Queenstown to the Narrows, is watered on the N.W. by Chester River, navigable for ships of large size for an extent of about six miles to the mouth of Queen’s Town Creek, which forms its best gead about ¼ mile from the main road, near to which stands the little village in which my force was quartered. The same district of [the] country is watered on the S. and E. by the Eastern Bay, and that branch of Wye River called Back Wye, for an extant of about 20 miles, navigable in its whole course for craft and barges to within a short distance of Queenstown.

Into this tract of country, nearly surrounded by water, I was destined to defend with the following force, viz., 6 companies of infantry, amounting to 273 men, of whom 25 were sick, and three absent on furlough, leaving 214 effectives – two light six pounders, commanded by Capt. [Thomas] Wright, about 35 strong; and 100 Cavalry, commanded by Major [Thomas] Emory.

To this force I had strong reasons to believe the enemy could oppose a land force of 3000 men, and of course all the barges and men belonging to the shipping by water. In this position I could not but be sensible of the extreme danger of my situation, and felt that there was but little for me to do, but use great caution and vigilance to avoid a surprise. To prevent all intercourse with the island, which was so great as to be highly criminal.

On the morning of the 12th, I determined to push the two companies amounting to 62 men, (and a part of the 244 effectives) commanded by Capts. [Charles] Hobbs and [John D.] Taylor, into the [Piney] neck, if they should be willing to engage is so hazardous an enterprise; and accordingly communicated my wishes to them.

They, without a moments hesitation, accepted my wishes, and with great alacrity paraded their companies, and entered on a perilous duty, which they, equally with myself, tho essential to the safety of our whole force. They had my written permission to occupy such grounds as to them might seem most advantageous for the duty assigned them. They were by no means to invite an attack, to communicate with me at least once in 12 hours, for which purpose they had four troopers sent on with them, to be entirely subject to their orders.

They were not to occupy the same ground any two nights successively. With these instructions, the very intimate knowledge which the officers & men professed of the country, added to the great zeal & activity of the officers, I was satisfied that if they should be attacked by a superior force, they would effect a safe retreat, if by an equal force, I had no fears for the result. In the course of the afternoon of the 12th, a variety of circumstances combined to induce me to believe that I should be attacked the next morning, & that chiefly, if not altogether on the land side.

I therefore took my officers separately & pointed out to each of them the positions their men were to occupy on the land side, in the event of an attack by land, and the same if attacked by water. We were unanimously of opinion, that the posts selected were of such strength, as to enable us to do great execution to a much larger force than their own; and against any thing like an equal force, we felt confident of success.

Against an attack from 2 or 3 points, I felt the insufficiency of my force to provide, and did not attempt it. Having dispatched Adjutant [John] Tilghman, and one or two officers into the neck, about 11 o’clock, and having finished visiting my guards, about 1-2 past 12, [midnight], I retired to my room. At 1-2 past 1 o’clock the Adjutant returned from reconnoitering, without having gained any information of the enemy’s intentions.

At 10 minutes before 3 o’clock of the 13th, I was aroused by the quick approach of horsemen, and found them to be my cavalry videttes of the out posts, with the intelligence that the enemy was approaching in great force on the main road from Kent Narrows to Queens Town. I immediately called up my officers, and at 15 minutes past 3, my force paraded in order of battle, with the exception of the cavalry. The want of accommodations for the men and horses, compelled me to quarter them about 1½ miles from the village, but this occasioned no delay; for in the course of 10 or 15 minutes Major [Thomas] Emory in person, (much to the honor of this body) reported his cavalry as formed on the ground I had directed, and ready for action.

A few minutes only had elapsed, when an express arrived to me from Captains [Charles] Hobbs and [John D.] Taylor, with the information that the enemy was advancing in such force, as to make it impossible that I could oppose them with mine; and that they expected to effect a safe retreat. This intelligence created great anxiety for the fate of my picquet guard, which was stationed about 2 miles in advance of Queens Town, on the road by which the enemy was approaching. I immediately mounted my horse, and pressed forward towards my picquet.

When I had advanced within ½ a mile of the post, the firing commenced between them and the enemy, and the vollies of musketry left me without hope that an individual of them was alive. I returned immediately to my main body, and found them at their posts, all cheerful and anxious for the onset of the enemy, notwithstanding his numbers, a fresh volley of musketry created feelings which I can never forget, it assured me that my picquet was not annihilated as I supposed, but (to their immortal honor) that they had abused my orders of the night before, rallied, and a second time attacked the enemy. I instantly sent the Adjutant on to meet them, and they arrived safe at our line, about 400 yards in advance of the enemy, without the loss of a man, and only one very slightly wounded.

If anything I could say, would add to the reputation of those gentlemen, how freely would I say it, in giving their names to the public, I do all that I can. It shall be known, that a picquet guard composed of the following gentlemen, stood firm at their posts, received the attack, and returned the fire of a column of British troops 2000 strong, supported by 4 field pieces, retreated, formed again, and gave the enemy their second fire.

Picquet Guard

 Capts. James Massey,  J.H. Nicholson, Jr.  Privates, John D. Emory, John Green, Solomon E. Wright, Dennis Sullivan, James Chairs, John Hassett, Samuel Gleen, ames Jackson, W. Seward (slightly wounded), Jacob Price, Thomas Deroachbroome, John Dodd, Jeremiah Vincent, Thomas Cox, Peter Ross, William Emerson, Samuel McBosh [and] Archibald Roe

About 4 o’clock, my cavalry videts, stationed on Chester River came in, bringing the painful intelligence that a large number of barges were entering Queens Town creek. In a few minutes after a signal rocket from the barges told me the news too true; at the same moment one of my guards stationed on the creek came with the information that they had formed their line across the mouth of Queens Town creek. The signal rocket was answered from the land side, and I instantly called in all my guards except three, out of twenty, stationed at Mr. Hall’s landing [Bowlingly Plantation] on the creek, who I left for the purpose of conveying intelligence to me of the enemy’s approach; for I was firmly resolved to engage the enemy in my front, if it could be done without subjecting the force I commanded to certain capture. I had sent major Blake to take a view of the enemy on the water, who returned with the information that they had landed, & that he was fired on by them.

The force in my front was about 150 yards from us, and was plainly seen from both my left and right flanks. In this situation I concluded, that noting but a silent retreat could effect my escape this I ordered, and dispatched the surgeon of the regiment to major Emory of the cavalry with the order; but from some misconception of the surgeon, major Emory did not consider the order as official; and of course, did not commence his retreat with that promptness of movement, for which his command is remarkable. I discovered the delay, and as soon as possible sent on the adjutant, with orders for the cavalry to press their retreat; this was done under a heavy fire of rockets, round and grape shot, equally upon the cavalry, infantry and artillery, from the enemy’s land force, and from a fire of rockets, round and grape shot, upon the infantry and artillery, from the forces on the water side.

There was no confusion among any of the troops; all retreated in perfect order, and the column was well formed (for militia) during the whole retreat; indeed it became absolutely necessary to give a positive order to quicken their pace before I could effect it; early on the retreat I discovered that my column occupied more ground that was necessary for it; and apprehensive that some irregularity existed in the advance, I rode up to the front to discover the cause, and found captains Massey and Nicholson’s commands in single file. This order if companies had been necessary in the first instance in consequence of the original retreat of the companies being intercepted by the enemy’s force on the water side. I therefore found it necessary to change the disposition of their retreat, and immediately upon my giving the order for the formation of a column by those two companies, it was executed on the march, with a neatness and promptness that does equal honor to the officers and men.

During the whole of the time that we waited in order of battle the enemy’s approach, the most perfect order and submission pervaded my little command, frequently enlivened with observations and with, that bespoke minds perfectly at ease, and determined to do their duty to their country. Capt. [G.W.T.] Wright of artillery, in particular, addressed his command in a very spirited and handsome style; exhorting by every thing that was sacred and dear to them as freemen, to discharge their duty, which was received with the most cordial assurances of support from the whole force.

Having thus detailed the objects of my first retreat, it becomes necessary that I should account for my continuing to this place. The head of the column having reached the appointed place of rendezvous, about one and a half miles from the town, I was riding very leisurely along in the rear with the adjutant, and had just ordered him to ride forward and halt the column, when information was sent to me, by a person who had been on the water’s edge during the whole time, that the enemy were landing a large force from twenty barges on a point of Mr. Wright’s [Blakeford Plantation]. I was well aware, that the landing a force at that place could have no other object in view, but the intercepting my retreat, and I instantly ordered the head of the column to advance, and continue the retreat to this place; where every man arrived in safety.

The firing of my picket guard killed two of the enemy, and wounded five; and their commander in chief Sir Sidney Beckwith, had his horse killed. The deserters, who were with the land force, state their numbers to have been, one company of marine artillery (4 pieces) 100 strong, the 102nd regiment of foot, 300 strong; 2 battalions of marines 1600, and one rocket company 50 strong. This was the force in my front to which I had determined to give battle, but the appearance of the enemy attacking my rear, compelled me to give up my attention. His numbers by water not known; but was contained in 45 barges, and by those who had the best opportunity of examining, is stated to have been at least 1350.

It affords me the great pleasure to add, that captains [Charles] Hobbs and [John D.] Taylor made good their retreat across Wye River in batteaux and canoes; and the troopers who were under their command effected theirs by swimming their horses across. I will only observe, that not a breath of censure can in any way attach to a single individual of my command. The ready and cheerful obedience which I experienced from every officer, and private, gave me full confidence that I could rely on the execution of my orders; and I was not disappointed; on me alone therefore must rest the responsibility of the retreat. May I again, sir, solicit, that a Court of Inquiry be directed to site on me.”

I am sir,

WILLIAM H. NICHOLSON, Major 38th Regt. Md. Militia, Centreville, 16th, Aug. 1813

 Source: Major William Nicholson, 38th Regiment, Maryland Militia, to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Wright of the 38th Regiment, Maryland Militia, Centreville, Md., August 16, 1813; Easton Republican Star, August 24, 1813.

“The Alarm Guns Have Just Fired – Every Man Is In Arms!” September 10, 1814

On September 7, following the capture of Washington on August 24, the British consolidated their naval and military forces at Tangier Island, Va. The British fleet, consisting of ships-of-the-line, frigates, sloops, schooners, troop transports, and bomb ships sailed up the Chesapeake – an armada of fifty warships.

At 1:30 p.m. on September 10th the alarms guns at Forts Madison and Severn were fired and church bells tolled as the British fleet, stretching to the horizon made their passage past Annapolis. “They could be distinctly ascertained from the haziness of the weather.” Panic overtook the city as residents gathered their belongings in wagons, militia companies assembled on the town greens, as express riders carried the news to Baltimore and Washington. The offices of the Maryland Gazette have all been called out for the city’s defense. Militia look-out posts on the Patapsco River ten miles northward raised their signal flags to like flags in Baltimore. The broad pennants of three British Admirals – Cochrane, Cockburn and Malcolm flew from the mastheads of His Majesty’s Ships Marlborough, Albion and Tonnant. Two weeks before in a letter to President Madison, Vice Admiral Cochrane declared his intention “to destroy and lay waste such towns and districts upon the coasts as may be found assailable.” Annapolis would be spared as the British sailed northward towards Baltimore.

Maryland and Virginia militia companies began to march to Annapolis, then to Baltimore. Seven days later, with defeat at Baltimore and the last major campaign in the Chesapeake, Annapolis for the last time witnessed the passing of the Royal Navy.

Sources: Maj. Barney to Samuel Smith, September 10, 1814, Maine Portland Gazette, September 19, 1814.

Published in: on April 1, 2011 at 7:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Chesapeake Bay under Blockade: February 5, 1813

On October 1812 the London Times published the following:

“The American navy must be annihilated – her arsenals and dockyards must be consumed; and the turbulent inhabitants of Baltimore must be tamed with the weapons [bombs and rockets] which shook the wooden turrets of Copenhagen…All the prating about maritime rights, with which the Americans have recently nauseated the ears of every cabinet minister in Europe must be silenced by the strong and manly voice of reason- America must be BEATEN INTO SUBMISSION!”

Following the declaration of war against England on June 18, 1812, the effect of Maryland privateers on British trade, the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty issued a directive on December 26, 1812 for a blockade of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. To enforce the blockade fifty-six year old Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren was appointed to command the North American Station, consisting of five naval districts; Newfoundland, Halifax, Leeward Islands, Jamaica, and Bermuda, with one hundred and forty-two warships under his command.

The blockade of the Chesapeake was effected by His Majesty’s frigates Junon, Belvidera, Statira, and the schooner Sophie all under Captain George Burdett onboard H.M. frigate Maidstone. They were to destroy the naval resources and arsenals of tidewater Virginia and Maryland. Burdett’s squadron was smaller than anticipated and was restricted to blockading duties. On Feb. 4, accompanying the squadron was Admiral Warren onboard H.M. ship-of-the-line San Domingo, flying his broad blue pennant from the main mast. On February 5, 1813 the following notice of the enforcement of the blockade proclamation of December 26 was issued:

I do hereby certify to all of whom it may concern, that the ports and harbors of the Bay of the Chesapeake are this day put in a state of strict and rigorous blockade. Given under my hand, on board the San Domingo, in Lynnhaven Bay in the Chesapeake, this 5th day of February, 1813, Captain George Burdett, R.N.”

Private armed vessels (privateers) who had been leaving the bay since last July 1812 to scour the seas for British merchantmen and achieving their prizes, were now forced to wait for the cover of night or a snowstorm. American merchant vessels, if detected were either captured or, if lucky turned about and returned to their port of origin. For the next twenty-five months the great estuary of the Chesapeake was blockaded by the Royal Navy.

Sources: Daily National Intelligencer, April 2, 1813; Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to Admiral John Warren, December 26, 1812. The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History, vol.1, (Washington: GPO, 1985), 633-634; Baltimore American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, February 13, 1813 and Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser, February 11, 12, 1813.

Published in: on March 31, 2011 at 8:45 pm  Comments (2)  

Equinoctial Storms over the Chesapeake, Summer 1814

One reason that led to the British decision to attack Baltimore and not send the fleet north to Rhode Island as contemplated, then to return, was the annual autumn weather cycle of the equinoctial storm systems. These mid-Atlantic seasonal patterns along the coast played an integral role in the British strategy during their occupation of the Chesapeake. Now, it certainly became a factor in Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane’s decision to attack Baltimore and their subsequent raids in southern Maryland and Virginia in October before departing the Chesapeake.

In the early 19th century equinoctial storms were often referred to as heavy rain storms that occurred near the autumnal equinox (Sept. 22) in the Northern Hemisphere. This commonly used term has been replaced by the Lesser Antilles Carib word “hurricane” even though hurricanes are known to occur in the Northern Hemisphere as early as June and as late as November. When the British withdrew from Washington a severe squall line of intense thunderstorms struck, often inaccurately referred to as a hurricane that doused the flames of the city.

In Septmber 1814 Admiral Cochrane informed the First Secretary of the Admiralty in London, John W. Croker one of his reasons for attacking Baltimore: “…the approaching equinoctial new moon rendering it unsafe to proceed immediately out of the Chesapeake with the combined expedition, to act upon the plans which had been concerted previous to the departure of [HMS] Iphigenia; Major General [Robert Ross] and myself [have] resolved to occupy the intermediate time to advantage, by making a demonstration upon the city of Baltimore…”

During the Battle for Baltimore, such a thunderstorm made its appearance on September 13-14, 1814 when they augmented the flash of bombs and rockets that added to the grandeur and terror of the naval bombardment of Fort McHenry.

Sources: Dr. Kent Mountford, Estuarine Ecologist and Environmental Historian to the author on an investigation of weather patterns mentioned in Admiral Cochrane’s letter of September 17, 1814; Admiral Cochrane to Secretary Croker, H.M. ship-of-the-line Tonnant, Chesapeake, September 17, 1814. Printed in The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History, vol. 3, (Washington, Naval Historical Center), 289-290; “Joseph Hopper Nicholson: Citizen Soldier of Maryland,” by Scott S. Sheads (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Magazine, vol. 98, No. 2,Summer 2003), 133-151.

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Captain Thomas Masterson Hardy, R.N. (1769-1839)

Among His Majesty’s naval officers who had been at the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805, Britain’s most famous naval engagement against the combined French and Spanish fleets was Captain Thomas Masterson Hardy, RN. the battle turned the tide of the naval warfare during the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815) giving England control of the seas during the War of 1812. Hardy served with Admiral Lord Horation Nelson on board HM ship-of-the-line Victory (100 guns) as flag captain and commander. When Nelson was mortally wounded on the quarter deck by French marksmen, it was Hardy who held stricken Nelson below decks, and died in his arms.

Captain Hardy later served in the Washington-Baltimore campaign of August – September 1814. On August 9, 1814 it was Hardy commanding HM ship-of-the-line Ramilles (74 guns) directed the bombardment of Stonington, Connecticut that inspired a popular song by American poet Philip Freneau entitled “The Battle of Stonington,” prior to Baltimore’s own song by Francis Scott Key.

“Four gallant ships from England came, Freights deep with five and flame, And other things we need not name, To have a dash at Stonington..!”

A month later, September 13-14 the Ramillies anchored off North Point during the Battle for Baltimore, her size preventing navigation nearer to Baltimore.

Sources: A Naval Biographical Dictionary: Comprising the Life and Services of Every Living Officer in Her Majesty’s Navy by William R. O’Byrne (London: John Murray, 1849).

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 9:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Frenchtown: April 29, 1813 – Cecil County

I have the honor to acquaint you that having yesterday gained information of the Depot of Flour…being with some Military and other Stores situated at a Place called French Town, a considerable distance up the River Elk. Rear Admiral George Cockburn to Admiral John Warren, April 29, 1813.

The first British landing incursion in Maryland occurred at Frenchtown and Elk Landing (Elkton), Cecil County on April 29, 1813. Thirty-six years before in August 1777, three hundred British warships, carrying 15,000 British and German Hessian troops had anchored off Elk Landing, fifteen miles above Frenchtown, then marched north to Philadelphia. That winter while General Washington’s continental army encamped at Valley Forge, the British occupied and entertained themselves in hospitable and warm Philadelphia.

In late April 1813, British warships again sailed up the Chesapeake towards Frenchtown a prosperous commercial port on the Elk River, a mile below Elkton on the upper bay. (Located on Frenchtown Road off Route 213.)

Frenchtown Gun Battery was an unfinished earthen battery mounted with four 6-pounder field guns which commanded the river channel at the Lower Wharf Landing, The battery was commanded by Captains Edward Oldham and William Garrett of the local militia all under the command of Major James Sewall of the 49th Maryland Regiment. He hastily assembled thirty to forty militia stage drivers and merchants along the Frenchtown waterfront as citizens began removing store goods, livestock and personal valuables into the back country.

April 29 – At 7 a.m. British barges advanced upon the town. While the militia “made a brave but ineffective effort to intercept their advance” the militia quit the battery and retreated. A Private Jess Ash offered his assessment, “I met the enemy in company with perhaps 40 others at Frenchtown, where the [British] crews of 11 barges, proved too strong for our resistance, and which caused our retreat, without effecting anything.” By 1:00 p.m. the British had captured and destroyed the town. Amidst the destruction were large quantities of U.S. army clothing, saddles, bridles and other cavalry equipage destined for the American army in Canada.

From Frenchtown the British moved onto Elkton but were repulsed by several earthen artillery redoubts along the river approach.

British ships that anchored nearby in the Elk River were HMS schooners Highflyer, Mohawke and Fantome, Arab, Lynx, Dolphin and Racer, and ships-of-the-lines Marlborough and Dragon from which the British barges had launched their attack.

Sources: George Cockburn Papers, Library of Congress, MSS 17576, Reel 4, Containers 6-7; Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser, April 30, October 1, 1813; Donald G. Shomette, Lost Towns of Tidewater Maryland, (Centreville, Md.: Tidewater  Publishers, 2000), 254; “Extract from the Journal of H.B.M. tender Highflyer, April 28 -May 6, 1813.” Baltimore Patriot, October 18, 1813; (George Cockburn Papers, Library of Congress, MSS 17576, Reel 4, Containers 6-7); Alexandria Gazette, May 5, 1813.

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).

Last British Warships in the Bay: March 1815

Of the one hundred and thirty-eight known royal naval vessels to have served in the Chesapeake during the war, the last known ship fell upon Captain John Clavell (1776-1846), commanding H.M. frigate Orlando. Clavell had entered the navy in 1781 and later served as first lieutenant onboard HM ship-of-the-line Royal Sovereign at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and promoted to captain the following year.

During the war in the Chesapeake, on December 13, 1814, Rear-Admiral Cockburn issued orders before his departure for the Carolina-Georgia coast, to establish a rigid blockade of the Chesapeake with five vessels (Havannah, Dauntless, Pandora, Sarcacen, and Dotterell) under his command for the winter. They would depart the following February.

On March 10,1815 Captain Clavell received the last known order issued to an officer in the Chesapeake. Admiral Cockburn informed him that the Treaty of Ghent had been ratified on February 17 and that he was to remove all royal property on Tangier and St. George’s Islands and leave the Chesapeake. Soon thereafter H.M. ship Orlando cleared the Virginia Capes. The last known British warships of the War of 1812 left the Chesapeake.

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine, (London, 1846), 643; Admiral Cockburn to Captain Clavell, Cumberland Island, Ga., March 10, 1814; The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History (Washington: Naval Historical Center, 2002) vol. 3, 349. Ships under Clavell’s command at time of departure: Dauntless and Dotteral.

Published in: on March 12, 2011 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment