First Company of Maryland Pikemen, 1807…“All able bodied young men…”

In the late summer of 1807 following the HM Frigate Leopard naval encounter with the US Frigate Chesapeake on June 22nd, off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, that prompted a near declaration of war with England, the United States and her militia prepared for a conflict that came later with a declaration of war on June 18, 1812.
One of the unusual companies raised in Baltimore was the First Company of Maryland Pikemen commanded by Robert Goodloe Harper, a prominent lawyer who later served as aide-de-camp to Brigadier General John Stricker at the Battle of North Point (Sept. 1814).
Unlike infantry companies who were trained to the use of musket and bayonet, pike-men or lansquenets as they were known in Europe during the Middle Ages, utilized a long 10-25 foot wooden tapered pole with an iron spearhead affixed that exhibited numerous advantageous as a defensive weapon. Against cavalry attacks they were more cost efficient to produce than the short bayonet – having a longer reach with the help of a strong rope that went through a ring near the tip – thus it could be pulled upwards from the base held by the ground in the face of cavalry or advancing infantry at close quarters. It is adapted to many citizens who could not otherwise afford the $20 for a musket, cartridge box, belts, and other necessary accoutrements in carrying a firearm – in all the pike proved a decided superiority.
For artillery defense the usage of pike was indispensable. If enemy cavalry sable or infantry bayonet penetrated to the site of a cannon, the cannon is lost – no cavalry would attempt forcing a body of pikemen, while infantry, the great length of the pike would ultimately win in the contest of “tug of war.”
While the idea of pikes were utilized onboard warships against boarding operations and at fixed fortifications like Fort McHenry, where pikes were used, no records of a company of pikemen were found during the War of 1812 in Maryland.
As for the First Company of Maryland Pikemen in 1807 their existence was not long and soon disbanded. Such companies would have proved a strong defensive phalanx in defending Baltimore’s Hampstead Hill had the British army made the attempt to assault on September 13, 1814. As late as 1815 a Baltimore citizen asked, Would it not be practicable, and highly expedient to raise a force of 2000 men of colour, in this city, to act as pikemen?
Sources: “On the Use of a Pike,” Federal Gazette (Baltimore), July 27, 1807; “Military Hints,” American & Commercial Daily Adv., February 11, 1815; “First Company of Maryland Pikemen,” Federal Gazette, July 27,1807.

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Published in: on February 22, 2014 at 1:38 am  Leave a Comment  

The 1814 Memorial Cannons of Patterson Park

 

On August 14, 1903 at a meeting of the annual Society of War of 1812 in Maryland it was proposed to distribute the War of 1812 cannon described as “…musty and formidable old weapons of war… planted in the streets in different sections of the city as [traffic]“buffers…”

On February 7-8, 1904 the great Baltimore fire destroyed 140 acres of 1500 buildings, etc., of a major part of central downtown Baltimore along the waterfront. In the aftermath of cleaning and rebuilding newly found cannons were also uncovered. Through the auspices of the Society of the War of 1812 in Maryland and the Society of the Daughters of the War of 1812 in the United States these would find new sites to help Baltimore City commemorate military sites associated with the Battle for Baltimore in 1814. Two of the primary sites were Riverside Park (the site of Fort Look-out in South Baltimore); Battery Babcock Monument (McComas St., South Baltimore) and the best known – Patterson Park established in 1825 upon grounds that highlighted the main land defenses protecting the City of Baltimore in 1814 known then as Hampstead or Laudenslager’s Hill.

Today five of these cannon (iron 6-Pdrs) found in the aftermath of the fire are mounted on concrete pedestals with the date “1814” imprinted on each, two of which are known to have been found during the waterfront construction of the Fell’s Point Recreation Pier. They were designed by Mr. John Appleton Wilson (1851-1927), an active member of the Society of the War of 1812 in Maryland, as well as the Baltimore Municipal Art Commission and American Institute of Architects. In 1879 he and a cousin William Thomas Wilson, formed a partnership and named their new firm J.A. & W.T. Wilson, Architects.

Sources: Baltimore American and The Sun newspapers, 1873-1915.

Published in: on February 14, 2014 at 4:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sailing Master Beverly Diggs, U.S. Chesapeake Flotilla at Baltimore, Sept 1814.

On August 9, 1832 in a deposition before a Notary Public, Sailing Master Beverly Diggs (c.1783-1862) gave narrative of his role on September 12, 1814 as the British fleet made their appearance that morning entering the Patapsco River and later advanced up to begin the bombardment of Fort McHenry the  next morning. Diggs commanded U.S. Barge No. 7 of the blue squadron of the U.S. Chesapeake Flotilla, then under the command of Captain Solomon Rutter, 1st officer of the flotilla. The flotilla’s commander Commodore Joshua Barney has been wounded at Bladensburg on August 24, 1814 and was recovering at his home in Elk Ridge, Anne Arundel Co.

At dawn on September 13th at 6:30 a.m. upon the approach of the bombardment squadron Diggs and his crew proceeded in their barge

“…to the wharves & take such [merchant] vessels as were ballasted and could be easily Sunk without regard to whom they might belong and to sink them in the River between Fort McHenry & the Lazaretto [Northwest Branch]; also across the Ferry Branch. That Deponent took three vessels towed them down and Sunk them agreeable to orders; such was the haste in which they were required to perform this duty; that no attempt  was taken or any attempt made to save any articles that might have been on board…it was deemed proper to take an Axe & after careening the vessel, cut a hole in her bottom, let her right & sink the Enemy having their Bomb Ships moored & Commencing the Bombardment….As it was evident to all that the obstructing of the Channels was the greatest, if not the only real preservation of the City of Baltimore.”

Of the dozen or so merchant vessels sunk in both channels it was not until the following year in the Spring of 1815 were they raised – but by then the winter ice and mud had nearly destroyed them. It would not be until 1832-34 that the vessels owners would be compensated for their loss.

Source: American State Papers, Claims,…….

 

 

 

 

Published in: on February 14, 2014 at 3:06 am  Comments (1)  

The Garrison of Fort McHenry, September 1814

During the bombardment of Fort McHenry on September 13-14, 1814 the small garrison of the U.S. Corps of Artillery (60 men) were augmented by the following federal and militia companies. The total force amounted to 1,010 men. 

Major George Armistead, Commander -U.S. Corps Artillery

Captain Frederick Evans – U.S. Corps of Artillery (60 men)

Capt. Thomas Sangsten – 12th U.S. Infantry (110 Men)

Capt. Joseph Hook, 36th U.S. Infantry (125 men)

Lieut. William Rogers, 36th U.S. Infantry (130 men)

Capt. James H. Hook, 38th U.S. Infantry (100 men)

Capt. John Buck, 38th U.S. Infantry (100 men)

Capt. Matthew S. Bunbury – U.S. Sea Fencibles (60 men) 

Capt. William H. Addison, U.S. Sea Fencibles (50 men)

Lieut. Solomon Rodman, U.S. Chesapeake Flotilla (60 men)

Capt. Joseph H. Nicholson, U.S. Volunteers (75 men)

Captain John Berry, Washington Artillery, 1st Regt. Maryland Artillery (100 men)

Lieut. Charles Pennington, American Artillerist, 1st Regt. Maryland Artillery (75 men)

Source: “Report of Fort McHenry, September 13 & 14, 1814 in the Bombardment.” Records of the War Department, Office of the Adjutant General, Record Group 107. 

 

Published in: on December 9, 2011 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Private George Baxley (1771-1848): Defender of Fort McHenry

This Bomb Shell Fell at the Feet of George Baxley, Private, Washington Artillery, Maryland Militia, during the Bombardment of Fort McHenry, September 12, 1814.  Presented by J. Brown Baxley, Oct. 13, 1890.”

This 13-inch, 190 lb. British mortar shell with the etched inscription may be found today within the Maryland Historical Society’s 1812 gallery. George Baxley was born on Sept. 18, 1771 at Jerusalem Mills on the Gunpowder River in Harford County, where his father operated a milling business. He was one of five children of John and Mary (Merryman) Baxley. George, along with his brothers John and Thomas enlisted in the Maryland Militia on May 31, 1794. During the War of 1812 George served in Captain John Berry’s company, the Washington Artillery, 1st Regt., Maryland Volunteer Artillery during the Battle for Baltimore. The company was stationed along the shore batteries below the fort along with another militia company, the Baltimore Independent Artillery. The bomb landed unexploded near Baxley who, like others, retained it as a souvenir and took it home.

After the war Baxley’s son established a drug store on Howard and Franklin Sts., where the shell was displayed for many years. He also served as President and fireman of Baltimore’s New Market Fire Company (1822-1834) and member of the First Branch of the Baltimore City Council.

Death of an Aged Citizen. – Yesterday morning Mr. George Baxley, an aged and respectable citizen of Baltimore, departed this life at his residence, in the western section of the city. During his life, Mr. Baxley filled several appointments of trust from the State and municipal governments, and his character, in every point of view, appeared worthy of respect and esteem.” The Sun, Dec.16, 1848.

George Baxley at the age of 77 years died on Dec. 15, 1848 and is buried at Greenmount Cemetery, Baltimore.

Sources: The Sun, December 16, 1848; Baxley Family Collection, ca.1848-1918, PP90, Maryland Historical Society. 

 

 

Published in: on October 25, 2011 at 1:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Promotion for Major George Armistead, U.S.Army

On September 20, 1814, President James Madison sent a letter to Major George Armistead with a breveted promotion of lieutenant-colonel to date from September 12, 1814. The actual letter has never been found, though the following was posted in the Baltimore Federal Gazette on September 26, 1814.

We are much gratified by having it in our power to announce, that the President of the United States has evidenced his approbation of the gallant conduct of Major George Armistead of the corps of artillery as commander of Fort McHenry, during the late attack and bombardment, by giving him a brevet appointment of Lieut. Colonel in the Army of the U. States.” 

Published in: on August 8, 2011 at 9:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mendes I.Cohen – Defender of Fort McHenry

On May 7, 1879 Mendes I. Cohen, one of the Old Defenders of  Baltimore in 1814  died at the age of 83 years in Baltimore. He was the younger of two other brothers, Jacob I. and Philip Cohen all of whom served in the War of 1812 in the defense of Baltimore. He served as a private in Captain Joseph H. Nicholson’s U.S. Volunteer artillery company, the Baltimore Fencibles. He was one of the original stockholders in the Holiday Street Theatre where soon after the bombardment of Fort McHenry, “The Star-Spangled Banner ” was first sung in public.

One of his , if not most important contributions to the State of Maryland was to have the 1825 Jew Bill approved and passed by the Mayland Legislature to allow Jews to hold public office as well as in the Maryland Militia where he was elected captain of the Maron Rifles, a city volunteer company. He served as vice-president of the Hebrew Benevolent Association and director of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and the Firemen’s Insurance Company.

In later years he visited Europe on three ocassions visit the sites of the Middle East. In September 1873 at the age of seventy-nine  made his last visit to Fort McHenry being one of the last surviving members of the Baltimore Fencibles and defenders of Fort McHenry.

Source: “The Late Mendes I. Cohen,” The Sun, May 8, 1878.

Published in: on July 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hampstead Hill: The Bulwark of Baltimore’s Defense, September 1814.

In late August 1814, soon after the capture of Washington by the British expeditioanry forces, Baltimoreans began to erect a line of earthen entrenchments to protect the expected advance of the British army from the Philadelphia Road (Rt. 40). The length of the entrenchments and redoubts upon Hampstead or Londenslager’s Hill (today Patterson Park), stretched from the waterfront Sugar House in Fell’s Point near Harris Creek, northward to the Belair Road (Rt. 1), a distance of one mile.

The arrival of Commodore John Rodgers naval brigade from Philadelphia on August 26 of 350 U.S. Marines and sailors from the frigate Guerriere gave the city hope of a defense. Around this corps of veteran naval veterans, Major General Samuel Smith gathered the  15,000 arriving  militia from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland. These troops gave support to the train of thrity-four field guns that crested the defense lines upon Hampstead Hill.

In 1857, forty-three years after the War of 1812, a Baltimore Sun correspondent remembered:

“The length of the breastworks…were arranged several efffective semi-cirular batteries, well mounted with cannon and ably manned, some of them by volunteer artillery companies of Baltimore, and others by sailors and men of war’s men, whilst the spaces which intervened between the batteries were occupied by the county militia and portions of the militia from adjacent states, who had patriotically hastened to the assistance of their beleaguered fellow-citizens of Baltimore. And, in addition to the forces already mentioned, nearly all of the Baltimore [3rd]brigade, composed of cavalry, artillery, riflemen and infantry, to the number of more than three thousand men, were assigned positions in and about these entrenchments.”

The only surviving trace of these entrenchments is a horseshoe shaped earthen redoubt immediately to the eastern front of the 1890 Japanese pogoda that occupied the site of the center of the American lines in 1814.

Source: The Sun (Baltimore), September 15, 1857. Report of Major General Samuel Smith, September 9, 1814. Samuel Smith Papers, Library of Congress.

Published in: on June 27, 2011 at 12:44 am  Leave a Comment  

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.

Francis Scott Key Remembers-September 1814

On August 6, 1834 Francis Scott Key returned to his hometown of Frederick, Maryland in company with his former law partner fifty-seven year old Roger Brooke Taney.  They had come to partake in a celebratory dinner on the Frederick Courthouse lawn. At one point Judge Taney stood up during dinner and introduced Key, who needed no introduction as the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

In a brief speech, Key for the only known moment in his life after the War of 1812 expressed his feelings and how he came to be inspired to write the nation’s song so celebrated on the “Defence of Fort McHenry.”

Herein are the words taken from Francis Scott Key: Life and Times by Edward S. Delaplaine published in 1937.

“You have been pleased to declare your approbation of my song. Praise to a poet could not be otherwise than acceptable; but it is peculiarly gratifying to me, to know that, in obeying the impulse of my own feelings, I have awakened yours. The song, I know, came from the heart, and if it has made its way to the hearts of men, whose devotion to their country and the great cause of freedom I know so well, I could not pretend to be insensible to such a compliment.

You have recalled to my recollection the circumstances under which I was impelled to this effort. I saw the flag of my country waving over a city – the strength and pride of my native State – a city devoted to plunder and desolution by its assailants. I  witnessed the preparation for its assaults, and I saw the array of its enemies as they advanced to the attack. I heard the sound of battle; the noise of the conflict fell upon mylistening ear, and told me that “the brave and the free” had met the invaders. Then did I remember that Maryland had called her sons to the defense of that flag and that they were the sons of sires who had left their crimson footprints on the snows of the North and poured out of the blood of patriots like water on the sands of the South. Then did I remember that there were gathered around that banner, among its defenders, men who had heard and answerred the call of their country – from these mountain sides, from this beautiful valley, and from this fair city of my native Country; and though I walked upon a deck surrounded by a  hostile fleet, detained as a prisoner, yet was my step firm, and my heart strong, as these recollections came upon me.

Through the clouds of war, the stars of that banner still shone in my view, and I saw the discomforted host of its assailants driven back in ignominy to their ships. Then, in that hour of deliverance and joyful triumph, my heart spoke; and “Does not such a country, and such defenders if their country, deserve a song?” was its question.

With it came an inspiration not to be resisted; and even though it had been a hanging matter to make a song, I must have written it. Let the praise, then, if any be due, be given. not to me, who only did what I could not help doing; not to the writer, but to the inspirers of the song!”

…I again thank you for the honor you have done me; but I can only take the share of it. I was but the instrument in executing what you have been so pleased to praise; it was dictated and inspired by the gallantry and patriotism of the sons of Maryland. The honor is due, not to me who made the song, but to the heroism of those who made me make it…

Source: Francis Scott Key: Life and Times by Edward S. Delaplaine (New York: Biography Press, 1937), 378-380. Mr. Delaplaine’s archival source of Key’s remarks remains a mystery.

Published in: on May 22, 2011 at 8:31 am  Leave a Comment