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,…….

 

 

 

 

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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  

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  

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)  

A Flag for Fort McHenry, August 1813

SHIPS COLOURS – For all nations, private signals, military flags, etc., An elegant assortment of American Colours, of every size, made of fiort quality bunting. Apply to Mrs. R. Young, Albermarle St.”

In the summer of 1813, soon after his arrival from the Canadian frontier in northern New York state, where he had taken part in the capture that spring of British held Fort George on the Niagara River,  Major George Armistead, U.S. Artillery was assigned to command Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor. He found the fort without a suitable ensign and thus placed an order to James Calhoun, U.S. Deputy Commissary in Baltimore for two flags. Since the U.S. Arsenal in Phildelphia was currently without ensigns, Calhoun purchased locally for the ensigns from Mary Young Pickersgill (1776-1857) and her mother Rebecca Young (1739-1819), well established flag makers of colours since 1806.

 * * * *

Mr. James Calhoun, Jun., Deputy Commissary

To Mary Pickersgill

For 1 American Ensign 30 by 42 feet, first quality Bunting $405.90

For 1      do          do      17 by 25 feet,  do     do       do        $168.54

For Fort McHenry                                                                 $574.44   

August 19, 1813

Baltimore, 27th October 1813. Received from James Calhoun, Jun., Deputy Commissary, five hundred and seventy-four dollars and forty-four cents in full for the above bill.

Signed duplicates

For Mary Pickersgill

Eliza Young

* * * *

Received the within flags, signed duplicates

Gr. Armistead, Major Comm[andin]g.

A year later in September 13-14, 1814 both ensigns would be flown over Fort McHenry during “the perilous fight” and became the inspiration for a new national song – “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  The garrison flag (42’x30′) is on exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Published in: on April 12, 2011 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment