British Spies enter Annapolis, August 1814

On August 14, 1814, onboard HM frigate Menalaus, Captain Sir Peter Parker reported he had anchored his ship off Maryland’s Eastern Shore opposite Annapolis unnoticed, while two of his officers rowed in a ships boat six miles across the bay and went ashore to reconnoiter the town. One of the officers, Lt. Benjamin Benyon, a Royal Marine commented that “… the Town is very pretty, the finest building is the State House which is in the centre of the Town, its built of brick, on the top of it is a large dome, this erected by the great Washington. This Town is well fortified, there are three thousand troops in it…”

Captain Parker informed the admiral that “…I may with safety give it as my opinion that Annapolis would face a very easy conquest (Two of my Officers walked round Fort Madison in the Night without being discovered.)…” That the officers and seamen had crossed the bay, approached Fort Madison, landed and walked freely unnoticed, suggest that the harbor defenses were not properly being guarded. Certainly a stronger presence should have been posted when a large British expeditionary forces had just entered the Patuxent River and eventually marched towards the U.S. Capitol.

Sources: Captain Peter Parker, RN, to Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane, August 30, 1814; Journal Kept during the Years 1813-1814 aboard HMS Menelaus, By Lieutenant Benjamin G. Benyon, RM;. (Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio).

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 6:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Congreve Rocket Burns Henry Waller’s Kent County Farmhouse, August 28, 1814

In late August 1814, HM frigate Menalaus, Captain Peter Parker, was ordered north of Baltimore to the Upper Chesapeake Bay as a diversion during the Baltimore campaign.

On Sunday, August 28 just before dawn, British Royal Marines and sailors landed on the shore of Fairlee Creek, Kent County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. At 10 a.m. the British encountered a militia troop of horse gathered around the 308 acre bayside farm of Henry Waller (b.1774), described as “among the best on the Eastern Shore, both for prospect and convenience.” consisting of a two-story farmhouse with extensive outbuildings for meat, grain, corn and milk, and an extensive apple orchard. To dislodge the militia, The British officer, Lt. Henry Crease ordered Congreve rockets and 18-pounder carronades be fired upon the shore, one of which failed to launch and burned furiously onboard the ship and was thrown overboard. Crease’s shore detachment returned to the Menelaus.

Later that afternoon a second British landing was made upon Waller’s Farm setting on fire the farm house and cornfields, while the Royal Marines fired musket volleys at the militia troop of horse “smashingly dress’d in Blue and long white feathers in their hats.” Royal Marine Benjamin Benyon admirably noted in his journal that the Waller house was, “by far the finest part that I have seen in America, the house was elegant.” The next morning, Lt. Benyon noted onboard H.M. frigate Menelaus that the Waller house “was burning most furiously & all the out houses and corn stalks.”

Seventeen years later, in 1829, the Federal Government began to receive claims for war damages of private property, one of whom was Henry Waller for the destruction of his property. He retained a Georgetown attorney named Francis Scott Key to represent his case. Mr. Waller did receive compensation for his home. One of the Congreve rockets that set his farmhouse ablaze is on display at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine (NPS) in Baltimore. It is one of the rare Maryland War of 1812 artifacts known to have survived the war with a provenance with it.

Sources: The Waller farm was formerly owned by Colonel James Lloyd (1745-1820), member of the U.S. Congress and Maryland Legislature. In 1807 he sold the farm to Henry Waller. After Waller house was destroyed, Henry sold the farm to Richard Frisby. Michael Owen Bourne, Historic Houses of Kent County: An Architectural History: 1642-1860, (Chestertown, Maryland: The Historical Society of Kent County, Inc., 1998), 295, 405-407; Baltimore Federal Gazette & Evening Advertiser, August 8, 1814; Captain Parker to Vice Admiral Cochrane, August 29, 1814. HMS Menelaus off Pooles Island. (Alexander Cochrane Papers, Library of Congress, MS 2329); Benyon Journal, August 28, 1814;

Published in: on March 31, 2011 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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).