Captain James Roe (c.1784-?): 35th Maryland Regiment, Belle-Air, Kent County, 1814

The 35th Maryland Regiment was one of two regiments assigned to Queen Anne’s County during the war under the Maryland Militia Act of 1811. In August 1814 upon the advance of HM frigate Menelaus, Capt Peter Parker, RN, in the upper bay off Kent County. Brigadier General Benjamin Chambers, 6th Brigade, brought into service the 21st Maryland Regiment under Lt. Colonel Phillip Reed and Captain James Roe’s militia company of 100 men.  Captain Roe received his commission on October 17, 1810 by Governor Robert Bowie.

On August 31, 1814, HM frigate Menelaus landed their marines and seamen on the bay shore of Kent County and marched inland towards Belle-Air where intelligence reported their was a large militia camp and military depot of supplies. At midnight the British attacked the 21st Regiment upon the farm fields of Isaac Caulk. The Maryland militia made a heroic stand against overwhelming numbers and steadily withdrew from the field towards Chestertown five miles away. The action however caused the British commander Sir Captain Peter Parker to be mortally wounded. While Captain Roe’s company of fifty-nine militia were attached to the 21st Regiment from Aug 31 to Sept 7 they took no part in the midnight skirmish as they were encamped to guard the militia stores at Belle-Air.

In 2008 at the Poplar Grove/Brampton Plantation in Queen Anne’s County, documents were found relating to the War of 1812 among those “A Roster of the Attendance of Capt. Ja’s Roe’s Company Stationed at Bell Aire, August 31, 1814 – this campaign commenced.” While little is still unknown about Captain Roe and his company their role gives an insight of the company’s role during the Battle of Caulk’s Field on August 31, 1814.

Source: James Wood Poplar Grove Collection, Maryland State Archives, SC-5807; Maryland Militia in the War of 1812, Volume 1 (Eastern Shore), by F. Edward Wright (Westminster, Md.), 8, 38.


Captain John Pasco, RN (1774-1853): Flag Officer at Trafalgar

Captain John Pasco is along side Admiral Horation Nelson, remembered as one of the best known historic figures in British naval history – for that moment when he served as the flag-lieutenant on board HM ship-of-the-line Victory (100 guns) during the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805. It was this thirty-one year old signal officer who hoisted Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson’s famous battle signal ‘”England expects every man will do his duty.” Originally Nelson had asked Pasco to send the message “England confides that every man will do his duty.” Pasco suggested “expects” be substituted for “confides”, since the former was in the signal book, whereas confides would have to be spelt out letter-by-letter. Nelson agreed to the change, Pasco then recorded: “Engage the enemy more closely” to be sent. Pasco ran it up and it remained flying until shot away in the battle. Pasco was severely wounded in the right side and arm with grapeshot and carried below the decks.

On April 3, 1811, he received a captain’s commission and took command of HM schooner Tartarus (16 guns) during the Battle for 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 9:15 pm  Comments (3)  

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  

Battle of the Ice Mound, February 7, 1815 – Dorchester County

On February 7, 1815 in what will be the last known skirmish of the British in the Chesapeake, HM schooner Dauntless was off shore having sent her tender’s crew previously on James Island near the mouth of the Choptank River to raid livestock on nearby farms. On February 7 the Dauntless ships log recorded; “at daylight saw ourselves surrounded with ice and by 7 o’clock the ship was fast…Noon. Fine hard weather saw nothing of our boats…8 p.m. fresh breezes with severe frost the boats not having returned fear they are frozen in.”

The tender had come within 400 yards off shore and soon became enclosed by ice. The militia gathered by Joseph Fookes Stewart (1777-1839), a private in Captain Thomas Woolford’s company of the 48th Maryland Regiment gave his report that the tender was “described afloat between the body of ice attached to the shore and the cake which had drifted in from the bay, and at about 400 yards distance from the shore. – They descried, too, a mound of ice, which had been formed at about 150 yards from the tender…” The militia made there careful way across the pack ice and commenced firing their muskets, the crew of tender retired with their own.

Lieutenant Matthew Phibbs, R.N., the tender’s commander, a midshipman, three Royal Marines and thirteen sailors soon found themselves in a difficult situation. On board was a black man named Abraham Travers and a black woman cook named Becca. For nearly two hours the musketry continued until suddenly the entire crew of nineteen men and a colored woman came up from the tender’s hold and surrendered under a white handkerchief, were made prisoners and taken ashore.

Onboard the militia found a 12-Pounder carronade, a swivel gun, seventeen muskets and six pistols and amounts gunpowder. The militia known to have accompanied Stewart in the capture and listed in his report were: Moses Navy, William Geohagan, John Bell, Moses Geoghegan, Robert Travers, Henry K. Travers, Daniel Travers, Mathias Travers, Nicks North, William Dove, Thomas Tolly, John Tolly, James Hooper, Hugh Roberts, Moses Simmons and a unknown black man. In all sixteen militia had taken the HM schooner Dauntless tender. Afterwards in a deposition to attain the prize money, Stewart gathered another twenty six other militia who had served. On February 27, H.M. ship Dauntless departed the Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

A question arises of why had not the tender’s crew utilized their carronade? It may have been due to the constant musket fire poured upon them and realizing their being encased in ice, surrendered.

Joseph F. Stewart died at his residence on August 4, 1839 at Tobacco Stick (Madison), Dorchester County. Though the attack was successfully made, a musket ball only has a range of 75 yards! The carronade taken from the tender was named for two of the twenty captured. Commander Lt. Matthew Phibbs, and a African-American cook Becca. By tradition the carronade on exhibit at MAdison, Md., has come to be called “Becky Phipps”.

The site of the captured “Becky-Phillips” carronade is on the westserb side of the Taylor’s Island Bridge on Maryland Route 16.

Sources: Stewart, Robert G. “The Battle of the Ice Mound, February 7, 1815” (Maryland Historical  Magazine, vol. 70, No.4, Winter, 1975), 372-378; Captain’s Logbook, HMS Dauntless, Public Records Office, Admiralty 52/3902, London; Joseph was the son of John T. and Elizabeth Fookes of Church Creek, Cambridge, Md; “Battle of the Ice Mound,”Baltimore American and Commercial Daily Adv., February 22, 1815; Somerset Herald (Md.), August 20, 1839.

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 9:48 am  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).

Illumination – The Treaty of Peace and Amity

On February 1815, the schooner Transit arrived in Annapolis from France with Marylander Christopher Hughes, Jr. Esq., carrying a copy of the Treaty of Ghent, signed in Ghent, Belgium by the American and British commissioners on December 25, 1814 ending the War of 1812. News of the treaty was conveyed onboard the schooner Adeline with Colonel John S. Skinner, U.S. State Department agent to  inform Captain James Claville, RN, with his blockading squadron in the Chesapeake Bay. On February 23rd the City of Annapolis was illuminated. In the midst of this light, the State House ” was conspicuous for its elevation and splendor.” The State House hall was decorated with a full length portrait of George Washington, suspended from the center of the inner dome.

On February 22, 1815, Annapolis cabinet-maker and keeper of the armory John Shaw, fired a national salute with artillery from the illuminated Maryland State House on account of Washington’s birthday and the confirmation of peace.

Maryland now began the rebuilding process of the depredations destruction of the tidewater region and  the economic loss of her trade during the embargoes, and expanding once more to Europe and as far as Canton, China on board the once privateer Chasseur. A new national song “The Star-Spangled Banner” now gave Maryland a sense of national pride and symbolic emblem into what it meant to be an American.

Sources:“Maryland Armory Book, 1813-1820, John Shaw” Records of the War Department, Adjutant General’s Office, National Archives; Maryland Gazette, February 23, 1815.

Published in: on March 21, 2011 at 10:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

His Britannic Majesty’s Brig Bloodhound, July 1812

On July 18, a month after the declaration of war, HM Brig Bloodhound (10 guns), Capt. Charles Rubridge (1787-1873) commanding, entered the Chesapeake having left Plymouth, England on June 28.  On board was a Mr. Shaw, the King’s messenger with dispatches for the England’s Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States in Washington, Mr. Augustus J. Foster (1780-1848).

At anchor in the harbor was the Letter of Marque Cora of  Baltimore, Actg. 1st Officer Richard Weathers, cmdg. He was awaiting the arrival of Captain Joseph Gold and ships owner to board from the city. Arriving in port on July 21, HMB Bloodhound was unaware of the U.S. declaration of war of June 18 having been at sea. As they approached Annapolis under the guidance of a black pilot, she was boarded by the crew of the Cora and placed her under the guns of Fort Madison.

While lying under the guns of Fort Madison, her crew were sequestered in the forts barracks and kept under guard for protection. Mr. Shaw having delivered his dispatches to Washington returned with an order for the Bloodhound and her crew for their immediate release. The U.S. government held the capture and any prize of the Cora to be improper as Capt. Rubridge was unaware of the war declaration. She was released and returned with dispatches to Plymouth. She was the second  British national vessel to be taken in the Chesapeake. The first was on July 10, at Hampton Roads, Va., of  HBM schooner Whiting, Capt. Carroway by the Baltimore privateer Dash, under similar events. HMS Bloodhound was restored to her colors.

Sources: An Autobiographical Sketch by Captain Charles Rubidge, R.N. 1870, pp 4-5; Daily National Intelligence, July 11, 21, 28, 1812.

Published in: on March 12, 2011 at 11:25 am  Leave a Comment  

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