“I am [an] advocate for the cause which I espoused in 1776, and believing that the clouds which at present darken our political horizon portend a storm which will call for the exertions of every friend to the independence of our country.” T.M. Forman, 1812.
In the annuals of the Battle for Baltimore, Brigadier General Thomas M. Forman of Maryland’s Cecil County estate of Rose Hill, on the Sassafras River, he has never received his due award for his command of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division of the Maryland Militia, upon Hampstead Hill. Unlike his Maryland contemporary officers, Brig. General John Stricker, Brig. General William Winder and Maj. General Samuel Smith, Forman left no official report, but his twenty-two letters home to his new wife Martha Ogle, documents a rare personal insight into a husband and wife separated by war during “the perilous fight.”
Thomas M. Forman was the son of Ezekiel (1736-1795) and Augustine Marsh Forman born on August 20, 1758 on Kent Island, Queen Annes Co., Md. At the age of seventeen Thomas left to join Washington’s Continental Army at Long Island, New York enlisting on December 4, 1775, in Captain John H. Stone’s company of Colonel William Smallwood’s 1st Maryland Regiment at the Battle of Long Island (Aug. 1776); he was with Washington when he crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Eve to engage the British at the Battle of Trenton in Dec. 1776; Brandywine (Sept. 1777), Valley Forge (1777-78), and Monmouth Courthouse (June 1778). The following winter of 1777 he received a captaincy commission in the regiment commanded by his uncle General David Forman (1745-1797).
Afterwards he served in the Maryland General Assembly (1790-1800) then settled to his family’s estate at Rose Hill. In May 1814, he married Martha Browne Ogle whose dairy detailed life at Rose Hill during the war. In August 27, 1814 Forman was ordered along with his command of the 1st Brigade (Cecil and Harford Counties) to Baltimore to aid in the defense upon Hampstead Hill. Though his brigade took no active role in the battle, his letters home to his wife provide an intimate portrait of this nearly unknown Maryland planter and militia officer. On Sept. 4, he wrote his wife Martha:
“My dear wife, No part of my duty is so pleasant as wanting to be with my dear wife, as is reading her only letter, that dear letter, which in the heat of battle shall be placed over my heart…We have assembled seven generals: Smith, Winder, Stricker, and Stansbury of Baltimore, Douglas and Singleton of Virginia; and your humble servant.”
He returned to Rose Hill on November 17, 1814 to attend to his estates as farmer and 50 slaves. In October 1824 he was designated to represent Maryland upon taking his carriage to await the arrival of the Marquis de LaFayette at the Maryland State line to escort him to Frenchtown, then to Baltimore by steamboat. In 1829 he received a military appointment as major general of the 2nd Division of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a post he held until his death on May 8, 1845. He is buried in the family cemetery with his wife Martha at Rose Hill. (private property).
Source: Plantation Life at Rose Hill: The Diaries of Martha Ogle Forman, 1814-1845; Ed. by W. Emerson Wilson (Historical Society of Delaware, 1976); Forman Papers, Maryland Historical Society, MS.1277, 1777; “Adjutant General Papers,” War of 1812. Maryland State Archives, (SC-931-1, Box 66, Folder 12).