Dr. William Beanes arrives onboard HM Brig Thetis, August 28, 1814.

New Discoveries & New Interpretations of the War in the Chesapeake.
For nearly 200 years the story that Dr. William Beanes of Upper Marlborough, Md., who was taken prisoner from his home by the retreating British forces from Washington, D.C. in August 1814, was placed onboard Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane’s ship-of-the-line flagship HMS Tonnant has been told to readers of history and former historians.

A recent discovered letter written by Dr. William Beanes about his personal ordeal, now allows us to interpret the real updated story – that having been taken several miles away to the Patuxent River, where the British fleet had anchored, he was placed initially – not onboard the admiral’s flagship – but onboard HMS Brig Thetis with runaway slaves from Prince Georges County and later transferred to yet another ship. He remained on this last vessel until finally transferred on September 7 to the American flag-of-truce sloop-packet the President along with lawyer Francis Scott Key and Colonel John Stuart Skinner, U.S. State Department prisoner of war exchange agent.

Sources: Withheld until formally published.

See the depostions regarding Harriet Brooke at: Claim of Harriet Brooke, Calvert County, Case No. 660, Case Files. Ca. 1814-28, entry 190, Record Group 76, National Archives, College Park reproduced in:


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American Prisoners taken at Battle of North Point, Sept.12, 1814

On September 17, 1814 a letter from 29 American prisoners held on board His Britannic Majesty’s frigate Havanna was forwarded to Major General Samuel Smith in hopes of being assisted in their present situation. The letter has been modified for clarity.


On Board H.B.M. frigate Havanna    September 17, 1814.


We had the misfortune to be captured in the affair of Monday last at Bear Creek and were on Tuesday brought on board this ship where we are detained as prisoners of War. Having had the honor of some communication with the commanding officers are of opinion an exchange may be obtained for us provided immediate application is made for that purpose which we have no doubt will be promptly attended to on the part of our countrymen so soon as they shall learn that we are in captivity & distressed (not one of us having a change of rainment, a blanket or cent of money – some have no coat others no vests or shoes). Should not an immediate arrangement be made for our benefit, we expect to be sent to England, in which case a majority of us would inevitably fall a sacrifice for want of necessary comforts.

We pray an immediate attention may be paid to our situation by a flag of truce which would be expected on our part. An should an exchange unfortunately not be effected, that we may be permitted to receive a supply of clothing, bedding & stores from our families – or from the [Baltimore] Committee of Supplies. Several of us being already very unwill we fear confinement by fever which will be certain death on our situation.

In full hope of speedy deliverance we are with due respect, Etc.

Independent Company 5th Regiment M.M. Thomas Bailey, Talbot Jones, Edward Murray, Frederick Seyler, William Jenkins.

Independent Blues: F.M. Willis, George Heidelback, William Lively, Richard Lawson, John Huzza.

[First Baltimore] Sharp Shooters, 1st Rifle Battn. – Thomas G. Prettyman, John Howard.

Patriot Company, 5th Regiment – Benjamin Meredith.

United Volunteers, 5th Regiment – Henry W. Gray, John G. Poug.

Union Volunteers – George Collins (wounded).

Light Blue, 5th Regiment – Henry Suter.

Mechanical Comapny, 5th Regiment – John Redgrove.

Capt. Deem’s Co., 51st Regiment – Andrew Miller.

Capt. Rogers Co., 51st Regiment – John Kepler.

Capt. Peters Co., 51st Regiment – Morgan Carson.

Capt. Smiths Co.,  51st Regiment – Adam Miller.

Capt. Kennedy’s Co., 27th Regiment – Andrew Cole

Capt. Edes Co., 27th Regiment – Peter Stedham.

Capt. Dillon’s Co., 27th Regiment – Patrick B. Powell.

Capt. Kennedy’s Co., 27th Regiment – John Fordyce (Vol. from Philadelphia)

39th Regiment – William Baltzell.

Capt. Dobbin’s Co., 39th Regiment  – Lewis Baltzell.

Capt. Schwartzour’s Co., 27th Regiment – Ephraim Nash.


Source: Samuel Smith Papers, Reel 2, Cont. 2-3, Library of Congress.

Published in: on December 21, 2011 at 1:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Annapolis: Diplomatic Port of Entry & Colonel John Stuart Skinner

On the evening of March 12, 1813, a British courier, Mr. Moore arrived in Annapolis on board the British packet Francis Feeling, Capt. Anthony Bell. Mr. Moore, that evening dined with Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832) at his town house. It was during this meeting that Carroll learned and thus informed his son that “the significancy of the place [Annapolis], and its being the station for flags of truce, will except it from that calamity [of war].” Thus Annapolis was designated an official port of entry, securing the state capitol from any acts of aggression.

In 1807 John Steuart Skinner (1788-1851) an Annapolis planter and lawyer was appointed notary public representing Maryland, who served as secretary for a republican meeting held at the State House on May 30, 1812. Their resolution was to “express in a public manner their sentiments on the present posture of affairs with Great Britain,” and to draft resolutions representing the City of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County.

On July 6, 1812, Congress approved “An Act for the Safe Keeping and Accommodation of Prisoners of War” that was followed by a “Provisional Agreement, for the Exchange of Naval Prisoners of War” on November 28 with the British government. In March 1813 Skinner was appointed colonel as agent for the U.S. State Department and for U.S. flags-of-truce for dispatches and prisoner exchange. His first mission came on February 27 when the British Packet, Francis Feeling entered Annapolis harbor under the guns of Fort Madison for dispatches to be received or sent between the U.S.Government and the British naval forces. It would be one of many such missions carried out by Skinner during the war that would enable him to acquire a diplomatic friendship with Rear-Admiral George Cockburn.

That fall Colonel Skinner was ordered to Baltimore with a U.S. Navy purser’s commission for those U.S. vessels being built in Baltimore and for the U.S. Chesapeake Flotilla. In September 1814 he would accompany lawyer Francis Scott Key on a diplomatic mission to the British fleet to secure the release of a Dr. William Beanes held on board HMS Tonnant. On Sept. 8 he and Skinner were transfered to an American flag-of-truce vessel, the President and together witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry (Sept. 13-14) that became the inspiration for a new national song, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

In the years following, Skinner became the most influential editor in America for several agricultural journals he founded among of which was The Plough, the Loom, and the Anvil. He became the president of the Maryland Jockey Club and postmaster for Baltimore (1816-1849). He died on March 21, 1851 and is buried in Westminster Church burying ground in Baltimore. 

Sources: Charles Carroll of Carrollton to his son, March 12, 1813. Unpublished Letters of Charles Carroll of Carrollton…Ed. Thomas M. Field (New York: U.S. Catholic Historical Society, 1902); “Biographical Notice of John S. Skinner,” by Benjamin P. Poore The Plough, the Loom, and the Anvil, (New York, 1855).

Battle of North Point – American Prisoners of War, September 12, 1814

In the aftermath of the Battle of North Point, fifty-three American militia found themselves prisoners of war and were conveyed to the British fleet via Bear Creek to His Britannic Majesty’s frigates Havanna, Severn and Surprise. In a collective letter upon which their names were listed they described their confinement;

“We had the misfortune to be captured in the affair of Monday last at Bear Creek and were on Tuesday brought on board this ship where we are detained as prisoners of war…we are in captivity & distressed (not one of us having a change of raiment, a blanket, or cent of money – some have no coats, others no vests or shoes). Should not an immediate arrangement be made for our benefit, we expect to be sent to England…We pray an immediate attention may be paid to our situation by a flag of truce…Several of us being already very unwell, we fear confinement by fever which will be certain death in our situation…”

 Independent Company, 5th Maryland Regt.; Thomas Bailey, Talbot Jones, Edward Murray, Frederick Seyler, and William Jenkins.

Independent Blues – 5th  Maryland Regt.; Francis M. Wills, George Heidelbach, William Levely, Richard Lawson, John Huzza.

First Baltimore Sharp Shooters – 1st Battalion Maryland Riflemen; Thomas G. Prettyman, and John Howard.

Patriot Company, 5th Maryland Regt.; Benjamin Meredith.

United Volunteers, 5th Maryland Regt.; Henry W. Gray, and John G. Poug.

Union Volunteers, 5th Maryland Regt.; George Collins, and Henry Suter

1st Mechanical Volunteers, 5th Maryland Regt.; John Redgrave.  

51st Maryland Regt.; Andrew Miller, John Kepler, Morgan Carson, Adam Miller, Andrew Cole, Peter Stedman, Patrick B. Powell, John Kesler, and Adam Miller.

27th Maryland Regt.; John Fordyce, Ephraim Nash.

39th Maryland Regt; William Baltzell, Lewis Baltzell.

Non-combatants – Daniel Wells, Joseph G. Whitney

Two other British warships also held American prisoners of war from North Point.

 Onboard HM frigate Surprise – William B. Buchanan, Ezekiel Partett, Peter Abraham, James Gettings, Edward H. Dorsey, John Lowleas, William Balson, John Griffin, Thomas Herring, George Boyle, Richard Polkinhorn, Thomas Norris, Andrew Kaufman, and George T. Hersey.

 Onboard HM frigate SevernJohn Chesley, John Baxley, Nicholas Wilson, Joseph Chaoman, and John Dougherty.

 In October they were released under the efforts of Colonel John S. Skinner, prisoner of war exchange agent for the U.S. State Department, who only recently had been with attorney Francis Scott Key on board a flag-of-truce vessel and had witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry.

Sources: Letter dated September 17, 1814, onboard HBM frigate Havanna. Samuel Smith Papers, Reel 2, Container 2-3., Library of Congress; Baltimore American & Commercial Daily Adv., September 26, 1814.

British Prisoners at North Point, Sept. 1814

In the early hours of September 14, 1814, the British began their withdraw from Baltimore down the North Point Road towards their awaqiting transports at North Point.  Captain James Bird’s U.S. Light Dragoons engaged the rear guard and captured the following prisoners.

William Corndoff……Corporal…..21st Royal Scots Fusileers

Hugh Brown………….Private……..21st Royal Scots Fusileers

Michael Boyle……….private……..21st Royal Scots Fusileers

George Hood………..private……..21st Royal Scots Fusileers

William Armor……..private……..21st Royal Scots Fusileers

Archibald Cotz……..private……..21st Royal Scots Fusileers

Charles Scoffin……..private………21st Royal Scots Fusileers

Joseph Davenport..private……….44th Regiment

William Matthews…private…………4th Regiment

William Riley……….private…………4th Regiment

William Hochreday.private…………4th Regiment

Edward Allison…….private………….4th Regiment

These British prisoners were taken under guard by Ensign Presley Cordell, 57th Virginia Militia to Frederick Town, Maryland arriving September 17 where District Marshall & Agent for Prisoners Capt. Morris Jones took charge of them. Thier final deposition is unknown.

Source: William H. Winder Papers, Maryland Historical Society.