Francis Scott Key’s Death Biography: Old St. Paul’s to Mount Olivet Cemetery

On January 14, 1843 three days following his death of pleurisy at the age of sixty-three, Baltimore’s Niles’ Weekly Register reported his death:

“Francis Key, Esq., late U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, died suddenly whilst on a visit to his son-n-law, Mr. Howard, of Baltimore on the 12th inst. He was a man of a very high order of talent…He was the author of the deservedly popular national song, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Key was visiting his oldest daughter Elizabeth Phobe Key Howard (1803-1897), the wife of Dr. Charles Howard (1802-1869), youngest son of Revolutionary War veteran Brigadier General John Edgar Howard (1752-1827). The site of the Howard’s home (c.1853) is where now stands the United Methodist-Episcopal Church (built 1870) at 10 East Mount Vernon Place. His father’s mansion of “Belvedere” was located further north. Following the funeral (in which no narrative is known to have survived) Key’s remains were placed in the brick vault of the Howard family in Old St. Paul’s Cemetery in Baltimore. Here he rested with his wife Mary Tayloe Lloyd Key (1784-1859) daughter of Governor Edward Lloyd of Wye House until removed to Frederick, Maryland in 1866 and buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery. In 1898 the Key Monument Association  dedicated the monument we view to day over Mr. & Mrs. Key’s grave.

“His patriotism will survive forever in his song.” Alexandria Gazette, January 14, 1843.

Advertisements
Published in: on February 14, 2014 at 4:24 pm  Comments (1)  

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:

http://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc5300/sc5339/000243/000000/000002/restricted/msa_sc_5339_243_2-0082.pdf

Approve  Trash | Mark as Spam

“The Star-Spangled Banner” and Divine Providence for the Colors of Red, White and Blue.

The answers as to what the colors and stars of the flag stand for in their symbolism are many. With the many patriotic and veteran organizations and official armed services various interpretations, there seems to be debate on who has the right answer. Herein the following are those interpretations of the founding fathers of our flag and symbolism of the Great Seal of the United States. These represent the earliest known, as yet, of the true meanings that we give to the flag. The symbols and colors reflect the Founding Fathers’ beliefs, values, sovereignty and interpretations of the new Nation.

Flag Act of  June 14, 1777 – The Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act: “Resolved,That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”  No references or origins were given to the colors at the time of their adoption. However five years later in 1782 a specified reference is given.

The Great Seal of June 20. 1782 – Unlike the flag Act of 1777, the colors of the Great Seal had specific meanings as reported on June 20, 1782 by Charles Thompson, the Secretary of the Continental Congress, who was present at the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 introduced this design for the new Seal of the United States:  “The colors of the pales are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness and valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.”

On the Fourth of July 1840 the Boston, Massachusetts Emancipator and Republican newspaper gave the following interpretation that the author believes reflects those earlier meanings attributed to the flag.

 “The white stripes may remind us of the justice of our cause, and the honest principles that urged the Declaration of Independence; while, at the same time, they are expressive of the purity of virtue.”

“The red stripes will remind us that those primal patriots so loved liberty and their native land, that they were willing to shed their blood in the sacred cause.”

“The blue field, (or square,) is emblematic of the prosperity enjoyed in the smiles of good Providence, shining out upon us from heaven, and cheering us like a clear blue sky. The stars are an emblem of light, – of the light of the Gospel, – of civil and religious liberty. They are the emblems also of hope. The star of freedom is the hope of the world, for each earthly blessing, from a hand divine. Our star of freedom sheds a light, revealing to man the knowledge of his natural rights, and the value of them.”

 “The stars are an emblem of light, – of the light of the Gospel, – of civil and religious liberty. They are the emblems also of hope.”

Sources: “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Emancipator and Republican (Mass.), July 2, 1840; Reports of the Continental Congress, 1775-1782.

Published in: on June 27, 2011 at 12:22 am  Leave a Comment  

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  

Battle Acre: A Deed of Land by Dr. Jacob Houck (1792-1850) “for the purpose of erecting a Monument thereon….”

On the eve of the 25th Anniversary of the Battle of North Point, a prominent physician of medicine and purveyor of his famous “Houck’s Remedies” gave to the State of Maryland an acre of land on the battlefield for the princely sum of One Dollar. His gift today is known as Battle Acre along the North Point Road in Baltimore County.

He was born in Frederick County, the son of a prominent merchant, and came to be a graduate of the Maryland University School of Medicine. In December 1839 he purchased the land called “Swan Harbour” and soon thereafter built “one of the most splendid hotels in the vicinity,” that became known as “Houck’s Pavilion” that for years thereafter served as a prominent annual commemorative gathering site for the Old Defenders’ of Baltimore. 

The following is an extract of the deed of land to the State of Maryland.

“Know all men by these presents, that I Jacob Houck of the city and county of Baltimore in the State of Maryland am held and firmly bound unto the State of Maryland in the full and just sum of one Dollar lawful money to be paid to the said state, or to its attorney to the payment whereof. I bind myself, my heirs Executors and Administrators firmly by these presents, sealed with my seal, and dated this eleventh day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty nine.

Whereas the said Jacob Houck in consideration of the sum of one dollar to him paid at or before the sealing and delivery hereof, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged and also delivered good causes and valuable considerations herein thereunto moving, hath contracted to give grant and convey or to cause and procure to be granted and conveyed unto the said state this or part of a tract, piece or parcel of herein after described the same constituting a part of the North Point Battle Ground “for the purpose of erecting a Monument thereon.” Now the Condition of the foregoing obligation is such, that the said Jacob Houck, or his heirs do and shall within six months next ensuing the date hereof, grant and convey, or cause and procure to be granted and conveyed to the State of Maryland aforesaid, to be held by the said State for ever, for the use and purpose aforesaid. All that Lot or parcel of Land situated and lying in Baltimore County aforesaid being part of a tract called “Swan Harbour” which is contained  within the meter and bounds, courses and distances following, that is to say; Beginning for the same part at a stone standing in the ground on the southwestern most side of the road leaving from the City of Baltimore to North Point…” [the remainder of document shows survey points of distances.]

For 75 years no monument was erected, despite the elaborated ceremonies held on September 12, 1839. A granite monument was finally dedicated in 1914 on the centennial of the battle.

Jacob Wever Houck was the father of Mrs. Ella Virginia Houck (Mrs. Reuben Ross Holloway/1862-1940) who often was described as the “number one patriot in Baltimore” who consistently advocated for the making The Star-Spangled Banner” the official national anthem and other patriotic causes. Dr. Jacob Houck, Sr. died in 1850 and is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in West Baltimore.

Source: Baltimore County Court (Land Records) TK 292, pp. 246-247 Jacob Houck, “Swan Harbor,” 11 September 1839 [MSA CE 66-342]. His son, not to be confused with his father, was Dr. Jacob Wever Houck, Jr. (1822-1888); The Sun, May 23, 1888.

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  

The Star-Spangled Banner: Why 15 Stars and 15 Stripes?

On June 14, 1777 the Second Continental Congress at Philadelphia representing the thirteen colonies then situated along the eastern seaboard with the exception of Maine (1820) and Florida (1845) passed the following resolution:

“Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

Eighteen years later the U.S. Flag Act of January 13, 1794 was signed by President George Washington altering the flag design with the admission of Vermont (1791) and Kentucky (1792) into the Union providing for fifteen stripes as well as fifteen stars.

“An Act making an alteration in the Flag of the United States Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress Assembled, That from and after the first day of May, Anno Domini, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-five, the flag of the United States, be fifteen stripes alternate red and white. That the Union be fifteen stars, white in a blue field.”

Thus on June 18, 1812 with a declaration of War with England there were only 15 stars and stripes represented on the Fort McHenry flag, though there were actually 18 states with the admission of Tennessee (1796), Ohio (1803) and Louisiana (1812).

On April 4, 1818, a new Flag Act was signed by President James Monroe provided what is still honored today:

An Act to establish the flag of the United States. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress Assembled, That from and after the fourth day of July next, the flag of the United States be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white: that the union be twenty stars, white in a blue field. And be it further enacted, That on the admission of every new state into the Union, one star be added to the union of the flag; and that such addition shall take effect of the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission

In 1907 the descendants of Lt. Colonel George Armistead, the commander of Fort McHenry during the war, presented the original star-spangled banner to the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. A replica of this flag is flown by the National Park Service at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore, Maryland. by Presidential Proclamation day and night.

.

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 8:33 pm  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).

“Defence of Fort McHenry” – Words of the National Anthem

September 14, 1814, 9 A.M.“At this time our morning gun was fired, the flag hoisted, Yankee Doodle played, and we all appeared in full view of a formidable and mortified enemy, who calculated upon our surrender in 20 minutes after the commencement of the action.” Joseph Hopper Nicholson, U.S. Volunteers at Fort McHenry to a friend, September 17, 1814.

It was at this moment,  that a 38 year old Georgetown lawyer, Francis Scott Key, witnessed from an American flag-of-truce vessel, the President, admist the British fleet, the great garrison flag (42’x 30′) over Fort McHenry. The following is from a handbill that was distributed to every soldier at Fort McHenry soon after the bombardment.

********

DEFENCE OF FORT McHENRY

The annexed song was composed under the following circumstances – A gentleman had left Baltimore, in a flag of truce for the purpose of getting released from the British fleet, a friend [Dr. William Beanes] who had been captured at [Upper] Marlborough. He went as far as the mouth of the Patuxent, and was not permitted to return lest the intended attack on Baltimore should be disclosed. He was therefore brought up the Bay to the mouth of the Patapsco, where the flag vessel was kept under the guns of a frigate [HMS Surprise], and he was compelled to witness the bombardment of Fort M’Henry, which the Admiral had boasted that he would carry in a few hours, and that the city must fall. He watched the flag at the Fort through the whole day with an anxiety that can be better felt than described, until the night prevented him from seeing it. In the night he watched the Bomb Shells, and at early dawn his eye was again greeted by the proudly waving flag of his country.

Tune -ANACREON IN HEAVEN.

O! say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?

And the Rocket’s red glare, the Bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our Flag was still there;

 

O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,

O’er  the Land of the free, and the home of the brave?

 

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected new shines in the stream,

 

‘Tis the star spangled banner, – O! long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

 

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,

A home and a country, should leave us no more?

Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps pollution.

No refuse could save the hireling and slave,

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,

 

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,

O’er the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

 

O! thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,

Between their lov’d home, and the war’s desolation,

Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land,

Praise the Power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto – “In God is our Trust;”

And the star-spangled Banner in triumph shall wave,

O’er the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

*  *  *  *  *

On September 20, 1814, the Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser published the words. Within the year every newspaper in the eighteen states had also published it.

Sources: One of the rare copies of the “Defence of Fort McHenry” handbills is at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore.

Published in: on April 3, 2011 at 10:50 pm  Leave a Comment