From August 5-27, 1813 the British established a base on Kent Island for a naval and land assault on Kent Island, Queenstown (Aug 13) and St. Michaels (Aug.10, 26). Soon afterwards on August 31st Rear Admiral George Cockburn left Kent Island with his squadron of thirty-three ships for Bermuda. Left in command of the Chesapeake was Captain Robert Barrie, HM ship-of-the-line Dragon with a squadron of six ships to continue the blockade until Admiral Cockburn’s return the following spring. Captain Barrie gathered his squadron near Point Look Out and St. Jerome’s Creek, St. Mary’s County, Maryland. From here our story begins.
In late August a barge from HM brig Mohawk, Capt. Litchfield, was sounding the shores about the mouth of St Jerome’s Creek on the bay side six miles north of Point Lookout. An accompanying frigate (either HM frigate Conflict or Lacedemonian) “kept a light at the mast-head, all night, supposed for the purpose of shewing the negroes the position of the ship for better facility in getting to her…”
A negro slave and his wife the property of a farmer Caleb Jones, and another the property of a Samuel Bean near St. Jerome’s Creek, absconded from their masters and went onboard HM brig Mohawk near Point Lookout. Caleb Jones was an ensign in the 12th Maryland Regiment (St. Mary’s Co.) under Captain Matthew Wise Simmones. On the night of August 25th to the surprise of Mr. Jones, his former slave, now a free slave, guided twelve or fifteen British soldiers to the farm with his slave “armed with a brace of pistols and a sword treated his master very insolently…”
They took from the plantation all six or seven of his remaining negroes, taking his livestock, house contents and several other negroes in the neighborhood. Such was one of the scenes in southern Maryland as lanterns in the mast-heads of a British warship guided slaves towards freedom. By mid November Captain Barrie was able to report that
“The Slaves continue to come off by every opportunity and I have now upwards of 120 men, women and Children on board, I shall send about 50 of them to Bermuda in the Conflict. Among the Slaves are several very intelligent fellows who are willing to act as local guides should their Services be required in that way, and if their assertions be true, there is no doubt but the Blacks of Virginia and Maryland would cheerfully take up Arms and join us against the Americans.”
Sources: The squadron under Captain Barrie consisted of HM ship-of-the-line Dragon (Capt. Robert Barrie); HM frigate Lacedemonian (Capt. Samuel Jackson); HM frigate Conflict (Capt. Edward T. Toubridge); HM brig-sloop Sophie (Capt. Nicholas Lockyer); HM brig sloop Actaeon (Capt. Bertie C. Caton); and HM brig Mohawk (Capt. Henry Litchfield). The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History, Volume 2, Ed. William S. Dudley, (Washington: Naval Historical Center, 1992), 384-86, 395-96; The British Invasion of Maryland, 1812-1815 by Wm M. Marine (Genealogical Pub. Co., reprint, 1977); Captain Robert Barrie to Admiral John B. Warren, November 14, 1814. Printed in The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History, vol. 2, Ed. By William S. Dudley (Washington: Naval Historical Center, 1992), 393-394; Baltimore American & Commercial Daily Adv., August 31, 1813; Baltimore Patriot, August 31, 1813; Easton Republican Star, October 20, 1807.