the battle of caulks field
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DESCRIPTIONRock Hall Historical Collection
GENERALPHILIP REEDPhilipReed was born in Kent County in 1760. He was
well known for his activities at the Battle of Caulk's Fieldand as a United States Senator. He owned a farm at Hunt-ingfield and was apparently living there at the time ofhis death.
According to the Biographical Directory of AmericanCongress his many activities were summarized as follows:
"PHILIP REED - Completed preparatory studies;servedinRevolutionaryWar and attained rank of Cap-tain of Infantry; Member of the Maryland House ofDelegates 1787; Sheriff of Kent County 1791-1794;Member Executive Council 1805-1806; Resigned;Elected to U.S. Senate in 1806 to fill the vacancy ofRobertWright; Re -e Iected same year and served fromNovember 25, 1806, to March 3, 1813; Lt. Colonel,21st Regiment, Maryland Militia, in 1814, when de-feated British at Caulk's Field; in recognition madeBrigadier General of Maryland Militia; elected to 15thCongress (March 4, 1817 to March 3, 1819) defeatedin 1818; successfully contested election of JeremiahCosden to 17th Congress. Served March 19, 1822 toMarch 3, 1823; died November 2, 1823 at Hunting-town=, Kent County, Md.; interment in cemetery atChrists Church, near Chestertown, Md.The Hon, William M. Marine speaking at the unveiling
ceremony of 1902 had the following to say of GeneralReed, "You shall hear at this moment of a real hero; onewho was idolized within and without this county; onewhom you had nearly forgotten, whose life and record asfar as it is possible, shall be placed before you. Hence-forth from this day you reinstate him on the throne of youraffectionate remembrance."
*Probably Huntingfield because General Reed owned afarm at Huntingfi eld,SOMEEVENTS IN AND AROUND ROCK HALL
DURING THE WAR OF 1812(Reprinted from an Oration by the Hon, William M. Marine)
The entire State was divided into military districts.Kent district was designated as the sixth, and was underthe command of Brigadier General Benjamin Chambers.Colonel Reed commanded a regiment of less than thefull complement of men necessary to constitute one. Hewas looked to to do the fighting. Among his soldiers wasa troop of horsemen commanded by Captain Wilson. Thesubjoined entries are from that company's book. Oppositeone of the soldier's name is this entry: "Returns in goodtime." Opposite the name of another: "Leave of absenceuntil to- morrow." A further one has: "This day joinedthe troops." The method of their detailment is thus dis-closed: " 9thMay, 1813 - Sunday, Guard No.2 at RichardMiller's: class 1 relieved for a week if not sooner calledonby class No.2. This day week the troop was split intotwo classes, viz: 1 class, whose tour commenced 2d May,Sunday, 8 o'clock A.M." A class consisted of about 20persons. New classes were formed in times of invasion.When English ships appeared, the troops, which, duringtheir absence, were permitted to go to their homes, re-ported for active service. The following entry illustratesthat method: "May 15th, Thursday, order received forour troops to disband." A further sample order reads ofdate June 5th: "The troops met on Wharton Commons;"still another of date July 27th: "State payroll was madeout for time of service of the troop while on the bayshore." The horse-men were actively kept in the saddle."August 7th, Saturday, the troop started for Rock Hall."
During an encampment at Rock Hall, a heavy easter-ly gale accompanied by rain made the ground muddy.The tents were uncomfortable, and the men complainedthat they had tosleep upon the wet ground. Colonel Reedsent for Michael Miller, acting quartermaster, and pre-tended to berate him for carelessness, which Miller, whowas a wag, perfectly well understood, was with the in-tentionofpacifying the men who were grumbling at theiraccommodations.
"Quarter-master Miller," said Reed, "my men mustnot sleep on the wet ground, and you must get straw forthem, and right away, sir-to-night, sir, and at once, sir."
"But," pleaded the Quarter-master, "itis night now andlate, and it cannot be done."
"But it must be done, sir, and I will hold you responsibleif it is not done, for disobedience of an order. Go andget straw; take it from anywhere around here; take cartsand oxen and bring it, and do you go at once, sir." Millerwent off and after midnight returned with the straw, whichpleased the men. Reed complimented Miller for hispromptness in executing his order, after which he rec-ognized one of his slaves. He wished to know from himwhat he was doing there. He then learned that Miller hadpassed everyone's farm until he had reached Reed'sHuntingfield farm, where he ordered the Colonel's slavesto yoke up his oxen and load the carts with straw and drivethem with it to the tents.
When the British encamped on Kent Island, Reed wasapprehensive lest they should cross the Chester River inlarge force and devastate the farms. He resorted to aclever stratagem. He directed his cavalry, which as wehave seen, was a small force, to cross from what is nowR. B.Willson's farm, known as Trumpington, to the Jonesfarm on Eastern Neck Island. The crossing was in fullview ofthe enemy's lookout-boats stationed in the mouthof the Chester River; hours were apparently consumed indoing so, but it was the little force counter-marching andrecrossing all the while in a ferry scow.
Such stratagems were more than once resorted to dur-ing the war of 1812. Indeed, the science of that strugglewas immensely similar to the tactics and ruses of theRevolution. There was slight improvement in arms ortactics until a much later period.
About this time two sentinels were stationed on theHuntingfield farm towatch the outlook-boats of the Britishat the mouth of the Chester River. The sentinels hadpaced their weary rounds through the night. On beholdingthe streaks of daylight in the east, their muskets grewheavier from fatigue. One of the sentinels said to theother one: "I am sick from hunger. I had nothing to eatlast night; itistimewe were relieved; they have forgottenabout us, and I am going to hunt for something to eat.""But," said his comrade, "should you leave your post andit get to the Colonel's ears, you will be undone." Thesentinel went off, and in a short time there was such ahowling that the sentinel at his post thought one of theblack regiments of slaves formed by the British weremarching in his direction. Looking up he saw his brothersentinel returning with a pone of corn cake, through whichhe had rammed his bayonet, followed by women andchildren in blabbing despair at having lost their breakfastbread. The sentinel happened by one of the slave's hutsas the bread was taken out of the oven; it was too hot forhis hands so he ran his bayonet through it and marchedoff. Rejoining his associate, he said: "Here is provinder- - we are all right now."
BATTLEOF CAULK'S FIELD(Reprinted by special permission of Lewis Historical
Society and Charles B. Clark)All Maryland hadbeen alerted. Across the Chesapeake
Baybodies of volunteers were camped ready to move at amoment's notice. In Kent the Twenty-first Regiment ofMaryland Militia under Colonel Philip A. Reed was en-camped at Bellair, now known as Fairlee, situated aboutfive miles from the Bay shore and about seven miles westof Chestertown. The regiment consisted of five companiesof infantry, one cavalry and one artillery company, in alljust 174 men. They had five pieces of artillery and werefairly well equipped with guns, pistols, and swords, but hadonly twenty rounds of ammunition for each man. PercyGranger Skirven's account of developments is herewithpresented:
Late Saturday afternoon, August twenty-seventh,news reached Col. Reed that a frigate was headed upthe bay abreast of Swan Point and with her were twosmaller vessels. A strong southerly breeze filled theirsails and they came bounding up the Chesapeake overthe white caps presenting a beautiful sight. This shipwas the MENELAUScommanded by Captain Sir PeterParker, Bart. She carried in addition to her regularcrew about one hundred and twenty soldiers. She wasarmed with thirty-eight guns -- only six less than ourthen famous war ship Constitution.
That Sir Peter Parker was ordered to make a "dr-27
version'von the Eastern Shore is verified by the follow-ing extract from a letter to the Admiralty writtenSeptember 1st, 1814, by Vice Admiral Cochrane thenon board the Flagship TONNANT in the Patuxent Riv-er. "Captain Sir Peter Parker on the HENELAUSwithsome small vessels was sent up the Chesapeake aboveBaltimore to 'divert the attention' of the enemy inthat quarter."
The most important part of "diverting the attentionof the enemy" was to prevent the troops from crossingthe Bay to the assistance of Baltimore. Captain SirPeter Parker was ordered to capture when possible thesmall bodies of American soldiers, to b urn the farmhouses along the Bay shore and to har.ass the people inevery possible way.
Following the instructions of his superior officer hebrought his vessels to anchor late Saturday night off themoughofFairlee Creek. Sunday morning, August 28th,Captain Parker landed about one hundred men on thefarm known as "Skidmore," then owned by Mr. JohnWaltham, where they burned every building on thefarm together with all the wheat in the granary, as wellas in the stacks in the field. According to a letterwritten from Chestertown on September 6th, 1814 tothe WEEKLYSTAR published in Easton, Talbot County,Maryland, Mr. Waltham sustained a loss of eight thou-sand dollars. On the following Tuesday morning,August 30th, the farm belonging to Richard Frisby,Esq., then living in Baltimore, was raided and build-ings burned. His farm of 422 acres in Kent County justnorth of Fairlee Creek was part of the grant known as"Great Oak Manor." He sustained a loss of not lessthan six thousand dollars.
That night the Menelaus dropped down the Bay andanchored off the shore about a mile to the north of thefarm on which T'olchester Beach is now located, a-breast of "Chantilly," the farm recently owned byCaptain William 1. Rasin, The day had been hot andsultry ••.
Captain Parker ••• had been told by one of the NegroesonMr. Frisby's farm that morning that about two hundredmilitia were encamped behind a woods about a half mileinland from where his vessel lay at anchor. The Negrointentionally misled them as the troops under Col. Reedwere FIVE miles away! Sir Peter Parker determined tosurprise and capture this body of soldiers late in the night.It has recently been stated ••• that Sir Peter Parker madethe statement on leaving the vessel that night that hewould eat his breakfast in "Chestertown or hell." Thisstatement is entirely without foundation and is an unwar-ranted aspersion on the character of the man. There isno historical evidence that he even thought of attackingChestertown. Captain Sir Peter Parker, his chief officerHenry Crease and his Lieutenant Pearce together discussedthat evening the proposed attack on the American camp.They formed their plans and determined to wait until aftermidnightto land the soldiers and seamen on the shores ofHistoric old Kent •••
At Bellair, out in the country about five miles fromwhere the vessels lay at anchor, Col. Reed, who had foughtthe British in the War of the Revolution, discussed withhis officers and a few of the leading citizens of the Countythe plans to meet the threatened attack of the British.He had sent pickets to the Bay Shore to give warningwhen there was a landing made by Sir Peter Parker.
About twelve o'clock at night, one of those picketsbrought word to Col, Reed that Captain Parker "had landedabout one hundred and fifty men" and was marchingeastward out the road past the north end of the "BigSwamp." The moon had risen and threw long shadows overthe fields, making objects in the mist less distinguishablethan they otherwise would be. Col. Reed lost no time inordering the militia to advance at once. They proceededtoward the Chesapeake Bay, crossing the "Tulip Forest,""Eccleston" and the "Everest" farms and reached the ridgeon the high ground on Mr. Isaac Caulk's farm justto thesouth of his house, at about half past twelve.
To the left of the ridge the main road ran down towardsthe Bay. To the right of this road a strip of heavy timberstretched away to the west. Immediately in front of his
position Col. Reed could see the open low land of "Moore'sField" -- fifty acres perhaps of cleared land. Here Col.Reed halted his men, forming in position to cover theprobable advance of the enemy.
The following letter written by Col. Reed to Brig. Gen.Benj. Chambers gives a very excellent description of thearrangement of the troops as well as a fair account of theengagement and result:
"Camp at Belle Air.3rd Sept. 1814.
Sir:I avail myself of the first moment I have been able
to seize from incessant labor, to inform you that abouthalf past eleven o'clock in the night of the 30th ult., Ireceived information that barges of the enemy, then lay-ing off Waltham's farm were moving in shore. I con-cluded their object was to land and burn houses, etc. atWaltham's and made the necessary arrangements to pre-vent them and to be prepared for an opportunity which Ihad sought for several days, to strike the enemy. Duringour march to the point threatened it was discovered thatthe blow was aimed at our camp.
Orders were immediately given to the Quarter Masterto remove the camp and baggage, and to the troops tocountermarch, pass the road by the right of our camp, andform on the rising ground about three hundred paces to therear -- the right towards Caulk's House, and the left re-tiring on the road, the artillery in the centre, supported bythe infantry on the right and left.
I directed Captain Wickes and his Second LieutenantBeck with a part of the rifle company to be formed so asto cover the road by which the enemy marched, and withthis section I determined to post myself, leaving the lineto be formed under the direction of Major Wickes and Cap-tain Chambers.
The head of the enemy's column soon presented itself,and received the fire of our advance party at seventy pacesdistance, and being pressed by numbers vastly superior, Irepaired to my post on the line, having ordered the rifle-men to return and form on the right of the line.
The fire now became general along the whole line andwas sustained by our troops with the most determinedvalor. The enemy pressed our front; foiled in this he threwhimself upon our left flank which was occupied by Capt.Chambers' company. Here, too, his efforts were unavail-ing. His fire had nearly ceased when I was informed thatin some parts of our line the cartridges were entirely ex-pended, nor did any of the boxes contain more than a fewrounds, although each man brought about twenty into thefield. The artillery cartridges were entirely expended.
Under these circumstances, I ordered the line to fallback to a convenient spot where a part of the line forti-fied when the few remaining cartridges were distributedamongst a part of the line, which was again brought intothe field, where it remained for a considerable time, thenight preventing pursuit. The artillery and infantry forwhom there were no cartridges, were ordered to this place(Belle Air).
The enemy having made every effort in his power, al-though apprized of our falling back manifested no disposi-tion to follow us up but retreated about the time our am-munition was exhausted. When it is recollected that veryfew of our officers or men had ever heard the whistling ofa ball; that the force of the enemy, as the most accurateinformation enables us to estimate, was double ours; thatit was commanded by Sir Peter Parker of the MENELAUSone of the most distinguished officers of the British Navyand composed (as their officers admitted in subsequentconversation) of as fine men as could be selected fromthe British service, I feel justified in the assertion that thegallantry of the officers and men engaged on this occasioncould not be excelled by any troops.
The officers and men performed their duty. It is how-ever but an act of justice to notice those officers whoseemed to display more than a common degree of gal-lantry. Major Wickes and Captain Chambers were con-spicuous; Captain Wickes and his Lieutenant John Beckof the rifle corps, Lieutenant (Eunick) and Ensign Wm.Skirven of Captain Chambers' Company exerted them-selves, as did Captain Hynson and his Lieutenant Grant,