War of 1812
Thinking that they were intending to loot and burn, Reed prepared his men for an opportunity which I had sought for several days to strike the enemy. During his march it was discovered that the British were in search of the militia. Reed immediately gave orders to remove the camp and to countermarch and form on the rising ground about three hundred paces to the rear – the right towards Caulk’s House, and the left retiring on the road, the artillery in the center, supported by the infantry on the right and left.
As the 170 British marines moved ashore, along with British sailors, American pickets exchanged fire, alerting the rest of the militia. From three miles away Colonel Reed heard the exchange and mobilized his 174 men toward the enemy. The Americans returned to the cornfield that belonged to Isaac Caulk and took position near their camp, taking the time to block the cutoff through the woods and stationing riflemen in ambush. The British charged up the hill toward the militia’s cannon, and Col. Reed ordered the men to fire, killing and wounding several British. As the fire continued, the Americans’ ammunition began to run low. Reed ordered the men to fall back, and planned to fight on with a few troops while the others fled to Belle Air. But the British didn’t attack again. Sir Peter Parker had been mortally wounded and died soon after being carried off the field. His body was preserved in a barrel and shipped to Bermuda for burial, to be later exhumed and returned to England.
Local legend has it that Parker’s body was taken to the nearby Mitchell House, pickled by the Americans and sent back to England. This might have been confused with the documented story that Major Joseph Thomas Mitchell was taken by the British from his home, suspected of being the commissary general for Maryland. Some accounts indicate he was held in England for several years following
The Battle of Caulk’s Field provided a rare victory of militia over British forces, lifting the morale of Americans far beyond the borders of Kent County.
Huzza for the Militia! was the headline as the actions of Kent County militia were applauded throughout the land. Perhaps their victory bolstered the determination of the defenders of Baltimore, who prevailed through the
bombardment of Fort McHenry on September 13 and 14, inspiring the words of Francis Scott Key, which were later put to the tune of an old British drinking song, possibly by Key’s brother-in-law, Joseph Nicholson of Chestertown.
Whatever the ramifications of the actions of local militia at Caulk’s Field, there is no question that this was a shining hour in Kent County history.
The war ended as the year drew to a close. The Treaty of Ghent was signed December 24, although not ratified by the U.S. Senate until February 16, 1815. News of peace hadn’t reached the Gulf of Mexico when Andrew Jackson led a novel-worthy army of pirates, black troops, Indians and Tennessee sharp-shooters in a brilliant and highly successful defense at the Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815.
Nothing was gained by the war, no changes in maritime practices were mentioned in the Treaty, and all boundaries returned to their pre-war state.
The new nation moved forward. Steamships would cross the Bay in less than 20 years. The Industrial Revolution was ahead, and would transform the world within decades. It would be 46 more years until another war, deadlier and more terrifying, would turn Americans against each other.
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