Edward Maddox of Baltimore and the War of 1812

Next year commemorates the Bicentennial of the War of 1812Maryland has a long list of events planned, culminating in a reenactment of the Battle of Baltimore in 1814.  The War of 1812 is often called a “forgotten war” and nationally, Baltimore’s part is most remembered for the bombing of Ft. McHenry, and Francis Scott Key’s composition of our national anthem.

For the Maddox family, the War of 1812 was a personal experience.  After leaving Bel Air for the city of Baltimore around 1810, they were swept into larger events.  By 1813, Edward Maddox (John’s son) and his wife Rachel were living in a house on Howard street near Fayette.   Now– “Google Map” Howard at Fayette, Baltimore.  Pick Street View.  Take a look around.  The massive Bank of America, the McDonald’s, the pawn shop…strip it away.  In each direction, peel back all of what you see.  Now, in your mind, repopulate the street with small frame houses, perhaps a few scattered homes made of brick.  That was the Maddox family’s view of Baltimore.

Edward and Rachel had three daughters at this point—Mary Anne (born 1806), Charlotte (born 1809) and Eliza Jane (born 1813). War had been declared on June 19, 1812, but earlier, in January, an “Act to Regulate and Discipline the Militia had passed.  This act said “That all able-bodied white male citizens, between 18 and 45 years of age, and residents of this state … shall be subject to do militia duty…” Edward Maddox, aged 31, enlisted as a private in Fowler’s 39th regiment of the Maryland Militia.  The militia was not part of the regular army.  They met and drilled at set times in preparation for being called into battle.

For Edward and all the citizen-soldiers of Baltimore the time for real battle arrived at noon On Sunday, September 11, 1814.  British ships were sighted in the harbor, and cannons were fired from the courthouse to call the troops to prepare for battle.  Many citizens and soldiers were attending church services at the time.  The pastor of the Light Street Methodist Church (where Edward and Rachel attended) “dismissed his congregation with the benediction, ‘The Lord Bless King George, convert him, and take him to heaven, as we want no more of him.”   “The militia gathered at their rendezvous points and drew a day’s rations and thirty-six rounds of ammunition.”  Edward’s regiment and others marched that evening to Northpoint, and engaged the British there.

At dawn September 13, Rachel Maddox, aged 28, her daughters, aged 6, 4 and 10 months, awoke (if they slept) to the sound of bombs.  The British were shelling Ft. McHenry, the guardian of the mouth of the harbor, and the shelling would continue for 25 hours. The houses in the city were shaken to their foundations, for never…were the same number of pieces fired with so rapid succession….”  I can only imagine the noise and smoke and the threat of imminent invasion was terrifying.

By the 14th, the Battle of Baltimore had ended in an American victory.  Ross, the British General who had burned Washington, D.C. was dead; Francis Scott Key (during his long night on a truce ship in the harbor) had written the Star Spangled Banner, and Baltimore was an inspiration to the rest of the country.  Edward’s role in the war is documented for us in muster rolls, and in a cryptic letter found in the archives of Harford County, written two months later:

Know all men by those present that I Edward Maddox have and by (illegible) present do nominate authorize constitute and appoint my friend John Wilson to ask demand and receive my pay for services rendered to the United States in the thirty ninth Regiment of Maryland Militia and to give a good and sufficient receipt and discharge for the same in as full and ample measure as I could do if personally proffered.  Given under my hand year the 21st November 1814.

Syned (sic) sealed and delivered in the presence of and acknowledged before the Subscriber and of the Justices of the Peace for Baltimore County:  Oneil Donnel.  Edward Maddox “X” His Mark.”

For reasons yet unknown, Edward was unable to go in person to receive his pay for his stint in the militia, so he gave a friend power of attorney to do so for him.  Was he wounded?  Did a personal matter call him back to Harford County?  I have ordered his military files in hopes of finding a clue.

Quotations are from Scharf, John Thomas.  The Chronicles of Baltimore; being a complete history of “Baltimore Town” and Baltimore City from the earliest period to the present time. Turnball Brothers.  Baltimore, 1874.

Who John Maddox of Harford County was NOT

Since little old ladies have been getting together and forming lineage societies, little old ladies have been creating fantastical ancestral lines for their families.  In years past, no one was interested in “social history”, only “high society’s history”.  If you didn’t fit in (but had enough money) your true past and that of your ancestors could be “doctored up” a bit, and poof!  you were part of a family that belonged to SOMEONE.

The definition of SOMEONE varies a bit, but generally SOMEONE was a wealthy landowner who arrived in whatever colony FIRST.  Maryland has such a Maddox family– a “first” Maddox family, who arrived very early on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Back in the 1960s, one of Edward and Rachel Maddox’s descendents tried to join the Daughters of the American Revolution.  The right money must have been bandied around, because the ladies at the DAR library did their darndest and they squeezed my Edward right into someone else’s family tree.

THAT family, that is not OUR family has a book about them:  Maddox: A Southern Maryland Family, which you can read if you like.  It has lots of chapters on very important FIRST people.  The DAR ladies did so fine a job squeezing our Edward into this family (in spite of some glaring problems with, say, years of birth and death to start) that they went ahead and hooked us to ANOTHER first family and pretty soon my Maddoxes were sashaying off the Arc and the Dove… yes both.  Because that’s how COOL those FIRST families were.  More recently, a researcher I don’t know on Ancestry.com has mooched off my research on the Maddox family and then went on to desperately cram John Maddox of Harford County into the life of Captain John Maddox of St. Mary’s County, who died at Ft. Necessity in PA.  The dates here a little better, but truly, it’s a stretch.

And I’ve always thought so.  I looked through that Maddox book years and years ago, before I knew anything really, and it just didn’t feel right.  Once I learned more about John Maddox of Harford County, it really didn’t make sense.  The Maddox families of Southern Maryland were landowners who wandered through various colonies acquiring more land and leaving wills and lots of documents behind.  John Maddox of Harford County didn’t even seem to live in any of the places they lived.  Yeah, maybe he was the black sheep brother, or the “younger son” of novels who didn’t get anything to speak of.   But here are facts about my John:  He was a cooper– a barrel maker.  An important trade, but a TRADE.  He seems to have lived on the property of a Harford County landowner named James McComas.  He didn’t have property of his own.  He sometimes sold tobacco, he sometimes sold liquor.  His sons became tradesman too–only one was a landowner, and that was because he married a girl with money.

I’m fine with not fitting in with an IMPORTANT family because I believe every man’s story is important.  Whether you came on the Arc or the Dove or an unnamed ship as an indentured servant– you were a brave person with vision– or at least hope– and that’s admirable.

Lately I’ve been wondering if John Maddox of Harford County is in fact, the “immigrant ancestor”.  There is a Maddox Surname DNA project going on that invited male to male Maddox descendents to send in their cheek swab and figure out which Maddox ancestor they are truly related to.  My line (being from Edwards’s daughter Eliza Jane) can’t participate, but luckily, the descendants of the James Maddox (who I believe is John’s son and Edward’s brother) participated.  The results blew the DAR ladies out of the water, and confirmed my suspicions.  First, here’s the main results table.  The family of Samuel Maddox–those Southern Maryland Maddox’s–fit into Haplogroup R1b Lineage V.  People grouped together in a lineage share a “recent” common ancestor.  John’s son James is NOT in that group.  James Maddox and his sons Daniel and Aquilla can be found in Haplogroup R1b Lineage XIII.  Notice below their entry is R1b Possible Lineage XIII (possible I believe because of a slight variation and because one member of this group did not test the DNA out to as many markers as the others–I’m not a scientist–sorry if that sounds ridiculous).  That group includes William Mattox born 1815 in ENGLAND lived most of his life in Scotland (remember now…John was born about 1744) and James Maddix born 1795 in Ireland.

William born 1815 in England is a very close match to James born in 1777 in Maryland (John’s probable son).  The Maddox DNA project wonders if James was a brother to William’s unknown father– I think it more probably that John Maddox of Harford County could be an older brother to William’s unknown father.

They’re From Where?: John Maddox of Harford County Maryland

If we had the ability to blog back in 1991 when I started this search, you would have seen quite a different starting point.  My family was from Baltimore, just Baltimore.  They got off the ship, walked a few blocks, settled in Baltimore.  There was no other location in family memory, except “Germany” for some branches.  Later, a letter written in the 1960s by a Maddox descendant named “Fauquier County, Virginia” as the starting point for Edward and Rachel Maddox– I’m still uncertain why (and hope to find out).

So, despite what the relatives had to say, this much is certain:  Edward Maddox married Rachel Parsons in Harford County Maryland in 1805, so that was the first place I went to look for the Maddox family.  The Maryland Colonial Census of 1776 lists John Maddox as the head of a household in Harford County’s Bush River Lower Hundred (which includes the town of Bel Air).  He was 31 years old and was married to “Caterine”, age 22.  They had 2 daughters; Martha born in 1774 and Charlotte born in 1776.

Edward Maddox was born in 1780 (according to one of his obituaries and the records of Mt. Olivet Cemetery).  Though it’s impossible for him to be on the 1776 Census, I was encouraged with my findings, because Edward’s second daughter is named Charlotte.  Perhaps he named her after his sister.  How then, to fit him into the John Maddox family? After 1776, we must wait until 1850 before Maryland lists any member of the household (except the head) by name.  I could (and did) play the census numbers game.  This involves finding John Maddox in as many subsequent census as possible and matching the age range of his dependents to Edward’s age.

I also visited the Harford County Historical Society.  At the time of my initial visit, the society did not have their PastPerfect Catalog available online.  Instead, their friendly staff helped me use their card catalog index of original documents where I stumbled across card #32632 a “bill of sale/power of attorney/judgement” involving John Maddox and James, Edward and Thomas Maddox.  Strong circumstantial evidence points to the latter three men being John’s sons.  Edward also had one son named “James T.”

In addition to this bill of sale I was able to see (the originals!):

  • An 1809 Bill of Sale between John Maddox and James Maddox witnessed by James McComas, Justice of the Peace.  This reads more like a will, minus the “bequeathing”.  John sells his personal possessions (from bedding to farm animals) to James for the sum of 100 pounds.
  • a letter from Edward Maddox, written up by a Justice of the Peace from Baltimore County, dated November 1814.  In this letter Edward Maddox designated his “friend” John Wilson to act in his place and pick up money the U.S. government owes him for services rendered during his stint with the 39th Maryland Militia (Fowler’s Regiment) in the Battle of Northpoint.
  •  A court document regarding  an Abner Parsons, who was in Gaol in Harford County for debt—on the list of those he owed money—James Maddox and Edward Maddox (1809).

All these documents are intriguing, including this warrant against Gilbert Jones for an assault on John Maddox in December of 1799.

The Gilbert Jones named in the complaint could be the Gilbert Jones who kept a tavern in Bel Air on the northwest corner of Main Street and Baltimore Pike.  I’ve often wondered what their fight was about.  It was not important enough to rate mention in a local newspaper, but greater news occupied most of the latter part of the month: “Mourn Oh Columbia!  Thy Father and thy protector is no more”  President George Washington had passed away on December 14th.