Next year commemorates the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. Maryland 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.