current info

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Benjamin Banneker, the Black Astronomer - The Planters' Advocate, Upper Marlborough 1856

Planters Advocate July 23, 1856
Banneker - Md State Archives

Selected Miscellany
From the Southern Literary Messenger.
Bannaker [sic], the Black Astronomer.[1]
            The casual mention of this remarkable man—, in the volume entitled "Richmond in By–Gone Days," induced a literary friend to furnish the materials for an authentic notice of him.
            Like all conspicuous men of humble origin, ancestry differs in different biographies. Two memorirs [sic] of him have been read before the Maryland Historical Society: one by Mr. Latrobe in 1845, the other by Mr. Norris in 1854. The former says, his father was a native African, and his mother a child of a native of Africa. But Mr. Norris, who derives his authority from a lady among whose ancestry Banneker and his progenitors lived, and who had possession of his manuscripts, states that his maternal grandmother Molly Welsh, a native of England, came to Maryland with a ship load of emigrants, then called redemptioners, and was sold to service for seven years, to pay the expenses of her emigration.— After her term of service expired, she bought a small farm, near the present site of Baltimore, for a mayor nominal price, and subsequently purchased from a slave ship, in Chesapeake Bay, to negro men. They both prove to be valuable servants. One of them, said to have been the son of an African King, a man of industry, integrity, find disposition and dignified manners, she liberated from slavery and afterwards married. His name was Bannaker, which she assumed.— They had four children. Mary, the oldest, married a native of Africa, who was baptized by the name of Robert Banneker. Their only son, Benjamin, the subject of this memoir, was born November 9th, 1731.[2] His father, (according to Mr. Latrobe and to the record,) purchased from Robert Gist, on 10th March, 1737, for the consideration of 7000 lbs of Tobacco, a tract of 100 acres of land, called Stout, then almost in a wilderness, although within 10 miles of Baltimore, but 10 years previously Baltimore was the farm of John Hamming, and in 1740, the town was surrounded by a board fence as a protection against the Indians.

            Benjamin's grandmother taught him to read and sent him to a small school near her residence. He was very studious and devoted his play–time to reading. After his minority, he continued to reside with his mother and occupied the same farm all his life, cultivating it industriously and living comfortably. The winter months, and all other time not occupied in farming, he devoted to study, and besides books of scientific character, he read such on general literature as he could borrow, and he occasionally directed his mind with mechanical projects. In this department is wooden clock— his only time-piece when completed— was his greatest achievement, and was made long before 1772. It was a correct time–keeper and justly considered a great curiosity, as the work of an untaught black man, who had, it was said, never seen o'clock and worked out his and pension from investigating the works of a watch.

            In 1787, Mr. G. Ellicott lent him Mayer's Tables, Ferguson Astronomy and Leadbetter's Lunar Tables and some astronomical instruments, but was prevented at the time from giving him any instruction as to the use of them. Before they met, and the interval was brief, Banneker had instructed himself, and from this time the study of astronomy became the great and absorbing object of his life. He was unmarried, and the sole occupant of the log cabin on his farm. — By contracting his wants, he reduced his hours of labor, on which he depended for support, and increased his hours of study. "Is favorite time for study was night, when he could look out on the planets, the story he was reading, and whose laws he was gradually but surely watching." When not obliged to toil on his farm, he slept during the day and thus in the estimation of those who knew nothing of his celestial occupation, he lost his reputation for industry acquired in early life.

            "Soon after he had obtained the astronomical books and instruments, and had turned his attention to the science they taught, he determined to compile and Almanac. Of the labor of the work few of those can form an idea who would at this day commence such a task, with all the assistance afforded by accurate tables and well digested rules." Banneker had no such aid and it is narrated as a well-known fact that he had commenced an advanced far in the preparation of logarithms necessary for his purpose, when he was furnished with a set of tables by Mr. G. Ellicott. About this time, he commenced the record of his calculations, which is still extant, and is deposited with the Historical Society for examination." He noticed some errors in Ferguson and in Leadbetter, "who would probably have looked incredulous if told that their works had been reviewed by an uneducated Negro in the then almost unknown valley of the Patapsco."

            The first Almanac which Banneker prepared for publication, was for the year 1792. By this time his acquirements had become known, and among those who took an interest in him was James McHenry, Esq.[3]  He wrote a letter to Goddard and and Angell, publishers of Almanacs in Baltimore, and it was probably the means of procuring the publication of Bannaker's first Almanacs. It contains a short account of the author, as the most appropriate preface that could be furnished to his work, and states that it had met the approbation of the most distinguished astronomers in America, particularly the celebrated Mr. Rittenhouse.[4]

            Publishers asked the patronage and support of the public for the work, "not only for its intrinsic merits, but to draw modest merit from obscurity and controvert illiberal prejudice against the race." This almost solitary exception rather proves the rule.

            Bannaker was fifty-nine years old when he published his first Almanac, and had high respect shown to him by scientific men, as one whose colour did not exclude him from their class. In 1789, the commissions appointed to run the lines of the District of Columbia, then called the Federal territory, invited Banneker to accompany them, and they retained him till the service was performed. He used to say of them they were very civil gentlemen, who overlooked his complexion on account of his attainments, and invited him to be seated at their table; and honor which he thought fit to decline, and requested that a side-table might be provided for him. "He continued to calculate and publishes Almanacs until 1802, and the folio laid before the society, containing the calculations already copied, and the figures used by him in his work. The handwriting is very good and remarkably distinct having a practice look, although evidently that of an old man." [*This note appears in his MS. foloi. —"2nd April, 1795, sold to Butler, Edwards & Kiddy, the right of one Almanac   for 1786, for the sum of 80 dollars."]

            "Bannaker was an acute observer; many, instances of this are to be seen in the record of his calculations, which he used occasionally as a common-place book. For example,' December 23, 1790, about 3 o'clock, A. M., I heard the sound and felt the shock like heavy thunder, but could not observe any cloud above the horizon. I therefore conclude it must be a great earthquake in some part of the globe. A similar conclusion was drawn by Pliny 1800, years before!' In April 1800, he writes, "the first great locus year that I can remember, — I was then about 17 years of age, when thousands of them came and were creeping up the trees and bushes. I then imagine they came to eat and destroy the fruit of the earth, and would occasion a famine in the land; I therefore began to kill and destroy them, but soon saw that my labor was vain. Again, in 1766, which is 17 years from their first appearance, they made a second and full as numerous; I then had more sense than to destroy them, knowing they were not so pernicious. Again, in the year 1783, which was 17 years from their second appearance to me, they made their third, and they may be 1800. So that, if I may venture to express it, their periodical return is 17 years; but they, like the comments, make but a short stay with us. The female has a sting in her tail as hard and as sharp as a thorn, with which she perforate the branches of trees and in the holes lay eggs. The branch soon dies and folds. Then the egg, by some occult cause, emerges a great depth into the earth and there continues for the space of 17 years. I like to forgot to inform, that if their lives are short, they are merry. — They begin to sing or make a noise from first they come out of the earth, till they die. The hinder most part rock off and it does not appear to be any pain to them, for they still continue on singing till they die." Our philosopher seems to have overlooked their change of coats soon after exhumation.

            When he had become engrossed in his studies, he endeavored to relieve himself from the cares of his farm and have more time for the former, by renting out the land, divided into small tenements. His tenants were not punctual, if he was urgent they grew insolent, until it last, saying that "it was better to die of hunger than of anger." He determined to sell his farm for an annuity. He made a calculation of the chances of his life, upon such data as he could obtain, and the Ellicott family bought the land on the terms he proposed. An annuity of £12, Maryland currency, or $331/4, with the privileges of residing on it during his life, which was of eight years longer duration than his estimate. He died in 1804, aged 71.
             On a very bright day, then he walked out to enjoy the air. He met an acquaintance to whom he complained of feeling unwell. They returned together to his cottage, where online down, he immediately became speechless and died soon afterwards.

            He is described as kind, generous, hospitable, humane, dignified and pleasing; abounding in information on the subjects of the day, the lighting in the society of visitors at his own house. — His dress was uniformly drab broadcloth, with broad brimmed hat. His complexion was not jet black but decidedly negro.

            He was constantly in correspondence with other mathematicians in this country, with whom there was an interchange of questions of difficult solution.

            Bannaker sent a copy of his first Almanac in MS. to Mr. Jefferson, then Sec. of State, with a letter in which he feelingly alludes to the degradation of his own people. In his reply, Mr. Jefferson says, "I have taken the liberty of sending your Almanacs to M. de Condorcet,[5] Secretary of the Academy of Sciences at Paris, and member of the Philanthropic Society, because I consider it a document to which your whole color has a right for their justification against the doubts that have been entertained of them."  

[1] Planters' Advocate. July 23, 1856. Ed. Thomas J. Turner.  Upper Marlborough, Maryland. Maryland State Archives. Planter's Advocate Collection. MSA SC 3415.msa_sc3415_scm3599-0126

Transcribed by John Peter Thompson July 27th, 2014. 

The 1856 Planters' Advocate spells the name Bannaker; tpday's spelling is Banneker.

[2] Benjamin Banneker was a self-taught (1), free African-American tobacco farmer, whose brilliance in astronomy and mathematics garnered the attention of the most powerful white men in the new nation. With the approval of Thomas Jefferson,  Andrew Ellicott  enlisted Banneker to assist in surveying the territory which was to become the District of Columbia. After the survey’s completion Banneker would go on to engage in a correspondence with Jefferson about the equal abilities of men of African descent.
[3] James McHenry was born at Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland, in 1753.
During the War for Independence, McHenry served as a military surgeon. Late in 1776, while he was on the staff of the 5th Pennsylvania Battalion, the British captured him at Fort Washington, NY. He was paroled early the next year and exchanged in March 1778. Returning immediately to duty, he was assigned to Valley Forge, PA, and in May became secretary to George Washington. About this time, McHenry apparently quit the practice of medicine to devote himself to politics and administration; he apparently never needed to return to it after the war because of his excellent financial circumstances. McHenry stayed on Washington's staff until 1780, when he joined that of the Marquis de Lafayette, and he remained in that assignment until he entered the Maryland Senate (1781-86). During part of this period, he served concurrently in the Continental Congress (1783-86). In 1784 he married Margaret Allison Caldwell. McHenry missed many of the proceedings at the Philadelphia convention, in part because of the illness of his brother, and played an insubstantial part in the debates when he was present. He did, however, maintain a private journal that has been useful to posterity. He campaigned strenuously for the Constitution in Maryland and attended the state ratifying convention.

From 1789 to 1791, McHenry sat in the state assembly and in the years 1791-96 again in the senate. A staunch Federalist, he then accepted Washington's offer of the post of Secretary of War and held it into the administration of John Adams. McHenry looked to Hamilton rather than to Adams for leadership. As time passed, the latter became increasingly dissatisfied with McHenry's performance and distrustful of his political motives and in 1800 forced him to resign. Subsequently, the Democratic-Republicans accused him of maladministration, but a congressional committee vindicated him. McHenry returned to his estate near Baltimore and to semiretirement. He remained a loyal Federalist and opposed the War of 1812. He also held the office of president of a Bible society. He died in 1816 at the age of 62, survived by two of his three children. His grave is in Baltimore's Westminster Presbyterian Cemetery.

[4] David Rittenhouse was born the son of farmer Matthias Rittenhouse in Germantown, Pennsylvania. He married Eleanor Coulston, and then after her death, Hannah Jacobs. He became an astronomer, mathematician, instrument maker and one of the leading American scientists of the eighteenth century, second only to Benjamin Franklin.
Self-taught, he early showed mathematical and mechanical ability, and mastered Newton's Principia in an English translation. As a young boy Rittenhouse constructed a model of a watermill, and by the age of seventeen he had built a wooden clock, but having little opportunity to attend school, he largely educated himself from books and a box of tools inherited from his uncle David Williams, a furniture maker. At the age of nineteen he began making clocks and other mechanical and scientific devices.
Over the next thirty or forty years he made many highly-prized and innovative mathematical and astronomical instruments, most famous of which were two orreries he constructed for the Colleges of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania). These orreries show the solar and lunar eclipses and other phenomena for a period of 5,000 years either forward or backward. After moving to Philadelphia in 1770, Rittenhouse used both astronomical and terrestrial observations to survey canals and rivers and to establish the boundaries between many of the Mid-Atlantic States. He held the post of city surveyor of Philadelphia in 1774.
His scientific thinking and experimentation earned Rittenhouse considerable intellectual prestige in America and in Europe. He built his own observatory at his father's farm in Norriton, outside of Philadelphia. Rittenhouse maintained detailed records of his observations and published a number of important works on astronomy, including a paper putting forth his solution for locating the place of a planet in its orbit. He was a leader in the scientific comunity's observance of the transit of Venus in 1769, which won him broad acclaim. He also sought to solve mathematical problems, publishing his first mathematical paper in 1792, an effort to determine the period of a pendulum. He also experimented with magnetism and electricity.
Rittenhouse was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1768, serving over the years as curator, librarian, secretary, vice president and, from 1791 to 1796, its president. He was elected to its committee to observe the transits of Venus and Mercury in 1769 based on plans he had made. Over the years he received a number of honorary degrees including those from the Colleges of New Jersey and Philadelphia. In addition he was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the Royal Society of London.
Rittenhouse used his scientific skills for practical purposes during the American Revolution. In 1775 he began his service on the Committee of Safety as an engineer supervising local casting of cannon, improvement of rifles, supply of ammunition and selection of sites for gunpowder mills and magazine stores. In the late 1770s Rittenhouse was a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly, the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention of 1776, and the Board of War. From 1779 to 1787 Rittenhouse was Treasurer of Pennsylvania, and from 1792 -1795 he served as Director of the United States Mint.
Rittenhouse was Penn's Professor of Astronomy at Philadelphia from 1779 to 1782 and Vice-Provost in 1780 and 1782. He also served Penn as a trustee of the University of the State of Pennsylvania (1779-1780 and 1782-1791) and then, after its 1791 union with the College of Philadelphia, as a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania (1791-1796).

[5] Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet  17 September 1743 – 28 March 1794), known as Nicolas de Condorcet, was a French philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist whose Condorcet method in voting tally selects the candidate who would beat each of the other candidates in a run-off election. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he advocated a liberal economy, free and equal public education, constitutionalism, and equal rights for women and people of all races. His ideas and writings were said to embody the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment and rationalism, and remain influential to this day. He died a mysterious death in prison after a period of flight from French Revolutionary authorities. from Wikipedia 2014. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"Growth in Crime" The Politics of a Debate - July 14, 1858 - Planters' Advocate, Prince George's County, Maryland

For the Planters' Advocate
[Upper Marlborough, Prince George's County, Maryland]'

Growth of Crime.

            Is beginning to increase so rapidly and cheerfully that, unless in some way arrested and subdued, public peace and security will be in danger to an alarming extent, if not already so. But before any effective remedy can be applied, the proper causes must be ascertained, and when ascertained, removed at once and effectively. The delinquency and insubordination now so prevalent doubtless have various causes for their origins and force, but among the many that might be mentioned, we think the following are among the chief causes:
            First, we would mention parental neglect, on account of which great criminality is resting upon the parent. Parents do not only neglect to train up their children properly, but they actually trained them wrong. They do not only neglect to instill into their minds proper and correct principles, but teach them wrong and pernicious ones. They train them up to insubordination, contempt for parental authority, and a disregard for parental love and affection. The home education of the present day is radically and criminally wrong, and until this evil is corrected and parents bring up their children correctly, teach them subordination, to love what is right and despise that which is wrong, to lay the foundation of a christian [sic] education, and, in fine, to discharge a parents [sic] duty and obligation faithfully and conscientiously, better things can hardly be hoped for.
            Another source, is not our educational system is radically defective and should be thoroughly reformed. Much could be said on this point, because we do not think that the youth of the land receive that moral culture development, as well as intellectual, necessary to prepare them for the duties of the citizen, the christian [sic] and as a moral and intellectual being. We do not say that all our schools are thus so wretchedly defective, but some we are sure of. But our system of public schools should be so reformed and sent the youth may be thoroughly taught morally as well as intellectually. A christian [sic] education should be aimed at, and it should form the basis of all their attainment.
            Reformation in the public school system is much needed, and until we have better legislation, our youth will still receive a wrong education and be bad citizens, instead of good and useful. Another is intemperance. This is the most fruitful source of crime of all others, and should be removed at once. We anticipated a few years ago at the temperance cause would triumph, but our hopes are gone. Intemperance is on the increase, and what will be the condition of society on account of this abominable curse the present is a fair indication. Intemperance is the prime cause of nine-tenths of the evil which corrupt and ruined society. It ought to be removed and removed at once. We advocate a total, a final and an effectual removal of the cause which is so prolific in flooding the entire country with intemperance, crime, insubordination, disobedience to law, promotions of disorder and influence injurious to public morals, to public prosperity, and dangerous to public peace, security, the quiet of society and subversive of all good government, party spirit, too frequent popular elections, the speculation mania and idleness, are all injurious to public good. Brian will still continue to increase until the causes which produce it are effectually removed, offenders punished without favor or affection, and the supreme authority of the law upheld, maintained and respected. Public morals must be corrected by their causes being removed and offenders punished for their crimes before we can hope for, or expect the diminution of crime, and public peace and happiness prevail.            W.[1]

[1] Maryland State Archives. Growth of Crime. The Planters' Advocate. July 14, 1858. {accessed from the web July 13, 2014]

Transcribed by John Peter Thompson

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The "Battle" Raid on Beltsville - July 12, 1864

Published in the Prince George's County Historical Society Newsletter - News & Notes.

Founded in 1952, this all-volunteer, non-profit organization works to fulfill its mission of preserving and promoting the County's long and diverse history through: Reproducing new and out-of-print historical materials; Collecting records, documents, photographs, and artifacts reflecting the County's social, economic and political history; Operating the Frederick S. DeMarr Library of County History; Providing educational opportunities through lectures, programs and tours; Recognizing and supporting individuals and organizations that are making significant contributions to the preservation of the County's rich multi-ethnic, multi-cultural heritage.

There are many benefits to becoming a member of the Prince George's County Historical including a subscription to News and Notes, published by the Society. to join:

The Raid on Beltsville July 12th, 1864

            150 summers ago in Prince George's  County, on July 12th, 1864, Confederate soldiers rode into Beltsville, Maryland, tore up the rail-line and burned railcars of the B&O railroad before returning to Virginia. Commanded by Maryland-born Brigadier-General Bradley Johnson, the rebel cavalry was operating on the left of Jubal Early's invading Confederate Second Corps' attack on Washington, D. C. 

            The raid and resultant skirmishes between Federal and Confederate cavalry units took place between today's Beltsville and College Park. The military actions moved on a north-south axis west of the CSX railroad line, then operated by the B&O, and were centered along US Route 1 formerly called the Baltimore-Washington Pike. To the west of the turnpike was the Paint branch, a stream that head south east through Maryland on its way to join the eastern branch of the Potomac river, the Anacostia. To the west of the pike, along the Paint branch, named for the red and blue clay that lines its course, big trees grew close together on the bank; low woodland stretched far back from the stream presenting a scenic wild aspect to the landscape (The Rambler. Sunday Star. November 1916). 
            Most of the buildings mentioned in reports of the day are long gone including the home of Major. Geo. M. Emack, CSA (now a shopping center across US 1 from St. John's Church), Brown's White House Tavern (now a shopping center immediately south of USDA BARC), the rail depot or station in Beltsville; Dr. Montgomery Johns' house on Knox Ave. in College Park; and Mrs. McDaniel's house which served as a headquarters for federal operations in front of Fort Lincoln in Bladensburg, Maryland.

            The Official Record of the Civil War, Series I, Vol. XXXVII, provides a running account of the day's events which reflects the confusion of the moment that translates into uncertainty of describing exactly what happened when and where to readers today.  At 7:50 a.m., Major-General Gillmore, USA, set up his "command near the old Bladensburg road" to coordinate Union defense from Fort Lincoln to Fort Bunker Hill.  Two hours later, Major Fry, the provost-general, sent word that "the enemy's cavalry is trying to turn our right."

            The Daily Constitutional Union, (2nd Edition July 12, 1864), reported that "enemy appears to have reached the line of the Washington branch railroad between 12 and 1 o'clock, today, shortly after the last train from Baltimore had passed to the city. The train which left Baltimore at 10 a.m., came through to within about 1 mile of Beltsville, when a number of men at work on the second track of the road came running towards it, giving the alarm that rebel cavalry, in some force had just been approaching towards Beltsville. After delay a 15 minutes, however, by sending ahead, information was received that it was our own cavalry else that had been seen, and the train again came on, and arrived here quarter of an hour behind time. By 1 o'clock, it was found that the telegraph wires were down between this city and Baltimore, which would seem to confirm the idea that the alarm at Beltsville was not entirely groundless."

            By 1:30 p.m., Capt. Paddock, Post Commander Battery Jameson, Fort Lincoln, was informing Secretary of War Stanton that "a farmer just arrived bringing intelligence from the commanding officer of the outside pickets that the enemy was [sic] approaching in force in this direction. They are now about two miles this side of Beltsville, which is five miles northeast of here." At 2:00 p.p.,, from Mrs. McDaniel's house, Major Barney, [USA], "of Washington City, just from the front", [brought] a report from the officer commanding the cavalry [5th Michigan Cavalry] on the Baltimore pike that he had been driven in, and that the enemy are in force two miles this side of Beltsville making for railroad." [1]   

            A newspaper account 52 years later described the coming of the Union forces to the Brown farm to water and feed their horse. As the Federal soldiers commandeered supplies, the widowed Mrs. Brown saw a dust cloud and a large large numbers of horsemen approaching, and called for the Union commander to come upstairs and see for himself. He rounded up his troops and shot his way across the Paint branch to safety before the Confederate forces could surround him. One Union cavalryman was wounded when Major Emack's 1st Maryland, CSA, cavalry company charged the hurriedly regrouping Federal cavalry. The wounded soldier was sent to Major Emack's home across from the Episcopal Church, St. John's, less than two mile up the road. (The Rambler. Sunday Star, November 1916).[2]

Emack House - Locust Grove
image courtesy - DeMarr Library Historian
Prince George's County Historical Society

            In a telegraphed message to General Grant from Under Secretary of War, Charles A. Dana, the defense of Washington was described as consisting of many generals none of whom were in command. In this vein of multiple commanders, at 2:15, General Meigs was reporting from Fort Slocum that "500 cavalry, under Major Fry, was attacked four miles beyond Bladensburg, toward Baltimore, by the enemy in force, with artillery. He [Major Fry] is falling back toward Bladensburg, at which place ... he will need rations and forage, and also carbine and pistol ammunition, for 100 men who reported to him last evening unsupplied." The 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry, USA, sent word to Captain Paddock at Fort Lincoln that " a scouting party just returned report[ing] that they met a force of the enemy's cavalry with artillery about three miles above this place toward Beltsville."

            By 3:00 p.m.,, Secretary Stanton was receiving information from the peripatetic B&O ticket agent, G. S. Koonz, who explained how the railroad company's " ballast engine has just come in from Beltsville. Trainmen report that rebels in force were in sight when they left. Our forces ready to receive them. Rebels fired at engine, but it was out of range. Beltsville is twelve miles distant from Washington and is a station on our road." Twenty minutes later, the Secretary of War was updated by Major Fry of the situation at Fort Lincoln and points north:

"A force of rebel cavalry has within the last few hours been engaged with about 300 of our cavalry, at the Baltimore pike where it crosses Paint Creek, about three miles beyond Bladensburg. The rebel force was accompanied by light artillery, which up to the time my informant left had fired about fifteen shots. My informant is one of our cavalry, just in, who was wounded in the skirmish. Our 300 cavalry were yielding their ground slowly. I should say it was an attempt to interrupt the railroad by a cavalry force. The skirmish is about two miles west of railroad. The line of rifle-pits from this fort westward is entirely unmanned. There is not a soldier on the line as far as I can see it, and but two companies of 100-days' men and a few convalescents in this fort. The pike is really open to a cavalry dash. I think troops should come to this part of the line is now seriously threatened. I have not seen General Gillmore. Perhaps he has made disposition. The line now is certainly weak in the extreme. I will go from here to Fort Saratoga, and try to see General Gillmore; but I suggest action from headquarters to strengthen this line at once. The convalescents here are not armed. Muskets and Ammunition should be sent at once."

At 4:05 p.m., General Gillmore wrote:

"The enemy are [sic] just beyond Bladensburg. Fugitive citizens are coming in. I have carefully examined the line of works from Fort Bunker hill to Fort Lincoln. More troops should be on this part of the line. I saw eight brass field pieces in Fort Lincoln not in use. They ought to be put in position, I think, with men to man them. I am not in command of the line in my front by any orders from you or any one else." During the afternoon of the 12th, US Navy Admiral Goldsborough had been order to gather up office works and man the defensive works of Fort Lincoln in response to the perceived threat from Johnson's cavalry now apparently moving towards Bladensburg."

            At some point in the afternoon, Dr. Montgomery Johns recounted the passing of the rebel units through what is now the University of Maryland campus. Johns, a Professor at the Agricultural College, later explained, in defense of his actions that day, that "the rebel stopped on the Turnpike in front of Rossburg (presently called the Rossborough Inn) 10 minutes, then proceeding toward Bladensburg, where met by (Union) skirmishers at 'Kenedy's Hill' and turned westward through the campus. Some of the Confederates stopped at the Johns' home and demanded food. Johns was taken to see the leader, Gen. Johnson, 'a distant Kinsman'. Altogether the troops, stated to 500 in number, were on the campus "about 45 minutes. (Pri. Geo.'s Historical Society News & Notes, April 1974)'" During the foray, the Confederates burned the bridge over the Paint branch just north of the present entrance to the University of Maryland, College Park.

            By 8:45 p.m., Mr. Koonz was again relaying information to Stanton. His account this time noted that he had been "as far as Bladensburg. Enemy has not shown himself between Washington and that point. At Bladensburg I was met by a Mr. Bowie, who seems to be acting as an aide. He advised me to proceed no farther, as enemy was [sic] about one mile and a half above. He estimates their force at about 1,500 cavalry and one battery of artillery. Our bridges across Paint Branch, two miles above Bladensburg, have been destroyed."

            The last of the rebel cavalry left the area mid morning on July 13th. The next day the President of the B&O railroad sent a message to Stanton noting that a "hand-car with some of our men, and an engine and car in charge of our agent at Washington, Mr. Koontz, have arrived in Baltimore within the last hour, communicating the information that the road is now clear of the enemy, and that the burning has been confined to twelve camp and other cars of the company, and the partial destruction of the cross-ties of one bridge."   On July 14th that the damage done to the railroad in Beltsville did not amount to more than three cross-ties burned and some lumber placed across the tracks.

            The Johnson-Gilmore raid ended in Beltsville. Some after-action reports indicate that some of the Confederate force had begun to head towards Upper Marlboro as part of the larger plan to free Confederate prisoners in St, Mary's County. The skirmish at Beltsville ended a rebel swing through Maryland that had taken Johnson's command from Frederick east to Baltimore. Led by the 1st Maryland Cavalry, CSA, they had burned bridges and obstructed rail-lines north of Baltimore, and had found time to burn the home of Maryland's Governor, Augustus Bradford. As they continued through central Maryland, the government of Maryland and the US military played a telegraphed guessing game as to the intent and goal of the fast-moving southern cavalry. The raid through Maryland was a part of a larger Confederate operation that planned to attack the Capital of the United States, Washington, D.C. The resulting battle fought along the Monocacy river slowed the invading army down long enough for the US Army to execute a defense of the city. The delayed assault of Early's Army on Fort Stephens (in Silver Spring near Georgia Avenue) failed on July 12th, and Early order Johnson's command to rejoin the 2nd Corps as it began its retreat to Virginia and the end of the rebellion 10 months later. Although we have let the buildings decay and disappear, the people and their fight continue to shape our landscapes today.                    

[1] Newspapers report that the Confederate forces, probably the 1st Maryland, engaged Major Belmont in command of a detachment of the 5th Michigan Cavalry. The Official Record includes mentions and reports of Major Darling and the 7th Michigan with no mention of his being driven back.
[2] The topography of the land along US Route 1 is such that the Emack House, Locust Grove would have been visible from the White House Tavern grounds. The land steps down towards the Paint branch in a series of gentle slopes. From the White House Tavern an observer would have easily seen the stream valley and the hills of Bladensburg beyond the College of Agriculture (University of Maryland, College Park). An informative view of the lay of the land is found from the observation deck of the 14th floor of the National Agricultural Library which sits on the ground where the Union cavalry was feeding and watering its horses when surprised by Emack's Company B.

John Peter Thompson 2014

Friday, July 04, 2014

Prince George's County Song from 1939

The County Song

Few residents, even the native variety, realize that Prince George's, County has an official song. With words by G. Frederick Orton of Hyattsville and music by William Moore, then editor of the Prince George's Post, Hail Prince Georges contains four stanzas and has a very pleasant melody.

The song was adopted as the official song of the county in 1939, but was only "rediscovered" a year or so ago. The text is printed below. Any member who desires a copy of the music should write the Society at P.O. Box 14, Riverdale 20840.

Hail! Prince Georges

Prince Georges County, heart of old Maryland
Child of the Free State, long united both stand
Blazoned with glory, may your whole future be!
Bulwark of Tolerance, and true Liberty.

Your beauty long has fed the tired souls of men
They have found rest in wooded hill and green glen
Blest with your soils and streams where food could be found
All that men needed in yourself did abound.

Tired ships of old were kissed by welcoming shore;
Leaders of men came through your wide open door
Prince George’s forest helped: to build happy home
Sheltered in safety 'neath the blue starry dome.

May your rich blessings on us all freely pour
On rich and poor alike till time is no more!
Hail, mighty County, pride of State of Land!
Prince Georges County, heart of old Maryland.

(Copyright 1339, by Prince Georges Chamber of Commerce)


June 1975