From The Battle of Baltimore 1814
by Joseph A. Whitehorne
 


You'll find numerous places on the North Point Peninsula specifically, and Baltimore in general, that have the name of Wells, McComas, Stricker, and Armistead.  To many current residents, these are the names of roads, schools, and communities.  To others, they are names that have some vague memory - almost as if they're something we're supposed to remember, but somehow cannot.  Yet, to even fewer, they're the names of teenagers and men that saved Baltimore from the same fate that Washington had suffered less than a month earlier.

This was not always the case.  For the Baltimoreans and residents of North Point that had suffered, endured, and triumphed by repelling the invasion of the British Army in September of 1814, these were names that had been elevated to near-mystical, heroic status.

Privates Daniel Wells and Henry G. McComas were members of Captain Edward Aisquith's Militia Rifle Company.  They were also apprentices in the Baltimore leather trade and, assuming the rigors of leather working, were hardy young men with a sound future ahead of them.  Unfortunately, there are no known images of their likenesses.

On Sunday, 11 September 1814, they drew a day's ration, 36 rounds of ammunition, and marched out of Baltimore as part of the 3,100 men of the city 3rd Brigade.  With the 70 other men of their Company, they made for the North Point Peninsula positions that had previously been constructed in 1813, when a similar British invasion was feared.  At 7 am on 12 September, Brigadier General John Stricker learned conclusively from the cavalry scouts of the First Baltimore Hussars that the British were landing on the western side of North Point under the protection of the big guns of their main ships of the line.

The British commander, Major General Robert Ross, was a seasoned veteran of nearly 30 years service and the Napoleonic Wars.  As he advanced, he saw signs of defensive preparations and halted the lead elements of his force at the farm of Robert Gorsuch.  While waiting for the rest of his force, he relaxed and had Mr. Gorsuch cook breakfast.

Insulted at the arrogance of the British, Stricker ordered
Privates Wells and McComas forward with their Company and approximately 230 other men and one cannon to attempt to dislodge the invaders from the Gorsuch Farm.  At some point around 1:30 pm on Monday, 12 September 1814, history was made when Daniel Wells and Henry McComas met Robert Ross.

All three died that day; Ross was 48, Wells 19, and McComas was 18.  Robert Ross had been shot through his right arm and chest and died shortly there after.  When their bodies were recovered on 16 September, McComas was found shot through the chest as if in the act of reloading his weapon and Wells was shot in the back of his head and behind McComas.  Both of their muskets had been fired and were unloaded.  The body of another American soldier, Aquilla Randall, aged 24, was recovered in the same area.

Facts end and historical debate begins at this point.  Randall is widely accepted to be the first American to die in the Battle of North Point.  Wells and McComas are believed to be the killers of Robert Ross, yet historians disagree and site things such as the ammunition they used, a story that they were in a tree picking fruit and were shot by the British, and a lack of eyewitnesses to their actually firing on Ross.

After extensive reading and research, this is what we believe at MyEdgemere:

*Somebody present that morning saw Aquilla Randall killed and survived to report it.

*Wells and McComas were found dead in the same advanced area as Randall, both with unloaded weapons.

*Based on the accounts of where and how their bodies were found, it would suggest that they fired at about the same time and Henry McComas was attempting to reload his weapon to provide covering fire while Daniel Wells was moving to another position further back, perhaps to do the same so McComas could fall back.

*There is no known historical record of anybody present that day disputing that Wells and McComas killed Ross.

*Veterans of the Battle of North Point continued to honor their memory with annual Defender's Day celebrations on North Point, proclaiming their valor and courage.

*Private Daniel Wells and Private Henry G. McComas are properly credited with killing Major General Robert Ross.
 


In 1914, the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of North Point, Baltimore and the surrounding area held large parades and celebrations to commemorate the day.  The following links take you to archived online photographs from the Worthington Collection of the Maryland Historical Society Library.  These images are from the parade, floats, and the Wells-McComas Monument.
 

Wells-McComas Monument
 
Pre-Parade Float
 
Parade
 
Marching Soldiers
 
 

Article by Christopher George, author of Terror on the Chesapeake
Monumentally Speaking . . .
 

 

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