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