In Kent County, Maryland, the War of 1812 was up close and personal. Given the amount of Chesapeake Bay shoreline in the county, British ships and Royal Marines were never very far away. The rivers and creeks exposed even more residents to raids by the enemy.
One such attack occurred on May 6, 1813 when Vice Admiral Cockburn led his men up the Sassafras River to Georgetown where the British commenced to burn almost all the structures in the tiny town. When they reached one dwelling at the top of the hill, they were met at the door by the woman living in the house. She implored the British to spare her house and the one next door. Eventually, the British heeded her pleas and spared these two houses. This event gave birth to the legend of Kitty Knight and today, one can still visit the Kitty Knight House.
Another significant event was the Battle of Caulk’s Field. Late in the evening on August 30, 1814, Captain Sir Peter Parker, Bart., led about 170 Royal Marines and naval troops ashore from HMS Menelaus and proceeded towards Chestertown. After marching about five miles, Parker and his men were met by 174 men of the 21st Regiment of the Maryland Militia, led by Colonel Philip Reed. Reed was a veteran of the Revolution and a lifelong resident of Kent County. Reed’s men stood their ground as they ran out of ammunition. Then, a single shot left Parker mortally wounded.
Without their commander, the British decided to abandon the effort and returned to their ship. The British suffered fourteen men killed. Only three Americans were slightly wounded. Today the site of this battle is one of the best preserved battlefields in the U.S. No structures have been added, and the Caulk House still stands.
There are other locations in Kent County which help tell the story of the War of 1812 on the Eastern Shore. The rural, unspoiled nature of Kent County makes it easy to imagine what it must have been like 200 years ago.
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