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Dr. William Wroten

Delmarva Heritage Series

* Philip Reed

Salisbury Times - November 2, 1962

Anniversaries and centennials of historic events, like our own individual birthdays, have a tendency of creeping up on us. Right now we are in the midst of the Civil War Centennial and the buffs are giving us the double-barrel treatment. However, this cloud of smoke should not blind us to other significant anniversaries, which are taking place at the same time. This year 

marks the 150th anniversary of the War of 1812, the war which saw the Battle of Fort McHenry and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner.

In the War of 1812 there were three major areas of combat, the region of the Great lakes and St. Lawrence, the Battle of New Orleans and the Chesapeake Bay. In the Revolutionary War, no major conflicts took place on Maryland soil; during the Civil War there were some major and minor engagements in Western Maryland; but in the War of 1812 just about every county touching the Chesapeake Bay, on both shores experienced British invasions first-hand. Therefore, perhaps the War of 1812 is more directly associated with Delmarva Heritage than the siege at Vicksburg, the battle of Lookout Mountain or the battle of Atlanta.

A previous column briefly told the story of Kitty Knight, the gallant defender of Georgetown, Maryland, during the War of 1812. In the future this column will, form time to time, relate other stories of the people and events on the Delmarva Peninsula during the War of 1812 of The Second War for American Independence.

PHILIP REED, of Kent County, was one of the local political and military leaders, who helped to repulse a British invasion of the Chesapeake Bay region in 1814. In fact, because his units defeated the larger British force and killed the enemy commander, Reed became a hero.

Reed, born in Kent County about 1769, spent his youth on his father's plantation. He probably had little formal schooling, but some way or another he received what was then considered an academical education-that is a knowledge of the classics.

When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, Reed at the age of 16, left school to join the Continental Army. By the 20th of February, 1777, he was commissioned an ensign in the 5th Maryland Regiment; promoted to lieutenant in the 3rd Maryland Regiment in October, 1778; and commissioned a captain in February, 1782 at the age of 22. But somewhere along the way, according to one source, he was taken as a prisoner of war.

During the Revolutionary War he particularly distinguished himself at the battle of Stoney Point in July, 1779. The story is told that later Reed, just a youth, had trouble in carrying out certain harsh military orders. He had been ordered an outpost to stop the increase in number of deserters. When three deserters were captured, Reed read them Gen. Washington's orders, calling for their execution without delay. Reed, maybe with kindness in his heart, thought that the execution of just one would be example enough to discourage others. Therefore, he proposed that the prisoners draw lots to see which one should die. When the three men refused this offer, Reed referred the matter to a non-commissioned officer, who decided that of the three deserters-two Irishmen and one American-the American should serve as an example. After, the American head was sent to Gen. Washington's headquarters public display. The two live deserters were sent there also under guard.

SOME YEARS later when Reed was in the House of Representatives this affair was mentioned to embarrass him. In an international incident, Gen. Andrew Jackson invaded Spanish Florida and executed two Englishmen accused of aiding Indian raids over the border into the United States. Rep. Reed declined to endorse the actions of Jackson, and a supporter of Jackson's in the heat of the debate pointed to Reed and shouted: "Thou art the man who without ceremony cut off the head of an American soldier and sent it to the camp of your general." This opponent, however, was kink enough to balance his remarks by saying that during a military attack Reed had been "the bravest of the brave."

At the close of the American Revolution returned to his Kent County farm where he soon became active in politics. In December, 1806 he was elected to the United States Senate to complete the remaining year of Robert Wright's term. In 1807 he was elected to a full six-year term in his own right. Little is known of his activities in the senate; in fact, even though he was a senator when the War of 1812 commenced, his views concerning this crisis are not in the official records. But because he was a consistent supporter of the Jefferson and Madison policies, it is believed he also supported the declaration of war against Great Britain.

After his term in the Senate expired, Reed became a lieutenant colonel in the Maryland militia. At that time the state was divided into several military districts, and Reed was in command of a regiment in the Kent District, which was the 6th under the command of Brig. Gen. Benjamin Chambers.

Legend has it that shortly before Col. Reed's most famous battle; his outfit was encamped at Rock hall, where heavy rains had made the ground muddy and the tents uncomfortable. Reed called for his quarter-master, Michael Miller, and berated him for the poor accommodations.

"Quartermaster Miller," said Reed, "my men must not sleep on the wet ground, and you must get straw for them, and right away, sir-tonight, sir, and at once, sir."

"But," pleaded the quartermaster, "it is night now and late, and it cannot be done."

"But it must be done, sir, and I will hold you responsible if it is not done, for disobedience of an order. Go and get straw; take it form anywhere around here; take carts and oxen and bring it, and do you at once, sir."

A FEW HOURS LATER, while Col. Reed was complimenting Miller for the prompt action of fulfilling his orders, Reed noticed one of his own slaves helping to unload the straw. It was then that Reed learned that Miller by-passed every farm in the vicinity until he arrived at Reed's Huntingfield farm; there he had ordered Reed's slaves to harness Reed's oxen, to load Reed's carts with Reed's straw and proceed to the encampment.

Col. Reed's role in the battle of Caulk's Field or Moorefield, as it has sometimes been called, was of such significance to the military campaign of the War of 1812 in Maryland that it will be taken up in a separate article.

After the war Reed, one of the original members of the Society of Cincinnati of Maryland, again became very active in politics. In 1817 he was elected to the House of Representatives of the 15th Congress and also to the 17th Congress in 1821. After long distinguished service to his country, Philip Reed died in Kent County on November 2, 1829.


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