Sean O’Rourke, front, and Warner Sumpter place flags on graves of War of 1812 veterans in the Manokin Presbyterian Church cemetery in Princess Anne. The Somerset County War of 1812 Committee will honor veterans of the war during a special Veterans Day event on Sunday, Nov. 10. / Liz Holland photo
Nov. 5, 2013
PRINCESS ANNE — Somerset County citizens who served in local militias during what some historians consider America’s second war for independence, will be honored Sunday at a special Veterans Day event marking the bicentennial of the War of 1812.
A brief ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. at American Legion Post 94 in Princess Anne, followed by trips to three local cemeteries to place flags on veterans’ graves, said Gale Yerges, chairwoman of the Somerset County Historical Trust which is co-sponsoring the event.
Many of the veterans who will be honored bear local names including Dashiell, Phoebus, Jones, Long and Pollitt, and Yerges thinks some family members are still living in the area.
“I’m hoping the descendants will come and place the flags on the graves,” she said.
Organizers of the events have purchased American flags with only 15 stars — replicas of what was used in 1812.
14 graves at Antioch United Methodist Church, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and Manokin Presbyterian Church have been identified and will be marked with flags on Sunday. t There are about 80 known graves countywide in other cemeteries, including ones in Deal Island, Crisfield, Marion Station, Westover, Rehobeth and Kingston, said Sean O’Rourke, a member of the Somerset County War of 1812 Committee, who found the graves as part of ongoing research for a forthcoming publication.
Because of the large number of graves, Sunday’s event will focus — for logistical reasons — only on those in Princess Anne, Yerges said. After visiting the cemeteries, guests will return to the American Legion for refreshments.
After the United States declared war on Great Britain in 1812 for trade restrictions, British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion and other reasons, the war was fought at first at sea and in the Great Lakes region, but by 1813 the action moved south when the British navy blockaded the Chesapeake Bay and began raiding towns in Maryland and Virginia.
Although the major events in the Chesapeake region included the battles of Bladensburg and North Point, the burning of Washington and the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Somerset County saw its share of skirmishes, said Warner Sumpter, chairman of the War of 1812 Committee.
Sean O’Rourke, left, and Warner Sumpter look at the grave of Gen. George Handy, a War of 1812 veteran, in the Manokin Presbyterian Church cemetery in Princess Anne. The Somerset County War of 1812 Committee will honor Handy and other veterans of the war during a special Veterans Day event on Sunday, Nov. 10. / Liz Holland photo
British troops used Tangier Island a few miles to the south in Virginia as a staging area, and from there they traveled out to raid areas along the mainland, including Deal Island and what is now Crisfield.
Sumpter said he has found accounts of raids along the Pocomoke, Annemessex and Wicomico rivers, as well as Coulbourne’s and Back creeks.
Among the accounts were ones recorded in the diary of Thomas Seon Sudler: “May 25, 1813, Tuesday night about 10 o’clock, James Curtis came to see me to inform me that the British was up the Pocomoke as far as the flatts (sic), and that another party of them was up as far as Jerico, the mouth of the Annemessex River. We are becoming a very unhappy people. War and bloodshed appears to be the Ellement (sic) of the French Democrats and war party.”
Another report from April 30, 1814, in the Niles’ Weekly Register in Baltimore described a raid that Sumpter believes was at Whitehaven, then a part of Somerset County. “The schooner Buzzi, a bay trading vessel, capt. Jarvis, was chased into Wicomico, on the 9th by a tender and several barges. Capt. [James] Dashiel, with 25 men of his artillery company and a 6 pounder came to his rescue. They had several fine raking shots at the enemy; several men were seen to fall, and oars floated on shore. The Englishmen retreated in great haste…”
Perhaps Somerset County’s best known link to the War of 1812 is native Joshua Thomas, a Methodist preacher known as the “parson of the islands” who first went to Tangier in 1812. In September 1814, Thomas gave a sermon to British troops and officers stationed there and predicted their defeat at Baltimore.
Thomas later moved to Deal Island where he built a Methodist chapel. It was there he delivered his last sermon and was later buried. Sumpter said a member of the Thomas family will place one of the flags on his grave this Sunday.