Military Subjects:  War of 1812


The War of 1812 Magazine

Issue 9: May 2008



Onward to Canada! Captain Stephen H. Moore and the First Baltimore Volunteers, 1812-1813

By Scott S. Sheads

“Go citizen-soldiers – Your patriotism is pure – Your cause is just – you are called to support your national honor and independence.”[1]

The invasion of Canada by the United States in 1812 was a complete failure.  The army suffered from insufficient numbers, low pay, inadequate equipage, poor training, ineffective leadership, and poor integration of regulars and militia. The American defeats at Detroit on August 16 and Queenston Heights on October 13 had a demoralizing effect on both troops and leadership.   Much of the blame was laid at the feet of militia who had taken part (or refused to take part) in the campaign.  “The late war,” Canadian campaign veteran General William H. Harrison (1773-1841) remembered, “repeatedly exhibited the melancholy fact, of large corps of militia going into the field of battle without understanding a single elementary principle, and without being able to perform a single evolution.”[2]

President James Madison’s administration was further embarrassed by the decision of New England governors, back by local courts, to withhold their militia from federal service.  In a letter to Thomas Jefferson on August 17, President Madison lamented that “the seditious opposition in Massachusetts and Connecticut with the intrigues elsewhere insidiously cooperating with it, have so clogged the wheels of war, that I fear the [Canadian] campaign will not accomplish the object of it.” [3]

A few months before, on March 12, federal recruitment had begun in Maryland under Lieutenant Colonel William H. Winder (1775-1824), who received a commission in the 14th U.S. Infantry, one of three federal regiments recruited in Maryland during the war.[4]  On July 6, Winder now promoted to colonel, sent his officers across the state to set up recruiting stations at the local taverns and inns, where lodging, stables, beverages, and meals were readily available. Here, broadside notices addressed “To Men of Patriotism, Courage & Enterprise” were backed by the stirring music of fife and drum to “give a spirit to the business.”   The regimental flag was displayed to provide a colorful symbol of the unit’s esprit de corps and patriotism.

The 14th U.S. Infantry recruits raised in Maryland were sent to Baltimore and quartered at Fells Point. On July 24, the first companies (280 men in all) of the 14th U.S. Infantry under Captains Thomas Sangston, Thomas Montgomery, and Clement Sullivan left Baltimore via steamboat for Frenchtown (Maryland).  From here they marched to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, then to the U.S. Greenbush Cantonment along the Hudson River, and finally to Sacket’s Harbor, a journey in all of some 450 miles.[5]  Here, additional training and maneuvers readied the young soldiers for their expected service in Canada.[6] 

Also en route to Canada was the Baltimore Volunteers, led by Captain Stephen H. Moore, which had had the distinction of being the only known Maryland state unit to take part in the invasion of Canada.[7]  The company, one hundred strong, was organized as U.S. Volunteers for one-year enlistment under “An Act authorizing the President of the United States to accept and organize certain volunteer military corps” (February 6, 1812). Those who enlisted could, with an honorable discharge after a year’s service, expect to be presented “as a testimonial” for his volunteer services a musket, bayonet, and other personal equipage. [8] 

On September 11, before their departure, the men in this company assembled to receive arms and transact company business. The Baltimore magazine, Niles’ Weekly Register, noted, “Perhaps no body of men were ever better calculated and provided for the service expected of them. They were fitted out in the most substantial manner by the munificent patriotism of the people of Baltimore, with every necessary.” [9]

The ladies of Baltimore further enhanced the company’s accoutrements by presenting a stand of colors to the company with the following address to Captain Moore and company:

Having nobly stepped forward and tendered your services to your country in defense of its invaded rights and unsullied honor, several ladies of the seventh ward, duty appreciating your patriotism, have prepared, and beg leave to present to the defenders of their country, this standard, satisfied that will be kept unsullied by your patriotic band, and supported with honor to yourselves and advantage to the glorious cause in which you are embarked. Go citizen soldiers – Your patriotism is pure – Your cause is just – you are called to support your national honor and independence. And may your great file leader, the God of Battles, lead you to victory and protect you – that when you return to the bosoms of your families, and the endearments of your friends, you may receive the plaudits of a grateful country. [10]

Captain Moore responded that the company would “neither boast nor promise; but trust, that our conduct shall not be unworthy of the virtue & patriotism, which lave laid us under a debt of gratitude.” The colors presented that day would play a prominent role in the company’s history in Canada in 1813, when they were hoisted over Government House in York, the capital of British Upper Canada.[11]

Prior to their departure for Canada, the First Baltimore Volunteers assembled in Baltimore to receive a valedictory sermon from the Reverend John Hargrove (1750-1839) of the New Jerusalem Church, who said “that a defense of [a] country’s rights, is among the best proofs of our patriotism.” [12] On September 28, the company began its long and arduous march for Canada to rendezvous with Colonel Winder’s command of the 14 U.S. Infantry. The Baltimore Independent Blues, the Union Greens, and a patriotic band of music escorted the troops through the city.[13]  On October 3, the men reached Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where they were praised for “every patriotic citizen wishes them a pleasant march, a successful campaign, a glorious victory.”[14]  Along their journey, citizens greeted them with hospitality and elegant dinners.

On October 12, having reach Northumberland, New York, company member 2nd Lieutenant Baptist Irvine informed the editorial staff of the Baltimore Whig that “the inspection of the public arms” found that his company had been issued muskets not been properly inspected by the U.S. arsenal:

Would you believe it, that fifty one of the muskets drawn by our company at Fort McHenry, were Condemned as unfit for service by a first rate gunsmith at Carlisle [Pennsylvania]! …Shall we – must we say so of United States muskets! On which depend the safety of an army or a country!…I would propose the establishment of a rigid course of trial and inspection by choice workmen. [15]

At Buffalo, on February 3, 1813, several subalterns sent by Captain Moore to find quarters and shelter discovered that the villagers were uncooperative and prejudiced and “hostile to the war.”  It was bitterly cold, and many of Moore’s men were sick.  Infuriated by local taunts, some of the men took forcible possession of a tavern without consent of the owner.  A riot ensued.  The participants included not only six of the Baltimore Vounteers but also men from the Albany Greens and Pittsburg Blues, who “fell into a quarrel with a tavern keeper of this town, named Pomeroy, a foolish and villainous sort of Tory – He (as they say) wished ‘That every volunteer who came to fight the British might be put to death in Canada.’” The American commanding officer, General Peter B. Porter, and other officers, among them Lieutenant Irvine, quickly ended the violence by letting the troops pull down the tavern’s sign.  Although Porter’s superiors agreed with his decision, the owner of the tavern received an award for the damage done by the troops.  On February 24, Captain Moore and his men moved on. [16]

On March 6, 1813, an additional three hundred and eighty soldiers of the 14th U.S. Infantry arrived at Sackets Harbor from Baltimore on April 17.  Amidst the snow and freezing cold, Winder, now a brigadier general, awaited them.[17]

The First Baltimore Volunteers proceeded with the American army towards York (now Toronto), then the capital of British Upper Canada. In a letter home to his brother, dated “Niagara, May 5th,” Captain Moore related the events that occurred, when, as part of the brigade of Zebulon Pike (1779-1813), they made “a descent on the Canada shore, a mile above York,” where they were met by the 700 British regulars and Indians garrisoning Fort York:

At the opening of the main street, the enemy sprung a mine upon us [actually, the powder magazine was blown up], which destroyed about 60 of his own men, and killed or maimed about 130 of our men. This horrible explosion has deprived me of my left leg, and otherwise grievously wounded me. I was taken from the field, carried on board the commodore’s ship, where my leg was amputated, and I am now likely to recover. Two of my company were killed at the same time, and four or five more of my brave fellows were severely wounded – now out of danger…This is the severest blow the British have felt since the war, and is to them irremediable – will teach them a lesson of American bravery, which they cannot soon forget. The conquest of Upper Canada is now no longer doubtful, as almost all the guns, munitions of war and provisions, necessary to carry on the present campaign, were deposited at York, and have been taken by us…[18]

A company of U.S. Rifles lead by Major Benjamin Forsythe (c.1775-1814) led the advance with Captain Moore’s Baltimore Volunteers.  These units were the first to land, less than twenty yards apart, under heavy musket volleys.  Once out of their landing craft, they launched a furious a bayonet charge towards the British regulars and Indians who opposed their landing. Lt. Baptist Irvine received a bayonet through his right shoulder at the moment of stepping out of the boat. [19]  Only with additional American reinforcements were then the British forced to retreat towards Fort York, the Americans capturing the town of York, which they held on to for five days.  Once in control, the Americans burned a 32-gun frigate on the stocks and set flame to the government buildings. The Baltimore Volunteers proudly took the company flag that had been presented to them by the Baltimore ladies and placed it

ON THE HIGHEST PINNACLE OF THE GOVERNMENT HOUSE IN THE CAPITOL OF UPPER CANADA; and that our brave boys fought GALLANTLY to protect and secure it. [20]

In this, their first engagement, the British christened the Volunteers “The Baltimore Bloodhounds.”  The battle had cost the company dearly, reducing it to 65 effective men. [21] In all, the Americans lost 320 men, mainly as a result of the exploding powder magazine.  Among the Americans killed were Pike and his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Bajamin Nicholson (1788-1813). [22]  The British lost only 150 killed or wounded plus another 290 captured. 

The American victory was sorely needed in a campaign that had not gone as well as expected, and yet this American destruction of the capital would lead to retribution during the 1814 British attack on Washington.

This engagement was followed on May 27 with the American amphibious capture of Fort George on the Upper Niagara River, and on June 6 at the Battle of Stoney Creek, in which Brigadier General Winder and Brigadier General Chandler were captured.  After Winder was paroled in 1814, he returned to command the American troops defending Washington, only to be defeated on August 24, 1814 at Bladensburg, Maryland.  Winder’s defeat opened the door to the U.S. capital, which the British occupied.  While there, they burned the White House and the Capitol Building. 

On September 7, 1813, at Fort George, Upper Canada, with their one-year enlistment having expired, the First Baltimore Volunteers were discharged and returned to Baltimore.  Brigadier General Thomas P. Boyd sent them off with “a testimony of their soldier-like, patient and patriotic valor”:

Orders – The period having arrived when the terms of service of the Baltimore Volunteers have expired, they are honorably discharged, and have permission to retire to their respective homes…their conduct while associated with him [Boyd] in “the tented field,” and to add his testimony to their soldier-like deportment, their patience incident to the camp, and the bravery and ardor evinced by them in the hour of battle. [23]

On October 11, with the return of the First Baltimore Volunteers to Baltimore, Captain Moore, stepped down as their commander.  The men in the unit elected Ensign Thomas Warner as captain under Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Fowler, 39th Maryland Regiment.  As part of this regiment, “The Baltimore Bloodhounds” played an active role in the Battle of North Point, September 12, 1814.[24]

Muster Roll, First Baltimore Volunteers

Organized for one year under  “An Act authorizing the President of the United States to accept and organize certain volunteer military corps” (February 6, 1812).
(Source: Maryland Militia, War of 1812, Baltimore by E. Edward Wright (Volume 2, p 57)
Stephen H. Moore  Captain
John Gill  1st Lieutenant
Baptist Irvine  2nd Lieutenant (wounded Bayonet thro right shoulder)
Thomas Warner  Ensign (wounded)
Gregory Foy 1st Sergeant
James Auld  2nd Sergeant  (died January 3, 1813)
George Evans 3rd Sergeant (sick in hospital at Niagara)
Robert Kent 4th Sergeant (wounded at Newark)
Robert McAllister 1st Corporal
Joseph L. Crane 2nd Corporal
George Craig 3rd Corporal
Aquila Edwards 4th Corporal
William H. Jarvis  5th Corporal
John Howard     6th Corporal
Lewis Sherman  Musician

Ahrens, John D.          
Armitage, Joseph  (deserted December 5)
Andrews, Nathaniel
Armstrong, David
Baker, Christian
Bakerm Henry
Barr, Daniel       (deserted December 10)
Bowers, Daniel
Bennett, John B.  (deserted December 5)
Bishop, Henry    (died August 6, 18__)
Bowstradst, Samuel  (died December 6)
Boyle, Edward J.
Caffry, John
Cochran, James J.L.M.
Cooke, Levin
Camper, Jonathan
Coates, Daniel
Chapman, Jonathan
Daley, John
Day, Cornelius
Deppisen, John C.
Dixon, John
Dawes, James
Doughty, Joseph
Eichelberger, Peter
Ellicott, Benjamin
Edwards, Edward  (wounded at York, April 27)
Fife, Andrew H.
Fitch, Henry
Fonder, Joseph
Gamble, Nicholas
Gardiner, Peter
Gardiner, Samuel
George, Ezekiel
Gill, John
Gongers, Peter C.
Grayson, John
Hanna, John   (died at Buffalo, January 13, 1813)
Hayley, Edward
Hayes, Nicholas
Hazletine, Thomas  (wounded at York, April 27)
Hilton, James
Jones, Thomas
Keeves, William
Kelnor, George
Keller, Conrad
Kelly, Patrick
Kessner, John
Kleinhans, George H.
Knott, George
Kohlstradst, Benjamin
McCombs, Frederick
McCracken, John
Maxwell, John Y.
Maxwell, William
Myers, John
Newburgh, John V.
Patterson, John
Penman, John
Peregoy, William
Peters, William
Piercal, Henry
Pike, John H.
Pocock, Thomas
Porter, William
Price, Thomas
Randall, William
Rattle, John
Ryne, William
Sadler, Jr. Joseph
Selby, Micajah
Sinard, John
Sinton, Francis
Small, John J.
Small, John D.
Speakes, Edward L.
Stoutsberger, Andrew
Tracy, William
Tufts, Samuel
Underwood, James
Van Burgen, Peter
Watkins, William
Welch, Moses
Williams, Thomas L.


[1]“First Baltimore Volunteers,” [Delaware] American Watchman and Delaware Republican, November 11, 1812. 

[2] Skeen, E. Edward, Citizen Soldiers in the War of 1812. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1999, p.181; Report of House Committee, January 17, 1817, 14th Congress, 2d Session, Document No. 152, I, 664; Harrison was the former Governor of the Indiana Territory who received his commission in September 1814 and later in 1841 became the ninth President of the United States.

[3] James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, August 17, 1812. Madison Papers, Library of Congress, Microfilm Reel 14, Series: 1 (General Correspondence); see also Ketchem, Ralph. James Madison: A Biography. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1990, p. 357.

[4]  While Winder led the 14th U.S. Regiment to Canada, the 36th and 38th U.S. Regiments, consigned to Maryland, defended the Patuxent River Valley and Baltimore in 1814.

[5] [Baltimore] American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, July 25, 1812.

[6] In May 1812 the U.S. Government purchased a 400-acre site as the headquarters and supply depot of the Northern Division of the U.S. Army.

[7] In August 1812, Captain Moore served as clerk on the “Committee appointed to inquire into the causes and extant of the late commotions in Baltimore” to investigate late political riots.

[8] “Volunteer Law,” Baltimore American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, September 2, 1812. Callan, John F. The Military Laws of the United States. Philadelphia, George W. Childs, Printer, 1863, p. 215-216.

[9] “Events of the War,”  [Baltimore] Niles Weekly Register, October 3, 1812. Volume 3, No. 5, p. 79. 

[10] “First Baltimore Volunteers,” [Delaware] American Watchman, November 11, 1812.

[11] “Baltimore Volunteers,” [Baltimore] American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, November 11, 1812.

[12] Hargrove, Rev. John. A Sermon on the Second Coming of Christ. Baltimore: Warner & Hanna, 1805; “Piety & Patriotism,” [Delaware] American Watchman, October 21, 1812. The brick church stood on the southwest corner of Baltimore and Exeter Streets.

[13] “Baltimore Volunteers,” [Baltimore] American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, September 29, 1812.

[14] “Volunteers,” [Easton] Republican Star, October 20, 1812. Reprinted from the Carlisle Gazette. (Pa.)

[15] “Extract to the editors, from a member of the “First Baltimore Volunteers,” dated from Northumberland [, New York], October 12.” [Maryland] Frederick-Town Herald, November 21, 1812. Lieutenant Irvine was the managing editor of The Whig.

[16] "A letter from Lieut. Irvine, of the Baltimore Volunteers, to the editor of the Whig, dated Buffaloe, Nov. 27,” [Delaware] American Watchman, December 19, 1812; Captain Moore’s response was addressed “To the Editors of the Baltimore Patriot,” The Baltimore Whig, October 19, 1813. In his letter, Captain Moore felt that he and his company were betrayed by the editors of the [Annapolis] Federal Republican with published falsehoods in a story different from what had actually occurred; “Events of the War,” Niles Weekly Register, February 20, 1813, Vol.3, No. 25, p 396.

[17] Ensign Thomas Warner to his wife, Mary Ann Warren, dated April 19, 1813.

[18] “Baltimore Volunteers, Extract of a letter from Stephen H. Moore, Captain of the Baltimore Volunteers, to his brother in this city, dated Niagara, 5th May, 1813,” [Easton] Republican Star, May 25, 1813; Gen. Henry Dearborn and Commodore Isaac Chauncey plans were to gain control of the Great Lakes waterways that controlled the transportation and supply routes for British posts with General Pike’s brigade leading the first assault.

[19] Ibid. Lieutenant Irvine was the managing editor of The [Baltimore] Whig.

[20] “Baltimore Volunteers, Postscript of a letter from one of the Baltimore Volunteers, “to a gentleman in this city,” Baltimore Patriot, June 1, 1813.

[21] Ensign Thomas Warner to his wife, Mary Ann Warren, dated April 19, 1813.

[22] “Captain Benjamin Nicholson,” Baltimore Patriot, May 23, 1813. He was the son of Judge Benjamin Nicholson of Baltimore County, Maryland, an heir to the Nicholson’s of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

[23] “Baltimore Volunteers,” Baltimore Whig, September 20, 1813.

[24] “Baltimore Volunteers,” [Baltimore] American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, September 21, 1813; “Ordered,” Baltimore Whig, October 20, 1813; “First Baltimore Volunteers,” The [Baltimore] Whig, October 16, 1813; Stephen Moore returned to his civilian role as Collector of the Revenue for the 4th Collection District of Maryland. “Notice is hereby Given,” [Baltimore] American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, December 27, 1814.

About the Author: Scott S. Sheads is a NPS historian at Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine in Baltimore. Since 1978 he has also served as historian and volunteer for Maryland’s Sailing Ambassador War of 1812 topsail schooner Pride of Baltimore II (1988).

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