The War of 1812 and Historic Elk Landing

By way of introduction…

Welcome to the Historic Elk Landing Foundation War of 1812 web site; the place for all things Elk Landing as they relate to the War of 1812.

Seeing it today, Elk Landing looks like a cool, calm, and tranquil location along the Little Elk Creek where birds nest, fox, deer, and ground hogs roam and make their home, and two hundred year old buildings dot the landscape. But on April 29th, 1813 that tranquil reality was shattered by the sound of musket and canon fire.

Five individuals would play a major roll in the drama that would lead to a confrontation between British naval forces and the Cecil Militia, charged with defending Elkton, the Cecil County seat.

The first individual would be Lt. George Augustus Westphal of the British Navy who led sailors and Marines on their mission to burn Elkton and who, later in his career, would later be promoted to Admiral. For the opposing Cecil Militia there was Lt. Henry Bennett who commanded Fort Hollingsworth constructed to the east of the Stone Building. Three civilians also played a role in the Elk Landing War of 1812 story: Mary Hollingsworth, the widow of Zebulon Hollingsworth who lived in the Hollingsworth House at Elk Landing in 1813; Hattie Boulden, an African American slave woman who was commandeered by the British to direct them to Elkton; and Judge Thomas Jefferson Samples who lived in Elk Landing during the war and later wrote of his experiences from his home in Indiana. On April 29th, 1813, these five lives would converge at Elk Landing and make history.

Over the next two years, The Historic Elk Landing Foundation will present research, audio/video, links to other War of 1812 web sites, living history activities, and interpretations of the events that we now call Defenders Day at Elk Landing, the day in April, 1813 when the Cecil Militia successfully defended the town of Elkton from the British torch and certain reduction to ashes.

This constantly evolving web site begins with some pictures of past Defenders Day events, some history, and War of 1812 web site links. Over time, other notifications will be added. We hope you will enjoy your tour and better yet, we hope you will come to The Landing to experience a time in our history when the future of Elkton, and all of the United States, hung in the balance.

"Defending" Historic Elk Landing

United States Troops - click for more pictures.

British Troops - click for more pictures.

Cecil Militia - click for more pictures.

Encampment - click for more pictures.

Fort Hollingsworth remains - click for more pictures.

Sword Fighting! - click for more pictures.

Defenders Days over the years at Elk Landing (click year for more pictures).




The War of 1812 - a film from Florentine Productions


The War of 1812 and Historic Elk Landing History Resources

In anticipation of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, a former Elk Landing Foundation board member, Mr. Bruce Leith, composed a brief history of Elk Landing's part in that late war, using existing resources. The War of 1812 and how it relates to Elk Landing.

Early in the 19th century, a young lad of 12 lived in what we now call the Stone Building at Historic Elk Landing. Thomas Jefferson Samples (letter 1, letter 2, letter 3, letter 4) and his family would later move to the state of Indiana where he would grow up and eventually become a judge. In old age, Judge Samples wrote several letters to the Cecil County Whig newspaper describing his boyhood in Elkton, including an account of the April, 1813 British attack on Elk Landing and celebrations of the Cecil Militia victory.

A twenty-eight year old British Navy Lt. George Westphal, led a small expedition of British sailors and marines from Frenchtown to Elkton. They were stopped by the militia forces stationed at both Fort Hollingsworth and Fort Defiance on opposite shores of the Little Elk Creek below Elkton. In spite of his defeat at Elk Landing, Lt. Westphal would go on to greater heights in the British Navy as detailed in this short biography taken from the Royal Naval Biography on Memoirs of the Services of all the Flag-Officers, Superannuated Rear-Admirals, Retired-Captains, Post -Captains, and Commanders by John Marshall, Lt in the Royal Navy, Vol. III-Part II, published in London in 1832 and presented here courtesy of Google on-line services.

"…they took one of the female slaves, with them, and tried to bribe her to act as their guide. She took them to Cedar Point opposite Fort Hollingsworth, then in command of Captain Henry Bennett, who opened fire upon them and they made a hasty retreat . . ."

This is how 19th century historian George Johnston describes the War of 1812 attack on Elkton in April of 1813. Our focus today is on that "female slave" referred to in Johnston's narrative. Who was she? Where did she come from? What happened to her after the war?

To find out, as a part of its ongoing research and development of information and future programming around the War of 1812 at Elk Landing, the Historic Elk Landing Foundation enlisted the help of local historian Mike Dixon, the first president of the Foundation. Mike was asked to track down this slave woman and tell us what he could about her. Here, in brief, are his findings: An Investigation of a Slave Woman's Role in the Defense of Elkton during the War of 1812. In addition, Mike supplied copies of a newspaper interview with Hetty Boulden, her obituary, and three census records: 1850, 1860, and 1870.

The War of 1812 was very much a maritime war, both around the world and in Cecil County. As a result, the study of that war in Cecil County takes us not only on the water of the Elk Creek, but under it. In 2003, Masters degree candidate, Michael Plakos, from Eastern Carolina University, published his thesis about his work on an underwater archaeological study of the burned and now submerged packet boats that the British encountered and destroyed in April of 1813. That study, “The Exploration of a Burned American Vessel from the War of 1812 in the Upper Chesapeake Bay” (click here for part one) (click here for part two) goes into detail, not only about the history that attracted the archaeologists to the Frenchtown area, but the methodology and equipment that the scientists used. Our thanks to the Historical Society of Cecil County for allowing us to scan and publish this valuable document.

The War of 1812 and Historic Elk Landing History Links

Star Spangled Banner Trail

Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission

Washington, D.C. War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission

Fort McHenry National Historic Site

Upper Bay War of 1812 Maryland Bicentennial