I had originally thought about writing a Memorial Day post on one of my great-great-great-great-grandfathers who had fought in the Revolutionary War, but my colleague Robert was in Frederick, Maryland at the end of April and took some photographs of historic sites. He suggested I could use one of them for a Memorial Day blog post, so rather than trying to track down the history of Moses Wood, I decided to weave all three photographs into one post about two individuals and an event in the first century of the history of the United States.
Memorial Day was originally established after the Civil War to commemorate the Union dead. The current law, which is found at 36 U.S.C. 116, directs us to pray for a permanent peace on Memorial Day while we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States. It is a fitting time to remember our history and also hope for our future.
This first photo Robert took is of the tombstone for Thomas Beatty. Thomas Beatty was one of the longest-serving judges for Frederick County while at the same time he served in the Maryland House of Delegates. During the last year of his term as judge, he was also one of 12 justices who repudiated the Stamp Act that had been imposed on the colonies by George III and his ministers in Great Britain. This law was the first to directly tax the colonies by taxing all printed documents used or created in the colonies, from newspapers to legal documents to almanacs. The law caused outrage in the colonies. A Stamp Act Congress held in October 1765 proposed petitioning the king to reconsider the scope of the law. Greater outrage was expressed by individual colonies, led by Maryland where Thomas Beatty and his fellow judges completely repudiated the law. Beatty lived for another 50 years after this act of conscience when he and his fellow judges paved the way for American independence.
The second photograph Robert sent me was the headstone of a soldier from the War of 1812, Thomas H. Howard, who was a private under Captain Thomas C. Worthington at Fort Severn. The War of 1812 is one which is often overlooked in ourthe telling of our history, though the British torched the White House and U.S. Capitol, which included the Library of Congress. The war itself was inconclusive for while the British demanded much in initial negotiations at Ghent, the United States negotiators, who included Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams, supported the principle of status quo ante bellum (the state existing before war). The Treaty of Ghent did not refer to impressment, blockades, or any of the other maritime differences that had been the stated cause of the war. Like the war itself, I could not find much on Private Howard, though I discovered that his commanding officer, Captain Worthington, was elected to the House of Representatives for the 19th Congress (1825-1827) and he too is buried at the Mount Olivet Cemetery. Private Howard himself lived on for another 40 years. Although nothing remains of Private Howard except his grave marker, he reminds us of the millions who have labored in quiet obscurity for permanent peace in this country.
The third photo Robert provided was of the Worthington farmhouse, which was part of the site for the Civil War Battle of Monocacy that took place on July 9, 1864, as part of the Confederate push towards Union territory. While General Grant was busy overseeing the Siege of Petersburg, General Lee had decided to send Confederate troops into Maryland to try and menace the U.S. Capitol. General Jubal Early led 15,000 Confederate soldiers who engaged with 6,600 Union troops led by Major General Lew Wallace. Although the Confederate troops were able to rout the smaller Union force, General Wallace was able to delay their advance enough so that when General Early arrived at Washington, D.C., on July 11, 1864, Union reinforcements had arrived to secure the capitol, forcing the Confederate forces to withdraw. As the National Park Service website notes, though a smaller, and lesser known battle, nonetheless the Battle of Monocacy saved Washington and saved Union morale.
I learned a great deal about Memorial Day, from reading about the history and background of Decoration Day which was celebrated in the 1910s. On a day when we are enjoined to pray for peace, it seems a good day to reflect on our history – both well and lesser-known persons and incidents – and perhaps to return to one’s own family history.