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Attack on Steward’s House

British attack on Stephen Steward's home, farm, and shipyard.

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II.  Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

April 5.—On Saturday last, (March 31st,) a party from his most gracious Majesty’s ships the Monk, and Hope, off Annapolis, Maryland, proceeded up West River, with an intention of destroying, with their accustomed savage cruelty, the property of Mr. Stephen Steward. They arrived at a kind of peninsula called Chalk Point, about a mile from Mr. Steward’s. It appears from the route they took, they were conducted by a negro of Mr. Steward’s, who lately ventured to try their generosity, and escaped from his master. On Chalk Point was a cannon of six pounds, and six men, who, conceiving the enemy’s approach must be in front, (unless they knew the situation of the cannon,) were unfortunately alarmed too late to make use of their cannon, for at their first discovery they were within a few yards of the shore, and considerably in the rear of the guards. On being challenged, they answered: “Friends to Congress from Annapolis;” when they were fired on by two only of the guard, some of their pieces missing fire, the others, frightened at their numbers, immediately ran off. They returned the fire furiously with swivels and small arms, and unfortunately for those whose inclination was to harass them, those who ran off had with them all the ammunition. No farther resistance being made, (for indeed it was now impracticable,) they advanced by land to Mr. Steward’s, where the whole force that could be mustered, on whom there could be any dependence, was six or seven. It was determined to retreat to Captain Harrison’s, where they were next, expected, and there make what resistance they could with the assistance of such neighbors as might join them; but their vengeance was satiated for that time.

When they had so gloriously completed the destruction of every thing valuable to Mr. Steward on that place, how did they exult! how glowed the generous bosom of the Briton at a sight so glorious! how did the conscious blush, which suffuses each feature of the hero, brighten their looks! how beat the gallant heart when they beheld the flames which British heroism alone could kindle, ascend and consume all before them! A ship of twenty guns, that in a few days would have been launched, the dwelling-house with most of the furniture, two or three store-houses, &c., filled with articles of every kind for conducting the business of building ships, as well as for private purposes, provisions, tools, timber, every thing was lost. The houses, though not elegant, were, for the purpose they were intended, equal to the most superb; the hospitable door was ever open to the honest, and guests of every degree were welcome as their merits entitled them; and the very savages who effected this horrid affair, a few hours before might have been fed had they been hungry. The loss is not yet to be estimated; every hour they discover their loss greater. Some papers and books were consumed.

This brave band, at length satisfied with their mighty feat, their vengeance glutted, retired in good order, and made good a retreat, to their immortal honor, although opposed by such numbers. Their malice seemed to be levelled alone at Mr. Steward, they having passed through Mr. Harrison’s house without injuring it, and in their way up and returning they passed several others without molesting them. There were cannon at the shipyard, but they were too well informed of its direction to march that way. Say, ye deluded few, whom idle fear, prejudice, or treachery actuate; ye warm advocates for a union with Britain, can idle fancy picture the idea? No, even folly laughs at it; insanity derides it. Oh! George, which of the heroes from the long line of kings that have graced the British throne, can compare with thee? Brave, generous, just, humane, time can never produce any thing to emulate thy worth.1


1 New Jersey Gazette, April 18.