E Monument Street & N Aisquith Street (Street View)
GPS: 39° 17′ 52.66″ N 76° 36′ 6.84″ W
Daniel Wells and Henry McComas were apprentice saddle makers in Charm City during the War of 1812. By 1814, the teenagers were part of Captain Edward Aisquith’s Militia Rifle Company, preparing for an eventual English attack. After successfully sacking Washington DC, including the White House, The British decided to swing by Baltimore in hopes of eliminating the pirates and privateers stationed in the notorious port. General Robert Ross was in command of the invading land troops that approached the town’s western boundaries in September of 1814. Ross had a military background spanning 30 years and had served in the Napoleonic Wars.
As the Aisquith Company positioned itself on the North Point Peninsula, an area fortified a year earlier in fear of an impending British invasion, General Ross, noticing the American positions, found refuge on the local farm of Robert Gorsuch. Here he had breakfast cooked for him while waiting for the rest of his army to arrive. Brigadier General John Stricker, in charge of the 3,000 plus soldiers advancing the British land assault, ordered a group of 230 men with one cannon to flush General Ross out of the Gorsuch farm. Wells and McComas were a part of this small brigade, their defining moment arriving swiftly.
Riding on a white horse (or a black horse, depending on the source), General Ross was shot in the battle, mortally wounded by the American Militia. Daniel Wells and Henry G. McComas have been given equal credit for the historical deed, each sacrificing their life in the progress. Another American soldier was shot at the scene, 24 year-old Aquila Randall, credited with being the first United States fatality of the Battle of North Point, was found near the bodies Wells and McComas, all three had fired their weapons.
Noted local poet and Baltimore historian Christopher T. George has shed light on the possibility a sniper, and not Wells and McComas, killed General Ross at the Battle of North Point. As a reference George cites a passage in the book The British Invasion of Maryland, 1812-1815 by William Matthew Marine. The volume contains a conversation between an American, Henry Wilson, and an English gentleman claiming to have been General Ross’s aide de campe at the Battle of North Point. The British soldier reports that Ross’s mortal wound was “caused by a musket ball and a buck-shot”, his testimony running counter to the notion the wound was caused by musket ball only. The Independent Blues militia of the 5th Regiment used this modified method, loading ‘buck and ball‘, for their weapons. George also wrote that: “the unit’s commander, Capt. Aaron R. Levering [of Independent Blues], is alleged to have seen an officer ride up at the head of the enemy line. He is deported to have ordered his men, ‘Take good aim, there’s an officer.’ The militiamen saw the British officer fall from his horse and from the description of his uniform it was thought that it was Ross.”
In 1854, a committee gathered with the notion of erecting a monument to Wells and McComas. On September 10, 1858, after securing and investing the funds for the project, the bodies of the teen militiamen were exhumed and placed in the Maryland Institute. Thousands of people visited the coffins during the three days leading up to September 12th, the anniversary of the Battle of North Point, when the official cornerstone for the memorial was laid. On that day, the bodies of Wells and McComas were paraded to Ashland Square, the site of interment, and placed below the obelisk’s foundation in ceremonial fashion. The 21-foot monument was finally completed in 1873 and is made of Baltimore County marble. The Obelisk portion, resting on a two-step granite pedestal is comprised of two large pieces of marble, weighing 14 and 8 tons respectively.