Database

Swan Point

Other names:

What:
Skirmish: 4/16/1776. *Col. Harris' militia vs. boat crew from British brig. American victory.

Where: 39.48956, -76.12217 Swan Point

Maps: [map notes]

Sources:

  • Scharf, John Thomas, History of Maryland, Vol.2, p.306, Baltimore, 1879, John Piet, publ.
    On the 16th of April, a British brig, carrying sixteen guns, anchored off Swan Point in the Chesapeake, and sent an armed boat to destroy a vessel that was then building near the point. Colonel Harris, with his militia, was watching the movements of the enemy, and shortly after they landed, captured the boat and took the crew prisoners. While Congress was sitting in Baltimore, the brig Lexington, carrying sixteen four-pounders, arrived in the harbor. She had been captured off tho capes of Virginia by the British frigate Pearl, and the enemy, placing a prize crow on board, ordered her to follow the frigate. During the night, the Americans revolted, and, overpowering the prize crew, carried the brig into Baltimore, where she was recommissioned under Captain Johnston, and in February, 1777, sailed for Europe.
    Note: Scharf discusses this in the context of 1776, not 1777.

  • Steiner, Bernard C., ed., Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution
    Arch. XII, 352. A company from Harford County under Capt. Robert Harris, i st Lt. William Cole, 2nd Lt. Benjamin Scott, Ensign James Steele, enrolled for the Flying Camp, arrived ... ...
    A company from Harford County under Capt. Robert Harris, 1st Lt. William Cole, 2nd Lt. Benjamin Scott, Ensign James Steele, enrolled for the Flying Camp, arrived at Philadelphia Nov. 2nd, 1776. Warrant issued by the Council of Safety Sept. 23rd, 1776, to Harris to raise this company. For the complete list of the names of the men in this Company see Md. Arch. XII, 435.
    JR: Harford County is where site B. is located. My take is that Harris would have been in command of the militia in the area with unknown rank and that he was given the rank of captain and the task of recruiting a company for the 6th Rgt, Maryland Continentals. It was common that a person of known respect and ability would be selected to recruit a company of continentals in the region of his influence. This would have been some 7 months after Swan Point incident (1776), and makes the 1777 date unlikely because Harris' company was likely out of the region by then.

  • Stone (Thomas). Signer of the Declaration of Independence. A. L. S., 4to. Port Tobacco, Apr. 17, 1781 [sic], to Gov. Lee of Maryland.
    Yesterday morning a sixteen Gun Brig appeared off Swan Point, & sent a Boat with five hands to destroy a vessel on the Stocks near that place. Eight militia under Col. Harris attacked them & took the Boat & Crew, the prisoners are ordered to Annapolis.
    H., Dec. 5, '18. (276) $75.00.
    American Book Prices Current, Volume 25, Bancroft-Parkman, 1920.
    A record of literary properties sold at auction in the United States.

  • A Map of the most Inhabited part of Virginia containing the whole province of Maryland with Part of Pensilvania, New Jersey and North Carolina. Drawn by Joshua Fry & Peter Jefferson in 1775. Printed for Robt. Sayer ... London. From the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

    Note: Contemporary maps typically showed points A and B. If they showed a single location, it was usually point B (sometimes identified as Swan Creek).

  • Point B, while appearing to be somewhat better known in 1776, appears on modern charts (thanks to Jack Parker) as being too shallow to accomodate anywhere in the vicinity a vessel having a draft of 10.5 to 11 feet (that commonly given for a brig).

    The chart for 1857 showed depths generally double what they currently are;

    Note: It is not unreasonable to assume that the depths in 1776 would have been somewhat greater than they were in 1857 (81 years later). If a brig were selected for its more shallow draft (e.g., designed for use off Holland, and/or with stores and water depleted from extended time at sea, came in at high tide (about 6'?), and anchored a mile or more away, Point B need not be excluded from consideration.

  • Point C is listed as an unincorporated populated area having the name Swan Point in Baltimore County. It was entered into the GNIS system in 1979 (which should not be taken as firm evidence that it had not existed previously). It is not listed as a geographical feature. The geographical feature name is given as Cuckold Point. The 1924 topo map only shows the identification as Cuckold Point:

       

       

  • RevWar75 RevWar75  
    4/16/1776. Swan Point, Chesapeake Bay. Land action. American victory.
    4/16/1777. Swan Point, Chesapeake Bay. Land action. American victory. (same as above?)

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