Philip Reed, Hero of Caulk’s Field, War of 1812
By late summer of 1814, the British had rampaged around the Chesapeake, burning villages and towns, and generally having their way with the whole countryside. Then on August 24th 1814, British troops overran and torched Washington DC, our fledgling nation’s capital. The residents of the newly finished President’s House managed to flee with their lives just before the troops stomped into the building and literally ate the meal that was set on the table before setting the place alight. American morale was low.
The Battle of Caulk’s Field in Kent County on August 31st was hardly epic -- approximately 350 troops met on a field in Tolchester. But it was crucial to turning the tide in a war for our country’s very survival. And 54-year-old Col. Phillip Reed, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, was a key player in that battle. When the dead and wounded were counted that steamy night, the tally was hugely in America’s favor: 15 British killed and 27 wounded, including their commander, 28-year-old Sir Peter Parker, who died 2 days later. Reed had lost only three men. The David-against-Goliath victory – county militiamen against the seasoned troops of the most powerful nation in the world – renewed American confidence.
Reed is buried in the tree-shaded cemetery at lovely little Christ Church IU, Worton, MD beside his wife, Hassanah Reed, and son, George Medford Reed. In fact, many of those who fought so fiercely at Caulk’s Field were members of IU church. Reed had been elected to the vestry of Christ Church IU in 1804, and relied heavily on fellow vestry members Capt. Ezekiel Chambers, Lieut. Henry Tilghman, Capt. Simon Wickes and Capt. Samuel Griffiths to command rifle and artillery companies, four of the seven companies at Caulk’s Field. In addition, approximately 14% of the militiamen who saw action there were associated with I.U. as vestry members, pew holders or contributors.
After years of distinguished service to his country, including service as a US Senator and a member of the House of Representatives, Reed died nearly destitute. But he was so beloved among his neighbors and community, that when his property was put up for auction, no one would bid on it.
Reed’s heroism was finally acknowledged with a dedication at his gravesite in 1902.
The contemporary description of that dedication follows. The links below give more information on the battle itself and on Col. Phillip Reed.
Download Reed's gravestone dedication.