Md.'s third vice presidential candidate

WAY BACK WHEN

Revolutionary War hero Howard ran as Federalist in 1816

Back Story

August 10, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun reporter

Several weeks ago, I had written about vice presidential candidates who hailed from Maryland.

Along with intrepid Sun researcher Paul McCardell, who has a deep and abiding affection and thorough working knowledge of Maryland history, we came up with two names and an almost was.

Henry Gassaway Davis was the oldest vice presidential candidate when he ran with Democratic nominee Alton B. Parker in 1904. He was 80 at the time.

Forty years ago, Spiro T. Agnew, former Baltimore County executive and Maryland governor, was nominated to be Richard M. Nixon's running mate at the Republican Convention at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Florida.

I also mentioned Maryland Gov. Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin, who came within a hair's breadth of being Dwight D. Eisenhower's running mate in 1952, only to step aside in favor of the aforementioned Nixon.

Several weeks after my column was published, the phone rang early one morning.

A woman, I failed to get her name, in a spidery but cheerful voice announced: "Mr. Rasmussen, I read your column on vice presidential candidates from Maryland and you missed one."

My heart sank. This is always the kind of phone calls reporters actually dread while outwardly being trying to be gracious

"His name is Col. John Eager Howard," she said. "And I ought to know. After all I'm a descendant of his."

I thought to myself if this were a pie question in a Trivial Pursuit game or on a College Board exam, most of humankind would flub it as I had.

But right she was. McCardell and I scurried back through The Sun's dusty archives and quickly discovered the caller was absolutely correct.

John Eager Howard, a Revolutionary War hero who had served as Maryland governor from 1788 to 1791, was diplomat Rufus King's running mate in 1816 on the Federalist Party ticket.

Earlier, King, who had been a U.S. senator and fervent anti-slavery candidate from New York, had been the Federalist Party vice presidential nominee in 1804 and again in 1808.

The ticket of King and Howard was defeated by James Monroe of the Democratic-Republican Party, and yes, there once was such a party.

The name of John Eager Howard is one of the most illustrious in Maryland history.

He was born June 4, 1752, at Grey Rock, his family's Baltimore County home, and was educated by tutors.

Howard was 24 when he enlisted in the Maryland Militia to fight in the Revolutionary War.

"He fought at White Plains and Germantown. By the time the Maryland Continentals were moved to the Carolinas, he was a lieutenant colonel and gained his glory at the Battle of Cowpens," observed The Evening Sun in a 1987 article.

After the Maryland troops moved back after the initial British attack, Howard rode among the line and ordered the Marylanders to fire and then charge with their bayonets.

"He led the way. The shock was too much for the British. They wheeled and retreated as the pursuing Americans went after them with their bayonets," the article recounted.

Some 80 British solders were killed while 600 surrendered to the American commander, Gen. Daniel Morgan.

Morgan, seeing Howard holding the swords of seven British officers who had surrendered to him, said, "You have done well for you are successful; had you failed, I would have shot you."

For those familiar with James Ryder Randall's "Maryland, My Maryland!," the state song, Howard's action's that day has been forever memorialized in the lyrics, "Remember Howard's warlike thrust."

The Battle of Eutaw Springs, S.C., in September 1781, proved to be Howard's last.

The American Army had more than 500 men killed or wounded in what proved to be one of the bloodiest confrontations of the war, while British losses topped 800.

Only 30 of Howard's men made it through the battle without being injured or killed.

So severe were his wounds that Howard was sent home to Baltimore to recuperate.

After the war, Howard served as a justice of the Baltimore County Court, a senatorial elector from Baltimore County and then a justice of the Baltimore County Orphans' Court.

He represented Maryland in the Continental Congress from 1787 to 1788, and in the state Senate from 1791 to 1795.

In 1796, he was elected as a Federalist to the U.S. Senate after Richard Potts resigned, and was re-elected that same year. He remained in the Senate until 1803.

Howard, who was offered the position of secretary of war by President George Washington but declined, also turned down a commission to be a brigadier general.

Belvedere, Howard's home at Calvert and Chase streets, became one of the most gracious and hospitable homes in the state, where he and his wife, the former Peggy Oswald Chew of the wealthy Chew family of Philadelphia, welcomed such guests as Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette.

His old running mate, Rufus King, died April 29, 1827, and Howard succumbed six months later at Belvedere on Oct. 12. He was buried in Old St. Paul's Cemetery in Baltimore.

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