Annapolis Tea Burning · The Story
The Story

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The Annapolis Tea Burning

The Centennial Celebration of the burning of the "Peggy Stewart" recently held in Annapolis, not only attracted the attention of the people of Maryland, but of the entire country and called forth many garbled and conflicting accounts as to who was the perpetrator of that, then perilous and treasonable violation of the King's Authority, but which the light of after events has made to glow upon the pages of history as one of the most heroic and patriotic deeds performed during the struggle for our independence. In view of these facts I am glad to be enabled to throw some light upon that much mooted question. It was my good fortune during a recent visit to "Longwood", the residence of the late Dr. Gustavus Warfield ("Son of Dr. Charles Alexander Warfield, the hero of the 'Peggy Stewart'") to have my attention called to a communication to the "Baltimore Patriot" published in the year 1813, which was preserved in an old scrap book, family history and record, that dates far back into colonial times, a relic of much interest and value. I immediately recognized the historic value of that old clipping, for I realized it would lift the cloud of uncertainty from one of the most important events in the history of our Country. The authenticity of the communication is beyond a doubt, and its truthfulness will be evident to all readers. It was published immediately after the death of Dr. Charles Alexander Warfield, as a just tribute to his memory, and as an acknowledgement of his patriotism and valor. Though his name has long slumbered in oblivion, yet that one valorous and determined stand, in opposition to oppression and tyranny and the utterances of that noble sentiment, "Liberty and Independence or Death in pursuit of it", acted and uttered in those "days that tried men's souls", entitle him to a deserved prominence in the history of his state, and his noble stand in those perilous times, should be cherished by every true patriot, as a conspicuous example of that love of liberty and justice which animated our forefathers, and wrought our freedom.

Dr. Evan W. Warfield
Grandson of Dr. Charles Alexander Warfield


Born December 14th, 1751. Died, January 29th, 1813
Led the "Whig Club" to Annapolis,October 19th, 1774, and burnt the "Peggy Stewart"


Taken from the Baltimore Patriot, published in 1813

To the Editor of the Baltimore Patriot:

Sir, In the biography of the venerable Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, taken from the Salem Register of 20 th of September, and published in your paper of the 24th, wherein is portrayed his just and eminent services from the commencement to the termination of our Revolutionary contest, and whose subsequent and distinguished course has rendered him a blessing to his Country, and placed him in rank and estimation not to be surpassed by the renowned sages of the world; he stands now the beloved friend and father of the American people loaded with honor, age and goodness of heart. There is, however, one circumstance connected with the Burning of the Tea at Annapolis that should not be forgotten, and in which a highly-respected and valued friend of Mr. Carroll participated.

The late Dr. Charles Alexander Warfield, of Anne Arundel County, who but a short time before had obtained professional honors in the University of Pennsylvania and had been appointed Major of Battalion, upon hearing of the arrival of the brig "Peggy Stewart" at Annapolis, loaded with tea, and which vessel belonged to Mr. Anthony Stewart (a Scotch merchant), put himself at the head of the "Whig Club", of which he was a distinguished member, and marched to Annapolis with a determination to burn vessel and cargo.

When this party arrived opposite the State House, the late Judge Chase met them and harangued them, (he had been employed as a lawyer by Mr. Stewart). Dr. Warfield, finding that he was likely to make some impression upon the minds of his company, interrupted him by observing, that Chase had by former patriotic speeches made to the "Whig Club" inflamed the whole country, and now wished to get off by his own light; and pronounced it submission or cowardice in any member of the Club to stop short of their object; and called upon the men to follow him, that he would himself set fire to the vessel and cargo; but it is stated upon the best authority, that the Doctor carried in his hand the chunk of fire in company with Stewart whom he made to kindle it.

When the party first entered the city and was passing on they met Stewart, who was bold in opposition and threatened them with the vengeance of his King and Government, but his threats seemed only to increase their determination. They erected a gallows immediately in front of his house, by way of intimidation, then gave him his choice either to swing by the halter, or go with them on board, and put fire to his own vessel. He chose the latter and in a few moments the whole cargo with the ship's tackle and apparel were in flames. Shortly after this Mr. Stewart left the Country. This act decided the course Maryland was to pursue, and had an extensive influence upon public opinion. The writer of this was in company with Judge Chase and Dr. Warfield a few years before their death, and heard them conversing upon the above subject, when Mr. Chase remarked in a jocular manner: "If we had not succeeded, doctor, in the Revolutionary contest both of us would have been hung; You for burning the ship of tea, and I for declaring I owed no allegiance to the King, and signing the Declaration of Independence."

There were other movements and occurrences attending this early expression of a Revolutionary Spirit. Our departed friend, but a short time before he marched to the City of Annapolis to fire the tea, was parading his battalion in Anne Arundel County in the vicinity of Mr. Carroll's residence, when he took upon himself the privilege of printing some labels with the following inscription: "Liberty and Independence, or Death in pursuit of it"; and placed one on the hat of each man in his company, many of the older neighbors who were present, were struck with astonishment, and endeavored to persuade him to have them taken down; for the idea of independence at that time had entered the mind of but few men.

The venerable Mr. Carroll, the elder and father to the present Patriarch, rode up to the father of Doctor Charles Alexander Warfield and exclaimed: My god, Mr. Warfield, what does your son Charles mean? Does he know that he has committed treason against his king and may be prosecuted for a rebel?"

The father replied, with much animation and patriotism, "We acknowledge no King, the King is a traitor to us, and a period has arrived when we must either tamely submit to be slaves, or struggle gloriously for ' Liberty and Independence '. The King has become our enemy and we must become his. My son Charles knows what he is about. ' Liberty and Independence, or Death in pursuit of it', is his motto, it is mine, and soon must be the sentiment of every man in this Country!" The mighty word "Treason against the King" sounded from one end of battalion to the other, and in a few minutes not a label was seen in the hats of any of the men, except Dr. Warfield and Mr. James Connor, late of Baltimore County, who were too stern and undaunted to be intimidated by words, and they wore their labels to their homes. Thus, those great Patriots moved alternately between hope and fear, until they accomplished the great object of their lives."

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©2005 George A. Scheele MD