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Church is truly one of Chaptico's most cherished
sites. Legend has it that the famous 18th century architect, Sir
Christopher Wren, was its designer. Originally, the church had
doors on either side, with four aisles forming across in the center of
the structure, as was common with churches of that period. Writer
Robert Pogue credits the church's red brick and Flemish bond for it
withstood two and a half centuries to include a raid by the British,
the power which ordered it built in the first place. It was here
that John Coode, an early vestryman used the church to plot and
organize a rebellion against Lord Baltimore in 1689--causing Charles
loss of the colony and the end of religious freedom until the
Joseph Norris, in a
history of Chaptico, describes how the church and town were
to be the same again. He said during the War of 1812, British
frigates lay off of St Mary's County and for two years "pour forth the
most barbaric depredations upon the helpless farmers...burning homes and
confiscating property" and hauling off both slaves and masters alike.
He cites July 30, 1814 when Brit Admiral Cockburn visited Chaptico, and
afterwards writing his superiors to say he 'took quiet possession
opposition...and caused no further inconvenience to them" (other than
some cattle, stock and tobacco.) But American reports differed
according to the Alexandria Herald. Maryland's governor
wrote this to the newspaper:
British soldiers used the
as a stable for their horses, and hadstripped and humiliated some of the
town's women by forcing them to stand for an hour and a half before the
British officers. Other reports say all doors and windows in the
town were dashed before the Brits took their loot and sailed off.
Norris remarks that even
as they were desecrating the tomb of the Key family in Chaptico, lawyer
Scott Key, their descendant, was about to become British prisoner
ship and was soon to write the Star Spangled Banner--a song that would
echo the sentiment of a nation struggling to free itself from
"I passed through Chaptico
after the enemy left it, and I am sorry to say that their conduct would
have disgraced Cannibals; the house was torn to pieces, the well which
afforded the inhabitants was filled up, and what is worse, the church
the ashes of the dead shared an equally bad or worse fate. Will you
believe me, when I tell you, that the sunken graves were converted into
barbecue holes! The remaining glass of the church windows broken,
the communion table used as a dinner table and then broken to pieces!
Bad as the above may appear, it dwindles to insignificance, when
with what follows: the vault was entered and the remains of the dead
Yes, my friend, the winding sheet was torn from the body of a lady of
first respectability, and the whole contents of the vault entirely
The above facts were witnessed by hundreds as well as myself, and I am
happy to say, that but one sentiment pervaded our army...Cockburn was at
the head of it; that they also destroyed the organs; that Judge Key's
who had been last put into the vault was the person alluded to, that her
winding sheet was torn in pieces, and her person wantonly exposed; and
that his men were exasperated to desperation by his conduct."
Above: one of the
family markers in Christ Church's cemetery. Below: Hayden's headstone.
irony of the desecration committed at Christ Church is that it was the
King and Queen Parish--a church which belonged to the Church of
Put simply, he adds, "they destroyed their own church!" The following
year, the vestry of the church petitioned the Maryland Legislature to
a lottery to raise money to repair the church.
Chaptico would never be
same, Norris concludes. The port town with its
prominent homes and buildings destroyed left most people in financial
With the western frontier opening up to colonization, many pulled up
and headed west with a wagon train to Kentucky. Pogue reports the
entire county's population in 1790 was 15,544 but by 1820, it was down
3,000 inhabitants. Some of the Maddox's removed to Kentucky and others
remained to prosper as the county was rebuilding, only to suffer next
the bloody Civil War.
Civil War--brother against brother
St Mary's county was
to the south, and being only a river's crossing from the Confederacy,
virtually held by Union soldiers who imposed a curfew on the town and
ran an infamous prisoner of war camp at the county's southern tip, Point
Lookout. Some, mostly freed slaves, joined the Union. Many
young men joined the south and some townspeople prepared shipments of
and supplies for the Confederates. The cemetery at Christ Church holds
the gravestone of one George Hayden, killed at the battle of Gettysburg
where he marched to his death across an open field into Union fire with
others of the Second Maryland on the Confederate side.
Chaptico remains a
Its countryside is dotted with homes of a 17th century flavor. At
the center, the old church and graveyard has stood well and seen a
share of American history and Maddox ancestry.
chapter and the Southern
Chapter for more Civil War stories.