Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Richard B. Carmichael (1807-1884)
MSA SC 3520-1934

Richard Bennett Carmichael was born in Centerville, Queen Anne's County, Maryland on December 25, 1807 to William and Sarah (Downes) Carmichael. His education included the Academy at Centerville and Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, culminating with a B.A. from Princeton College in 1828. He then studied law under his father. In 1830, he was admitted to the bar and began practicing law in Centerville, Maryland.1

He married Elizabeth M. Hollyday on August 20, 1835. They had at least seven children: Richard B. (b. 1836), William (1838), Nancy "Nannie" M. (b. 1841), Elizabeth (b. 1844), Sarah "Sally" D., Katy V. (b. 1853), and Fanny C. (b. 1855). Fanny later married Henry B. Paca, Nannie married Charles H. Tilghman, and Sally married George Davidson, all of Queen Anne's County.2

Carmichael first entered state politics at the age of twenty-three as a member of the 1831 House of Delegates from Queen Anne's County. He then ran for U. S. Congress in 1833 and won election as a Democrat. He returned to the Maryland General Assembly and served in 1841 and again in 1867. In 1858, Governor Thomas Holliday Hicks appointed Carmichael a judge of the circuit court, which encompassed Kent, Queen Anne's, Talbot and Caroline Counties. Carmichael won the election to that position unopposed in the fall of 1859. He served as a judge of the circuit court from 1858 to 1864, and was the presiding judge of the county court of Queen Anne's County in 1861.

In 1855, the slaves Lucy Johnson, William Johnson, Maria Johnson, Robert Tilden, Charles Tilden, and Hester Tilden (and her infant) fled from Carmichael's farm in the Wye District. Phebe Myers, a free African American, assisted them in their unsuccessful escape. Carmichael had owned six slaves in 1840, seven in 1850, and eighteen in 1860.3

In February 1861, he served as chair of the Resolutions Committee of the Southern Rights Convention held in Baltimore. Under his leadership, the delegates unanimously adopted resolutions recommending that "if a disruption could not be avoided, Maryland should cast her lot with Virginia and the South."4 He received national attention in 1862 when his outspoken pro-Southern sentiments led him to be charged with treason. In late May 1862, Secretary of State William H. Seward ordered General John A. Dix, in Baltimore, to send federal troops to Easton to arrest Carmichael. When Dix's men arrived at the Talbot County Courthouse in Easton, Carmichael refused to recognize their authority. The agents pistol-whipped him and forcibly dragged him from the bench in the middle of court proceedings, stirring indignation throughout the Eastern Shore and the South. Carmichael imprisoned on May 27, 1862. On June 12, he wrote from Fort McHenry to his friend James Alfred Pearce for help. However, Pearce was near death, and Carmichael remained in prison until December 2, 1862, when he was released from Fort Delaware without any formal charges filed against him. While the New York Times reported that Carmichael had attacked an officer, who inflicted a "slight wound" in self-defense, Southern sympathizers pointed to his violent arrest as an example of federal brutality.5 In his 1886 work A History of Queen Anne's County, Frederic Emory observed that "the Southern feeling had now become very strong in Queen Anne's and continued to the end of the war."6 The notoriety that Carmichael received helped propel him to the presidency of the 1867 Constitutional Convention of Maryland.

Carmichael died on October 21, 1884 at the age of 77, at Wye, the family home near Carmichael, Queen Anne's County, Maryland. His will also mentioned farms called Irish Town and Woodfield. He was also considering building a house on Thomas Point, but died just a month after making his will. He was buried on the Wye farm in the family cemetery.7


1.     "Judge Carmichael Dead. Close of an Honored Career. Lawyer, Judge and Statesman."  The Baltimore Sun, 22 October 1884.
1.     Frederic Emory, Queen Anne's County, Maryland: Its Early History and Development (Baltimore, MD: The Maryland Historical Society, 1950) 503-504.

2.     QUEEN ANNE'S COUNTY COURT (Marriage Licenses) CR 4675-1, MSA CM831-1. Richard B. Carmichael and Elizabeth M. Hollyday, August 20, 1835.
2.     QUEEN ANNE'S COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Wills) Liber TAB 2, Folio 22 [CR 56-3, CM869-16]. Richard B. Carmichael, November 5, 1884.
2.     U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for Richd. B. Carmichael, 1850, Queen Anne's County, District 5, Page 243, Line 12 [MSA SM61-144, SCM 1500-1].
2.     U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for Richard B. Carmichael, 1860, Queen Anne's County, District 5, Page 149, Line 38 [MSA SM61-215, SCM 7224-1].

3.     QUEEN ANNE'S CIRCUIT COURT (Miscellaneous Court Papers) 1855-1856, Phoebe Myers, MSA No.: T3273.

4.     "Heroic Figure or Traitor?" The Sun Magazine 10 June 1973.

5.     "Excitement in Maryland." New York Times 29 May 1862: 1.
5.     "Affairs in Philadelphia." Baltimore Sun 12 July 1862: 4.
5.     "Judge Carmichael." Baltimore Sun 24 October 1862: 2.
5.     "Release of Political Prisoners."1 December 1862: 1.
5.     "Judge Carmichael." Baltimore Sun 8 December1862: 2.
5.     "Judge Carmichael Dead. Close of an Honored Career. Lawyer, Judge and Statesman." The Baltimore Sun, 22 October 1884.
5.     Clark, Charles B. "Suppression and Control of Maryland, 1861-1865: A Study of Federal-State Relations during Civil Conflict." The Maryland Historical Magazine 54.3 (1959): 241-271.
5.     Paca, Edmund C., ed. "'Tim's Black Book': The Civil War Diary of Edward Tilghman Paca, Jr., CSA." The Maryland Historical Society 89.4 (1994): 453-466.
5.     Papenfuse, Edward C., ed.  Archives of Maryland New Series I: An Historical List of Public Officials of Maryland. Vol. 1: 1632 - 1990. Annapolis, MD:  Maryland State Archives, 1990.

6.     Emory 503.

7.   "Judge Carmichael Dead. Close of an Honored Career. Lawyer, Judge and Statesman."  The Baltimore Sun, 22 October 1884.
7.     QUEEN ANNE'S COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Wills) Liber TAB 2, Folio 22 [CR 56-3, CM869-16]. Richard B. Carmichael, November 5, 1884.
 
 

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