Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

William Mitchel (b. circa 1759 - d. ?)
MSA SC 5496-050636
War of 1812 Escaped Slave, Calvert County, Maryland, 1814

Biography:

Born around 1759, William Mitchel worked as a slave on Ann Dare's farm near the Patuxent River in Calvert County.1 Sometime in July 1814, Mitchel and his fellow slave Richard Corn fled to a British ship on the Patuxent River.2 On August 1st, Basil Simmons, a neighbor of Anne Dare's father John, reported seeing  Mitchel "employed by the british and had a black muskett," and "acted as in office over the British sailors."3

On August 18th, a British flotilla consisting of "four ships of the line, seven frigates, seven transports, and several brigs or schooners" sailed up the Patuxent.4 Approximately 4,500 British troops disembarked at Benedict the next day," beginning their march toward Washington."5 Benedict, a port on the Patuxent River just over the western border of Calvert County,6 was also the location of the farm of Zachariah Sothoron, who reported spotting Mitchel with the British troops in Benedict shortly before the Battle of Bladensburg. Although Mitchel was serving as "a serjeant in a company of negroes Sothoron overheard him emphasizing to a British officer that he would not march with the rest of the troops, having "been promised the priviledge of staying that he might get his wife, and that he would have her that night at the risk of his life."7

Mitchel's enslaved wife, fifty-year-old Mary Mitchel, lived on the farm of the sisters Susannah and Juliet Rawlings8 on the Patuxent River in the southern Calvert County.9 Mitchel succeeded in rescuing his wife and as their two daughters, Harriet and Sidney, along with his wife's brother.10

John Marbury, the agent for John Dare's estate, reported that "a 'William Mitchel' appears to have been on board the Devastation on the 30 March 1815 then lying at Cumberland Island" on the coast of Georgia.11 Marbury also believed that the British had sent William Mitchel, Mary Mitchel, and Dick Corn to Halifax. In the claim for compensation, he noted the following:

At page 91 of the Halifax list of negroes received into the province of Nova Scotia from the States of America” after the 27 April 1815 – is found a negro called William Mitchel in company with his wife – this negro is said there to be about 64 years of age – the claimants negro William was supposed to be about 55 years old when he went away – there is no certainty in regard to the age of a negro – it rarely happens any memorand: is made of it, & the exposure they are subjected to generally makes them appear older than they actually are ... the correspondence in part of age, & the fact of his wife, being with him, make it highly reasonable to presume them the same.12
William Mitchel and his family settled at Preston, the largest settlement of black refugees in Nova Scotia. By 1816, Mitchel had built a hut on half an acre of land that he had cleared in plot A, section 3, of the settlement.13 He was still living in Preston in 1833.14



Footnotes

1.     U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for John Dare, 1800, Calvert County, All Saints Parish, Page 5, 10th line from bottom [MSA SM61-25, M 2054-4].
3.     U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for John Dare, 1810, Calvert County, All Saints Parish, Page 4, 16th line from bottom [MSA SM61-45, M 2060-1].

2.     Claim of Ann Dare, Case 560, Case Files, compiled ca. 1827 - ca. 1828, documenting the period ca. 1814 - ca. 1828. *ARC Identifier 1174160 / MLR Number PI 177 190*. National Archives, College Park.

3.     Claim of Dr. John Dare, Case 606, Case Files, compiled ca. 1827 - ca. 1828, documenting the period ca. 1814 - ca. 1828. *ARC Identifier 1174160 / MLR Number PI 177 190*. National Archives, College Park.

4.     Budiansky, Stephen. Perilous Fight: America's Intrepid War with Britain on the High Seas, 1812-1815 (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010) 333.

5.     "Benedict," CH-229, Maryland Historical Trust. Inventory of Historic Properties, www.mdihp.net.
3.     Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict (Champaign, IL: Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, 1989) 197.
3.     David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler, The War of 1812 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002) 114.
3.     John R. Grodzinski, The War of 1812: An Annotated Bibliography (New York, NY: Taylor and Francis Group, LLC, 2008) 14.
3.     Robert Malcomson, Historical Dictionary of the War of 1812 (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2006) 595.

6.     U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for Zachariah Sothoron, 1810, Charles County, Page 3b, Line 11 [MSA SM61-48, M 2060-4].

7.     Claim of Dr. John Dare, Case 606, Case Files, compiled ca. 1827 - ca. 1828, documenting the period ca. 1814 - ca. 1828. *ARC Identifier 1174160 / MLR Number PI 177 190*. National Archives, College Park.

8.     Claim of Susannah and Juliet Rawlings, Case 557, Case Files, compiled ca. 1827 - ca. 1828, documenting the period ca. 1814 - ca. 1828. *ARC Identifier 1174160 / MLR Number PI 177 190*. National Archives, College Park.

9.     Charles Francis Stein, A History of Charles County, Maryland (Baltimore, MD: Schneidereith & Sons, 1960) 304-305.
3.     Government Publications: GENERAL ASSEMBLY (Laws), 1823, MdHR 820909-2, (2/2/6/12). Archives of Maryland Online, Volume 628, Page 14.

10.   Claim of Ann Dare, Case 560, Case Files, compiled ca. 1827 - ca. 1828, documenting the period ca. 1814 - ca. 1828. *ARC Identifier 1174160 / MLR Number PI 177 190*. National Archives, College Park.
3.     Claim of Susannah and Juliet Rawlings. Case Files, compiled ca. 1827 - ca. 1828, documenting the period ca. 1814 - ca. 1828. *ARC Identifier 1174160 / MLR Number PI 177 190*. National Archives, College Park. Note: Juliet Rawling's deposition originally listed Mary Mitchell as twenty-four years old, but later corrected the age to fifty.
3.     Claim of Dr. John Dare, Deposition of Zachariah Sothoron, April 5, 1815, pg. 4.

11.   Claim of Ann Dare, Case 560, Case Files, compiled ca. 1827 - ca. 1828, documenting the period ca. 1814 - ca. 1828. *ARC Identifier 1174160 / MLR Number PI 177 190*. National Archives, College Park.
3.     Mary R. Bullard, Cumberland Island: A History (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2003) 3.

12.   Claim of Ann Dare, Case 560. Case Files, compiled ca. 1827 - ca. 1828, documenting the period ca. 1814 - ca. 1828. *ARC Identifier 1174160 / MLR Number PI 177 190*. National Archives, College Park.

13.   "Report of lands cleared by the people of colour in the settlement of Preston..." African Nova Scotians: in the Age of Slavery and Abolition, Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management. http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/.
3.     "A list of people of colour settled at Preston," African Nova Scotians: in the Age of Slavery and Abolition, Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management, http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/.
3.     "Halifax List." African Nova Scotians: in the Age of Slavery and Abolition, Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management, http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/.

14.   "Return of the distribution of twenty-five pounds granted by the...House of Assembly for relief of poor coloured people at Preston," African Nova Scotians: in the Age of Slavery and Abolition, Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management. http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/.
 

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