Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

General Saunders (b. circa 1793 - d. 1869)
MSA SC 5496-050640
War of 1812 Escaped Slave, Calvert County, Maryland, 1814


Born into slavery around 1793, General Saunders lived and worked on Thomas Reynolds's farm near Chesapeake Beach in Calvert County, while his brother David, nicknamed Davy, and his sister (name currently unknown) were enslaved on John H. Chew's farm in the same county.1

On a Sunday evening in October 1814,2 Saunders escaped with his brother and Harry Quary, both slaves of John H. Chew, and with Elleck, a slave of William Ward.3 Saunders' sister had encouraged him to escape, but she did not accompany him.4 The four men reached the British sloop-of-war Dauntless, part of a squadron lying near Sharp's Island in the Chesapeake Bay by the Choptank River's mouth.5 General and David Saunders had transferred to the HMS Orlando by March 6, 1815.6

Rear Admiral George Cockburn of the Royal Navy had initially considered Sharp's Island too remote to serve as a location for taking in runaway slaves. In April 1814, Cockburn had even written to Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane in the Chesapeake Bay that "the places you have pointed out to me, as fit for Posts for receiving the Refugee Negroes &c., will not I think any of them answer... Sharp's Island being too far distant from those parts of the Country, from which alone we find the Slaves inclined to emigrate."7

John H. Chew later heard that both General and David Saunders were serving "as Marines on board The British fleet after peace."8 These were Colonial Marinews, which the British organized in 1814 from men who fled slavery during the war.9 Cochrane described to the Colonial Marines, based on Tangier Island, as "infinitely more dreaded" than British soldiers."10

Saunders and his brother were listed among black refugees who arrived between 1815 and 1818 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The list of African American refugees in Halifax also recorded Saunders' wife as twenty-years old.11 Saunders passed away on June 30, 1869, in Halifax, Nova Scotia,12 and his death was reported by a Lucy Saunders, who may have been his wife. 


1.     Claim of John H. Chew, Case 306, 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.

2.     Ibid.

3.     Claim of Thomas Reynolds, Case 149, 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.
        Bayley 107.

4.     Claim of John H. Chew.

5.     Ibid.
        Definitive List of Slaves and Property, compiled ca. 1827 - ca. 1828, ARC Identifier 1174162 / MLR Number PI 177 192. National Archives, College Park.

6.     Thomas M. Bayly, No. III, Bayly's List (RG 76. Records of Boundary and Claims Commissions and Arbitration. Records of the Mixed Claims Commission: Miscellaneous Records. Ca. 1814-28, 7 vols., entry 185. Vol. 2 of 11. National Archives, College Park) 107.
        Claim of John H. Chew.

7.     Qtd. in Michael J. Crawford. The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History. Vol. 3 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Offic, 1985) 43.

8.     Claim of John H. Chew.

9.     Wiley Hall, ed., "The Colonial Marines." The Maryland Natural Resource 11.4 (Fall 2008): 9.
         Junius P. Rodriguez, ed., "Black Freedom Fighters (War of 1812)." Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion. Vol. 1: A-N (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2007) 66.

10.    Rodriguez 65-66.

11.   "Halifax List," African Nova Scotians: in the Age of Slavery and Abolition, Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management.

12.    "Canada Deaths and Burials, 1664-1955," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 Jan 2013), William Dear, 12 May 1868; citing reference cn 624 p 147,                 FHL microfilm 1298880.

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