AUGUST 26-27

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HomepageSite MapHead of Elk, Maryland — Part 4 of 5On the March to Brandywine
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Head of Elk, Maryland — Part 5 of 5

But Where Were the Loyalists?

Howe had been swayed by such prominent Tories as Philadelphian Joseph Galloway that were he to come to Maryland, that Loyalists would eagerly support him. They would seize control of local politics, rally local support, and assist him in finding supplies, and some would take up arms in support of England.

Those promised Loyalists were nowhere to be seen. Instead, the countryside was hauntingly unpeopled. The officers found deserted fields and farms where cattle and horses had obviously pastured recently.

So Howe contrived a new tact to gain local support. Using a printing press carried aboard one of the ships, he ran off a proclamation which offered protection and amnesty to colonists willing to return to the mother country's bosom.

The broadside proclamation would, by and large, be disregarded by the three groups it was aimed at — soldiers, residents and patriots.

Desertions from the Continental Army continued at their normal rate.

Many residents of the area were more concerned about safeguarding their own interests than concerning themselves with politics.

These were farming families who had already spent several generations in the area and just wanted to be left alone. Also turning a deaf ear to Howe's exhortation were the local patriots and militiamen who remained true to the cause of independence.

After the Deluge

On the soggy Wednesday morning of August 26th, General Cornwallis was assigned the task of scouting ahead.

He and two officers assigned to him, Brigadier General William Erskine and Lieutenant-General Charles Grey reconnoitered a few miles north toward the town today called Elkton.

Of immediate concern to Cornwallis was the condition of the roads, which were "very rugged and broken ground."

And, of greater concern was the absence of the expected outpouring of Loyalist support.

Young Militiamen Taunt the British

A spirit of optimism and defiance prevailed among the Delaware militia on the 27th. At least, it was probably a detail from the Delaware militia on a break from commissary duty. They decided to tease the British Royal Navy.

When a boat of British midshipmen crossed the Elk River to search for milk, "the rebels" captured the boat and its crew.

The boat — which had all of four oars — was immediately entered for the Patriot Cause.

Its captors rowed it out to a British galley, which they fired on. The galley fired back. The Americans rowed away unscathed.

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