The great tactical question of the War of 1812 was whether the British would attack Washington by going up the Potomac or by going up the Patuxent and then across land. Southern Maryland lay in between these two rivers and would be involved either way. There are records of militia service of many members from the families discussed here: Capt. Francis Thompson, Frederick Wills, Charles Wills, Capt. William Floyd, David Floyd, Jesse Floyd, Jr.
By chance, we only know much about Joseph P. Floyd who was born in St. Mary’s Co. around 1787 but had gone to Baltimore and joined the cavalry there.
He was a private in the elite First Baltimore Horse Artillery under Capt. Henry Thompson, and he appears on the 31 August 1814 subscription list of those in this unit who gave monies for the defense of Baltimore (in his case the lowest amount, $10). The journals of Capt. Thompson state that he attended a court-martial about J P Floyd but give nothing as to the outcome.
John Pendleton Kennedy, the antebellum novelist and later Secretary of the Navy, tells an interesting war story about Floyd. In August 1814, the inexperienced American forces were waiting for the British just east of Washington:
Reports were coming to us every moment of the movements of the enemy. They had passed Marlborough, and were marching on Washington, but whether they were on the direct road to the city, or were coming by Bladensburg, was uncertain. Our movements depended somewhat upon them. General Winder, who commanded the army immediately in front of the enemy, and was retiring slowly before him, was advised of our march, and was sending frequent instructions to our commander. Of course we in the ranks knew nothing about these high matters. All that we could hear were the flying rumors of the hour, which were stirring enough.
One of Winder’s videttes [advance scouts] had come to us. He had a great story to tell. He was carrying orders to Stansbury, who was ahead of us, and fell in with a party of British dragoons, from whom he fled at speed for his life. The country in Prince George is full of gates; the highroads often lie through cultivated fields, without side fences to guard them, and every field is entered through a gate which is always old and ricketty, and swings to after your horse with a rapid sweep and a bang that threatens to take off his tail. One vidette, a Mr. Floyd, known to us in Baltimore, told us he had been pursued several miles by four of these dragoons. He reported that the British army had a corps of cavalry with them, and that being splendidly mounted, as we saw he was, and having General Winder’s servant with him also mounted on a fleet horse, to open and hold open the gates for him, he had escaped and had got up to us.
This was all true as he told it, except that he was mistaken, as we found out the next day when we joined Winder, in one important particular, and that was, that his pursuers were not British dragoons, but four members of the Georgetown cavalry, who fell into the same mistake. They supposed him a British dragoon, straggling from his corps, and gave him chase, feeling very sure, from the direction they had pressed him to take, that they must soon drive him into our hands. It was only because they could not keep up with him that they failed to witness that happy denouement.
This report of cavalry in the enemy’s army, of course, furnished us, as green soldiers, with much occasion for remark and reflection. [The life of John Pendleton Kennedy by Henry Theodore Tuckerman (1871), pp. 75-77]
Special thanks to Nelson Bolton for assistance on this page.