Generation after generation, citizens of my home county – Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, founded in 1706 – have shown a willingness to serve their country.
Despite being located some distance from any frontlines, Queen Anne’s was a dangerous place to be during the American Revolution. British ships sailing the Chesapeake and its tributaries kept the colonists under a constant threat of marauding depredation, so the American patriots organized militia. Eastern Shore Tories, colonists loyal to the crown, resisted independence and agitated anti-revolutionary sentiment.
Still, Queen Anne’s County’s record from this era in our nation’s history is strong. Five of Maryland’s delegates to the Continental Congress had ties to my county. Harford County’s William Paca, who also signed the Declaration of Independence, owned an estate on Wye Island and was a leader in the struggle for self-government. In August, 1776, county volunteers fought in the Battle of Long Island, the war’s first major confrontation. Washington Irving wrote about the bravery of the Maryland troops in his classic biography of George Washington.
In the War of 1812, the British Army came ashore here two thousand men strong. They erected a battery at Kent Narrows and seized four major estates on Kent Island. On August 13, 1812, British troops marching towards Queenstown and Centreville were ambushed by county militia at what is now where Bennett Point Road meets Rt.18. The encounter was bloody. The spot’s been known as Slippery Hill ever since. The place has a long history. When I was a kid Slippery Hill was a prime location for hunting arrowheads.
The Civil War made enemies of brothers along the Mason-Dixon line. Many members of our community remained faithful to the Union, but southern sympathies ran strong. The pervasive presence of federal troops stationed in the northern Chesapeake Bay, and the arrest of prominent regional dissidents stifled any brewing insurgencies.
Queen Anne’s County men made up Company K of the United States Army’s 6th Maryland Infantry. They are credited with participation in ten Civil War engagements, including Appomattox, Spotslvania and the Battle of the Wilderness, in which my ancestor Frederick K. Bryan was wounded.
In World War I, a young man from Church Hill named James Arthur Clough was the first from Queen Anne’s County to enlist. Seven county residents were killed in action during the ‘Great War’. On the home front, Kent Islanders lobbied successfully against a federal government plan to turn their hometown to a testing ground for new Army ordinance. The installation was built at Aberdeen instead.
The Second World War determined the fate of humanity. In civilization’s bleakest hour, the United States and our allies stood against the forces of oppression.
Locals left their little Eastern Shore paradise and fought around the globe. They were attacked at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and stormed Normandy in 1944. They saw combat in major campaigns and innumerable clashes at sea, on the land, and in the air. Our country suffered the loss of 38 young lives in WWII and hundreds more risked everything for freedom’s cause.
The first soldier of five from Queen Anne’s to die in the Korean War was Queenstown’s 17 year old James Lister, my wife’s uncle. Queenstown was also the home of George Aldrich, a volunteer and a Silver Star honoree for twice risking his life in combat. In that war’s last year, 1953, Centreville’s Pfc. Sylvester Wheeler made national headlines when he and four other GI’s were rescued after being trapped in their tank for 36 hours while being bombarded by enemy grenades and ordinance.
The Viet Nam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington D.C. is a stirring monument built to honor Americans killed or missing in that war. There are 58,249 names inscribed on a wall of black granite. Four are from Queen Anne’s county. They are Robert Wilson Brown, Jr, Fred Hortio Gates II, Howard Alvin Wright, Jr. and Robert D. Yorker.
Many, many more served.
The long build-up to 1991’s Gulf War culminated in a relatively short fighting. Our service people were honored for their effort in swift victory with parades and ceremonies.
That swift resolution was not to be in the post-9/11 wars. Our military men and women have been engaged for a generation in Iraq and Afghanistan. For more than a decade, local newspapers have been chock full of stories about our family, friends and neighbors representing their country overseas with honor, valor, intelligence, and strength.
It’s Veteran’s Day. Random facts found in fragile old yellowed pages can pay little tribute to all the men and women from Queen Anne’s County who risked their lives defending America – even when America was just an idea.
All those facts can do is remind us that heroes have walked among us. Here’s to all American veterans. Thank you for your sacrifices.