From Obscurity to Greatness, the Story of Uriah Forrest
Uriah Forrest was born about 1746 in St. Mary’s
County. He was the second of four
known sons of Thomas Forrest (1710-1782) and Henrietta Raley (1714-1791) who lived in the area now known as Loveville.
Their home was known as “Forrest Hall.”
He was a direct descendant
of Patrick Forrest and Margaret Fox who were married at St. Giles in the
England on June 16,
1605 and then came to Jamestown,
Virginia in 1608 aboard
"The Second Supply." Their grandson, Patrick Forrest, was
transported to Maryland from Jamestown, Virginia
by Thomas Hatton in 1648.
On January 2, 1776, Uriah Forrest was appointed as a First Lieutenant
with the Second Independent Maryland Company. By June 29 of that same year, he had
been promoted to Captain in Colonel Thomas Ewing’s Battalion for
the Flying Camp. The officers
serving under him were First Lieutenant William Bond, Second Lieutenant
Moses Tabbs, and Ensign Edward Mattingly.
His first military action
was the defense of St. George’s
Island, the site of the first battle on Maryland soil during the Revolutionary War.
On July 12, 1776, warnings were issued that Lord Dunmore’s
fleet had been spotted and “forty sail of square rigged vessels are
as far up the Bay as Point Lookout.”
The next day, Colonel
Richard Barnes reported to the Council of Safety that he had traveled to
Point Lookout himself and had observed these ships. At the same time, he had ordered five
companies of militia to go there as fast as possible to attempt to
prevent them from landing. He
added that “two small vessels drove on shore from the fleet, on
board of one of them was three whites and two Negroes, three of which now
have the small pox on them.”
One of the men in the two small vessels had advised Col. Barnes
that the fleet planned to take St.
the next morning. Nevertheless,
The Council of Safety took a “wait and see” attitude.
On July 15, Col. Jeremiah
Jordan wrote to the Council telling them that there was between 70 and 80
sail of vessels lying off the mouth of the St. Mary’s River and
that 10 boats, full of men, had landed on St. George’s Island
and had returned for more.
Col. Jordan wrote the
Council on July 17 that the enemy had attempted to land on St. George’s Island and had been driven off by
the militia. Although there had
been heavy fire, only one American casualty was reported, Captain Rezin Beall who was said to
have been “dangerously wounded in the shoulder (as he says from a
rifle) which has rendered him incapable for duty.”
In later years,
Captain Beall related the events of that
day. He said that his lookout had
warned him before dawn of the arriving ships. He deployed his 100 men in
a thin line along the coast in the bushes opposite
the ships, with orders that if the enemy tried to come ashore they would
not fire until their boats were 25 yards from the shore. Each ship filled
a boat with armed men and was soon moving toward the shore. The firing of
Captain Rezin's men was such a surprise that
the boats were thrown into confusion, and many of Captain Beall's men got in a second shot before their fire
was returned by the British. The enemy did not
attempt to land, but returned to their ships and indulged in vigorous
big-gun fire. This fire killed and wounded a number of men, wounding
Captain Beall in the hip.
remarkable act of repulsing 80 enemy sail with 100 men prompted Captain Beall's friends to confer on him the title of The
Little Iron Man.” (Source: Colonial Families of the United States from the
Immigrants by Fiedler M. M. Beall).
At last, the Council took
full action and ordered additional troops to St. George’s Island. On July 19, Col. John Dent reported
that “Our strength at present is about 400 Militia, exclusive of
Capt. Forrest’s Company.”
Major Thomas Price was ordered to replace Col. Dent. In a report to the Council from Maj.
Price, he stated “Enclosed you have Gov. Eden’s answer to Mr.
Wolstenholme’s letter which was brought
to Capt. Forrest who I ordered to that station in place of Capt. Mackall who I could not so well depend
upon.” By August 5, it was
reported that “Dunmore’s fleet is gone off from the mouth of
the Potomac, very sickly and in great
In the past, some
historians have treated the invasion at St. George’s Island
with their noses upturned because they are of the opinion that the
British only went there to secure wood and water and that it had few
implications in the grand scheme of things. The same thing happened there as would
later occur during the War of 1812.
St. Mary’s County had a hard time defending herself because
her troops were constantly being pulled out to protect places such as Philadelphia and New York. As a result, Southern
Maryland was an easy mark for the British who plundered here
throughout the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
In 1776, the call went out
to send troops to New York,
but the local troops were hampered by the lack for firearms. The Council noted that they had ordered
Capt. Forrest to remain in St. Mary’s County and that “he
will be obliged to borrow arms from the Militia.”
In another message dated
August 19, the Council wrote “Capt. Forrest and Capt. Brooks have
no arms but what they have borrowed or can borrow of the Militia. We have therefore ordered them to their
stations in Calvert and St. Mary’s to supply the place of Capt. Beall and Capt. Thomas. As soon as they get arms we shall order
them to march immediately.”
This delay probably saved Uriah Forrest’s life as he was not present at
the Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776. The Maryland
troops, under the command of Col. William Smallwood (of Charles County),
were specifically called upon by General Washington to allow American
troops, who had been surrounded by British troops, to retreat. They were credited with saving the
Col. Smallwood reported to
the Council that “General Washington ordered me to march down a New
England Regiment and Capt. Thomas’ Company (this was Capt. John
Allen Thomas of St. Mary’s County) to support and cover the
retreat. The fire was very heavy
on both sides. Thomas’ men
contributed much in bringing over the troops. Have enclosed a list of the killed and
missing amounting to 256 officers inclusive. General Washington expressly sent and
drew our Regiment from its Brigade to march down towards New York and cover
Many years later, George
Washington Parke Custis, adopted son of George
Washington and grandson of Martha (Dandridge) Washington, wrote:
“The famed regiment
of Smallwood, composed of the flower of Maryland
youth, both Catholic and Protestant, was recruited principally in the
lower Counties and the Eastern Shore. The 10th Legion in the
American Army marched into Philadelphia in 1776, 1,100 strong, was cut to
pieces a the Battle of Long Island, gallantly struggling for victory
against an overwhelming foe, and at the close of the memorable campaign
of ’76 at the Battle of Princeton, mustered 60 men commanded by the
late Gov. Stone, then a Captain; the prison ship and the grave had all the
On October 13, Col. Thomas
Ewing reported that he sent three companies, under the command of Maj.
Eden (this was James Eden, another St. Mary’s Countian),
on their way to New York by way of Philadelphia and that they had arrived
in Harlem on September 18, while Capt. Uriah
Forrest arrived on October 13 and that “the enemy has landed 4,000
troops at Kingsbridge, New York.”
Ewing also reported “By the
last return I had 237 privates sick, besides officers owing to our lying
on the cold ground without straw or plank. Medicine is very scarce. Numbers of soldiers are without
blankets. The first three companies have gained great honor under the
command of the Major Eden.”
Time marched on and there
are various accounts given about Uriah Forrest
but mostly related to the commission of officers under his command and
payments for goods and supplies.
Undoubtedly he participated in a number of campaigns in and around
New York and Pennsylvania.
On May 3, 1777, Uriah Forrest was promoted to Major in the 3rd
Maryland Regiment. On October 10,
1777 Samuel Chase wrote to Governor Thomas Johnson from his post in
Yorktown (Pennsylvania) saying “I
wrote to you this morning the best accounts I could obtain of the Battle of the 4th
instant (Battle of German Town). Major Forrest had his thigh broken by a musquet ball.
Our loss is between 600 and 700 killed, wounded, and
The Battle of Germantown was a fiasco. Fog had
set in and one contingent of soldiers was unaccounted for. Washington had also
devised a complicated plan that split his forces. He surely had no desire
to repeat the mistakes made during the French and Indian War when
Colonial troops had mistaken each other for the enemy, killing many of
their own. Ultimately Washington
was forced to retreat with the British in pursuit. It was a defeat with the Americans
suffering 152 losses, 521 wounded, and over 400 captured.
Despite the hopes that
Forrest’s leg would get better, it did not. On November 18, 1778 Dr. Charles
Frederick Wiesenthal wrote to Gov. Johnson that shortly before this
letter he went down to St. Mary’s County and amputated Col.
Forrest’s thigh. One would
think this would have resulted in end of Forrest’s wartime
activities, but it did not. On August 18, 1779 he was appointed Auditor
General. Just four months later,
on December 27, “Lt. Col. Uriah Forrest
to the Command of the 7th Regiment on promotion of Lt. Col.
On February 13, 1780,
Baron deKalb wrote to the Governor and Council
saying “The other officer for whom I am to intreat
your favour is Lt. Col. Forrest. This gentleman is no longer able to
continue his services in his regiment and his holding a commission in it
precludes the appointment of another field officer and throws all the
hardships of the duty upon the Major.
The holding of commissions by persons unable to discharge the
functions is prejudicial to the service.” On February 19, 1781, Col. Forrest
resigned as Auditor General and at the same time resigned his commission
in the 1st Regiment, Maryland Line.
In a letter dated February
26, 1781 from Samuel Huntington of Philadelphia (writing for the
Continental Congress) to Gov. Thomas Sim Lee,
he wrote “Your Excellency will receive enclosed the extract of a
resolve of the 23rd instant requesting the State of Maryland
to advance to Lt. Col. Forrest, an account of the United States a sum
equal to seven years half pay of a Lt. Colonel in lieu of the half pay he
might otherwise have been entitled to during his natural life. Upon resignation of this officer,
Congress have thought proper, in consideration
of his past services and particular misfortune of the loss of a limb in
the public service, to grant him the benefit and emoluments contained in
the enclosed resolution.”
On March 20, 1781, Uriah Forrest was appointed as Commissioner for the
preservation of British Property, but by December 15, 1781 he was being
referred to as “late a Commissioner.” Nevertheless, he was still serving
various offices in St. Mary’s County as he was the recipient of
various amounts for disbursement to or on behalf of soldiers.
On October 11, 1789, at
the age of 43, Uriah Forrest married Rebecca Plater who was then about 25 years of age at “Sotterley”.
Col. Forrest did not come from the same social circles as the Platers, but he had undoubtedly come to know
Rebecca’s father during the course of the war and probably Mr. Plater was impressed with this young man who had
acquitted himself very well and who was treated (and rightfully so) as a
Rebecca Plater was the daughter of George Plater
III and his second wife, Elizabeth Rousby of “Sotterley.”
George Plater III graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1752. He was a lawyer and served as a Justice
of the Peace and was also Naval Officer of the Patuxent.
He was a member of the convention to form the Maryland State Government,
a delegate to the Continental Congress, and was President of the Maryland
convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution. In 1791, he was elected
the sixth Governor of Maryland.
By the time of the 1790
census, Uriah and Rebecca (Plater)
Forrest were shown living in Montgomery
County (actually they were
living in Georgetown, a part of what would
ultimately become the District
of Columbia) next door to Benjamin Stoddert, a friend, business partner and fellow
Benjamin Stoddert was born in Charles County, Maryland in 1751
and was the son of Captain Thomas Stoddert
(killed in Braddock’s Defeat in 1755, during the French and Indian
War) and Janet Donaldson. Janet Donaldson was the daughter of Reverend
John Donaldson and his wife, Elizabeth, of St. Mary’s County.
Benjamin Stoddert had also served during the Revolutionary
War. In 1776 he joined the
Continental Army as captain of the cavalry and was later promoted to
Major. At the Battle of
Brandywine, he was so severely wounded that it was determined he was no
longer fit for active duty.
Nevertheless, he remained in the Army as secretary of the board of
war until 1781. In 1798 he became
the first Secretary of the Navy.
Uriah Forrest and Benjamin Stoddert
were friends and confidantes of George Washington. Their friendship had been forged under
fire during the Revolutionary War and continued until their deaths. After
the war, Benjamin Stoddert and Uriah Forrest became business partners, establishing
a successful merchant shipping firm. According to Margaret King Fresco, a Forrest
descendant, they were co-owners of the schooner "Union" which
traded between Baltimore and the West Indies.
When George Washington was assigned the
responsibility of selecting a suitable site along the Potomac River for
the new nation’s capital, he turned to Stoddert
and Forrest, asking them to purchase key parcels of land in the area
before the formal decision was made by the Continental Congress, then
meeting in Philadelphia. This was done to preclude escalating
property prices. They would then
transfer the parcels to the government.
They agreed and President Washington’s diary of March 29, 1791 noted
that he had "dined at Col. Forrest's today with the Commissioner and
others." The men moved
quickly as construction of the White House began in 1792 followed by the
Capitol building in 1793.
The home of Uriah Forrest was known as “Rosedale”,
but is known today as the Forrest-Marbury
house. According to several historians “this is the site of one of
the United States’
most significant historical events--the establishment of the federal city
December 31, 1992, the house became the Embassy of the Ukraine.
Not only did Uriah Forrest and Benjamin Stoddert
assist in securing the land for the new capital, they also loaned the
government bond money to begin construction of the Capitol building. Another lender was Philip B. Key (son
of Dr. John Key and wife, Cecelia Brown of St. Mary’s County). Uriah Forrest
as one of the founders of Washington,
D.C., and rightfully
so. Before all was said and done, his
efforts on behalf of the new capitol ended up in him losing his personal
1796 General Forrest had mortgaged “Rosedale” to obtain loans
from the state of Maryland to bolster
the new Federal
Reversals of fortune forced Forrest, along with many of his peers, into
bankruptcy in 1802. He was only able to salvage “Rosedale”
by having his brother-in-law, Philip Barton Key (husband of his
wife’s sister, Ann Plater), accept the
mortgage. Key in turn, granted Forrest lifetime use of “Rosedale.”
General died July 6, 1805 still plagued with debt. After his death, the estate was almost
lost again to debts and litigation. In 1815, Philip Barton Key died, and
in a written statement forgave the mortgage and returned the property to
Rebecca (Plater) Forrest outright. Upon
Rebecca's death, by the terms of her will, the property transferred to
her daughter, Ann (Forrest) Green in 1843. “Rosedale”
was kept in the family, even as most of the other parcels, originally 240
acres, were sold.
Uriah Forrest was an influential man whose opinion
was sought not only by George Washington but Thomas Jefferson who corresponded with
him and exchanged views in what was a discussion centered on the
Bill of Rights. "I have a
right to nothing which another has a right to take away." His philosophical loyalty was
not with Jefferson and his "states
rights" approach, however, as he was a member of John Adams’
Federalist Party that favored a strong central government.
It was Forrest who apprised the recently
inaugurated John Adams in 1797 that despite Vice-President Jefferson's
protestations of support and friendship, Jefferson was, in fact, seeking
to undermine Adams' power. It was also
Forrest's blunt advice to the President in April 1799 that, though late
in the day, salvaged the Administration from the continuing machinations
of the Hamiltonian faction.
In addition to other service, Uriah Forrest was elected to the Maryland General
Assembly for several terms; served in the U.S. Senate; and was Clerk of
the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia until his death.
Forrest never remarried and died at “Rosedale”
on September 5, 1843.
Notice in National Intelligencer--Rebecca
Forrest, relict of the late General Uriah
Forrest died in Georgetown September 6, 1843 in the 80th year of her age
(Washington, D.C. Probate Records, 1836-1847).
Uriah Forrest and Rebecca Plater had seven
children. They were:
Ann “Nancy” Forrest, 1790-1870,
who married John Green July 21, 1814 in Washington, D.C. One of their children was Alice Green
who married H.H. Prince Don Angel de Iturbide y
Huarte of Mexico.
Forrest, July 14-1794-August 26, 1843 who married Eleanor Maria Chapman.
Margaret Fresco says he was sent by the government in 1820 to the Chickasaw
Nation in Arkansas
where the Indians called him "The Fire Dancer."
He may have predeceased his mother as he is not named in her will
Eliza Forrest who married Upton Scott Reid on
June 13, 1814 in Washington,
Maria Forrest (March 3, 1799-March 27, 1869)
who married first, Lt. John Tayloe IV on
November 13, 1817 at “Rosedale.” She married second, Dr. Benjamin Schenkmyer
Bohrer on June 10, 1834.
Forrest who married Ann Maria Summers, February 18, 1823 in Montgomery County, Maryland.
Died on Tuesday last at his res. in Rockville,
Montgomery Co., Md.,
Benjamin Stoddert Forrest, for many years
President of the Maryland Senate and a distinguished member of the
bar. (National Intelligencer
Newspaper Abstracts, 1840).
Uriah Forrest, Jr. who may have also predeceased his mother.
6/11/1826: Uriah Forrest,
Attorney at Law, will practice in Montgomery
Co. Court, Md. (National Intelligencer Newspaper
Linda Reno and Greg White, June 13, 2004