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One Day 240 Years Ago

Glenn E. Campbell, Senior Historian, Historic Annapolis


November 25, 1777 was a memorable date for two Annapolis brothers serving in America’s revolutionary cause.  That day  brought James Brice a step up in his political career and his youngest brother Edmund a close brush with his own mortality.


In Annapolis, the General Assembly elected James Brice to Governor Thomas Johnson’s Executive Council.  Brice had been tapped for the same position a few months earlier, but he had declined to serve.  This time he accepted, although he undoubtedly knew it wouldn’t be an easy job.  James Brice was reelected each of the next six years, and except for a few short breaks in service, he stayed on the Executive Council until 1799.  In addition to taking on this new role in state government, Brice continued to command both Annapolis and Anne Arundel County militiamen.  Officially he was a Captain in the city and a Lieutenant in the county, but by 1778 he was usually addressed by the honorary title of Colonel.


Meanwhile, 130 miles away, the Marquis de Lafayette, his aide-de-camp Major Edmund Brice, and a force of less than 300 men observed enemy movements on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River.  Lafayette’s scouts ran into 350 Hessians, and America’s favorite fighting Frenchman engaged them immediately.  Lafayette proudly described the skirmish in a letter to General George Washington:


“we pushed the hessians more than an half mile from the place where was theyr main body, and we made them run very fast—british reinforcements came twice to them but very far from recovering theyr ground they Went alwaïs back—the darkness of the night prevented us then to push that advantage, and after standing upon the ground we had got I ordered them to return very slow to haddonfield—the ennemy knowing perhaps by our drums that we were not so near came again to fire at us—but the brave major moriss with a part of his riflemen sent them back and pushed them very fast—I understand that they have had betwen twenty five and thirty wounded, at least that number killed amonghs whom I am certain is an officer…, and the prisoners told me that they have lost the commandant of that body—… We left one single man Killed a lieutenant of militia and only five of ours were wounded—Colonel armand’s, chevalier du plessis’s and major brice’s horses have been wounded—Such is the account of our little entertainement, … I never saw men so merry, so spirited, so desirous to go on to the ennemy what ever forces they could have as that little party was in this little fight….”


Having his horse shot or otherwise wounded in the merry little fray must have shaken Edmund Brice a bit.  He hadn’t been hurt himself, as Lafayette had been two months earlier at the Battle of Brandywine, but at least he could now say he had put himself at physical risk in the fight for American independence.


Historic Annapolis is in the process of restoring James Brice’s grand Annapolis home.  On Saturday, December 9, our next “Hard Hat Tour” will lead you inside the house to see and hear about the latest developments in this exciting project.  You can reserve your spot here: