A Proud Place in American History
St. George’s Island was 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.”..

Uriah ForrestSt. George Island is located in the southern part of Maryland in St. Mary's County. The island has a long history, founded in 1634. It was the site of the first battle in Maryland during the Revolutionary War. It is now a community of watermen, full-time residents, and vacation homes. – Southern Maryland Online

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. George’s Island 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.
This 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 distress.”

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.” – St Mary’s Families