Family Stories · Dr. Charles Alexander Warfield and the Founding of the University of Maryland Medical School

By Jean Warfield Donnelly Keenan with Carolyn Warfield Scheele Fakadej
November 2015

Dr. Peregrine Warfield, son of Dr. Charles Alexander Warfield and Elizabeth Ridgely Warfield, was born on February 8, 1779. He was a graduate of the Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He married Harriet Sappington, said to be the most beautiful woman in Maryland, on May 13, 1806. He had a practice in Liberty Town near New Windsor in Frederick County, Maryland.

During the presidency of James Madison the United States declared war on Great Britain in June 1812. The vote on the Declaration of War in Congress was close, reflecting how unpopular the war was to large segments of the American public.

Peregrine Warfield was a Federalist and supported his friend Alexander Contee Hanson, a lawyer and member of the Maryland House of Delegates. Hanson, whose home was ‘Belmont’ near Elkridge, established and edited the “Federal Republican,” an extreme Federalist newspaper in Baltimore.

Four days after the beginning of the War of 1812, a mob that was irritated by Hanson’s articles denouncing the government administration destroyed his office. Six days later, on July 28, 1812, Hanson re-issued his paper from another building on South Charles Street where he was joined by a group of armed friends that included Dr. Peregrine Warfield, “Light Horse Harry” Lee (father of Gen. Robert E. Lee), Ex-Governor Ligon, Ephriam and William Gaither, and John Howard Payne, author of “Home Sweet Home.”  When that building was besieged by a mob, Hanson and his friends fired at the mob, killing two of them.  On the morning of the 29th Hanson and his group surrendered to the militia and were escorted to jail. That evening the mob stormed the jail. Hanson and his friends were beaten and left for dead.

However word got out that some of the group were not dead but badly injured and a wagon was brought under cover of night. Peregrine and the others who were injured were covered and driven some 35 miles to ‘Bushy Park’ where they were treated by Peregrine’s father, Dr. Charles A. Warfield, until they recovered.

Dr. Peregrine eventually moved his practice to Georgetown where he helped in the formation of the Washington, D.C. Medical and Chirurgical Faculty.  He died on July 7, 1856.

References include 1) Wikipedia, 2) Founders of Anne Arundel & Howard Counties, Maryland by Joshua D. Warfield, A.M. page 445, and 3) Maryland, a Middle Temperament by Robert J. Brugger, p. 178.

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©2005 George A. Scheele MD