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John Eager Howard papers

Identifier: MS 0469


The John Eager Howard Papers is an artificial collection and is comprised of thirteen smaller collections of various original manuscripts and papers. The collection spans over three centuries, beginning during the mid to late 17th century with items from the Howard family and letters from John Eager Howard, a soldier and politician. Eager was named governor of Maryland in 1788, and was elected to the Continental Congress, U.S. Congress, and U.S. Senate. The collection concludes with miscellaneous materials dated around 1952; this wide chronological diversity only emphasizes the longevity and importance of the Howard family, and their influence throughout Maryland history.


  • 1662-1952


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical Note

John Eager Howard

John Eager Howard was born on June 4, 1752 at “Belvedere,” Baltimore County, Maryland (although some sources cite his birthplace as The Forest, Baltimore County, Maryland), the son of Ruth Eager Howard and Cornelius Howard. He had a wealthy upbringing, but enlisted in the military after the Colonies rebelled against England. He became a well-respected leader during the American Revolutionary War, participating in the Battle of White Plains, the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, and the Battle of Cowpens, where he was given the nickname, the “Hero of Cowpens.” He was later appointed to the rank of Colonel of the 2nd Maryland Regiment, Continental Line. Following his retirement from the military, Howard married Margaret Oswald Chew, the oldest daughter of Chief Justice Benjamin Chew, on May 18, 1787. Together, they had eight children, most notably George Howard, (who eventually became Governor of Maryland), and Benjamin Chew Howard, (who served several terms in Congress). Howard himself later served as Governor, Delegate, and Senator. John Eager Howard died on October 12, 1827. His funeral was attended by several thousand people, including President John Quincy Adams.

Benjamin Chew Howard

Benjamin Chew Howard was born on November 5, 1791 as one of several sons to John Eager Howard and Margaret Chew Howard. Like his father before him, he too was born at “Belvedere,” Baltimore County, Maryland. He studied law and graduated from Princeton College in 1809; he served as legal counsel in Baltimore until the start of the War of 1812, when he joined the military. During the war he served in a commanding position in the Fifth Regiment, and later achieved the rank of brigadier general. After his service, he became a public figure, being elected to Congress for two several terms from March 4, 1829 to March 3, 1833, and later from March 4, 1835 to March 3, 1839. During the brink of the American Civil War, Howard was appointed by President James Buchanan as a liaison in an effort to make peace with the growing Confederacy. He died on March 6, 1872.

McHenry Howard

McHenry Howard was born on December 26, 1838 to Charles Howard and Elizabeth Phoebe Key Howard, the daughter of Francis Scott Key. A Marylander, he joined the 1st Maryland Regiment of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. His brothers, Frank Key Howard, John Eager Howard, Charles Howard, James Howard, and Edward Lloyd Howard also served in the Confederacy. During his service, McHenry Howard was appointed as a 1st Sergeant, an Aid-de-Camp, and later as an Ordinance Officer in the staff under General George Steuart. He reportedly saw combat under the esteemed General Robert E. Lee, and the famous General “Stonewall” Jackson. In 1864, McHenry Howard was imprisoned at Fort Delaware, though he was released towards the end of the war. He later wrote of his accounts during the war, most notably in his 1914 "Recollections of a Maryland Confederate Soldier and Staff Officer Under Johnston, Jackson, and Lee." McHenry Howard died on September 11, 1923.


19 Linear Feet (45 boxes; oversized folders)

Language of Materials



The smaller sub-collections within the Howard papers are: The Land Papers of the Howard Family and John Eager Howard (circa 1662-1882); The Papers of Colonel John Eager Howard (circa 1778-circa 1870); The Francis Scott Key Papers (1760-1870); Roger Brooke Taney Correspondence (1817-1872); The Papers of Charles Howard (1830-1864); Captain John Eager Howard Papers (1847-1859); The Benjamin Chew Howard Papers (1793-1905); Papers of Dr. George Howard and his wife (1826-1848); Howard & Poor Papers (1853-1856); The McHenry Howard Papers (1857-1919); Miscellaneous Howard Family Letters (1799-1878); The Howard Family Estates and Lands (1826-1915); and Miscellaneous Items (1753-1952).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts of the Estate of Charles McHenry Howard, Estate of Julia McHenry Howard in 1942 and 1949, 1959.

Related Materials

MS 0469.5, Cornelius Howard papers, 1659-1853

MS 2450, John Eager Howard Estate inventory, 1827-1828


Scope and Contents

The John Eager Howard Papers is comprised of thirteen smaller collections of various original manuscripts and papers totaling forty-five boxes. The collection spans over three centuries, beginning during the mid-late 17th century with items from the Howard family and letters from John Eager Howard. The collection concludes with miscellaneous materials dated around 1952; this wide chronological diversity only emphasizes the longevity and importance of the Howard family, and their influence throughout Maryland history.

The first nineteen boxes of the John Eager Howard Papers are a combination of the Land Papers of the Howard Family and John Eager Howard, which range from circa 1662-1882, and the Papers of Colonel John Eager Howard from circa 1778-circa 1870. The Land Papers were originally only seven boxes, including leases and deeds transacted by the Howards, and papers concerning Jerdone Castle, Virginia, Hanson’s Improvement, and lands owned by Samuel Chase, etc. (It should be noted that several items in the original seven boxes, including the notes on the Cromwell Case, papers on the Gilmor vs. Dorsey case, and the correspondence concerning the Nicholas Rogers vs. John Eager Howard case, have been placed in later boxes within this collection). The Papers of Colonel Howard only covers one box within MS. 469, but contains business papers, ledgers, letters from Judge William Johnson, and most notably, correspondence from George Washington.

Boxes twenty through twenty-two are the former Francis Scott Key Papers, from circa 1760-1870, and the Roger Brooke Taney Correspondence, from 1817-1872. These were once two boxes and one box, respectively, but have since merged together. Included within the Key Papers are the correspondences between the Key and Ross families, the letters exchanged between Francis Scott Key and his friend, John Randolph of Roanoke, and the estate papers of Mary Taylor Key. The Taney Correspondence features such items as Questions and Answers on Moral Philosophy by Charles Nisbet D.D., and letters from Roger Brooke Taney’s family to Andrew Jackson, Martin van Buren, and James Buchanan.

The Papers of Charles Howard, dated from 1830-1864, are the documents mainly written during Charles' imprisonment at Fort Warren, MA, and Fort Lafayette, NY, during the Civil War. They form box twenty-three, and part of box twenty-seven. A Confederate sympathizer, the letters written by Charles Howard (1802-1869) are mostly to his wife, Elizabeth Phoebe Key, although he also penned a letter to President Abraham Lincoln asking for a release from prison.

Box twenty-four comprise the Captain John Eager Howard Papers, which date from 1847-1859. They were originally contained within one box. Notable materials include the letters between Captain John Eager Howard and Cornelia Howard detailing action during the Mexican-American War, and muster rolls of the U.S. Voltiguers.

The Benjamin Chew Howard Papers form a large bulk of the collection, with an impressive eleven boxes beginning in box twenty-five. This sub-collection dates from 1793-1905. Pieces of interest located in box twenty-five include Benjamin Chew Howard’s correspondence with Robert Gilmore, an 1836 invitation for the “Celebration of the Anniversary of American Independence,” letters from the Cliosophic Society, James Buchanan, Roger Brooke Taney, and an 1837 map of Wisconsin.

Boxes twenty-six and twenty-seven are a combination of three sub-collections, the Papers of Dr. George Howard and his wife, the Howard & Poor Papers, and the previously-mentioned Papers of Charles Howard. Each of these were only one box before they were integrated into MS. 469. The Papers of Dr. George Howard and his wife span a little over two decades, from 1826-1848. Within this sub-collection are business correspondences, deeds and mortgages, and George Howard’s ledger book from 1836-1839. The Howard & Poor Papers are arguably the smallest sub-collection in MS. 469, and only occupy two entries in the entire collection—an 1854 letter book, and receipts for corn and wheat. The Howard & Poor Papers are dated 1853-1856. The remaining letters in the Papers of Charles Howard are located in box twenty-seven.

The Benjamin Chew Howard Papers form boxes twenty-eight through thirty-eight. Notable letters in these boxes include Benjamin Chew Howard’s political papers written during his time on the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives, and correspondence with Colonel John Eager Howard, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, and Samuel Smith. (It should be noted that the Howard vs. Moale materials which were formerly included with these boxes has been moved to box forty-three.)

Boxes thirty-eight through forty-one contain the McHenry Howard Papers, dated from 1857-1919, and the Miscellaneous Howard Family Letters dated 1799-1878. The McHenry Howard Papers have maintained their original three-box frame, and feature the personal accounts of McHenry Howard, who served as a Confederate officer during the American Civil War. McHenry’s accounts of summer campaigns, his account of General Robert E. Lee’s Army’s last fight, and his application for commission in the Confederate Army can be found within these boxes. Other interesting materials may include letters from former Confederate soldiers, McHenry’s “Some Old English Letters” (printed in the Maryland Historical Magazine in 1914), and his letters during his imprisonment at Fort Delaware and Fort Lafayette. The Miscellaneous Howard Family Letters include proposed division of the estate of the deceased John Eager Howard, papers concerning the sales of Cornelia Howard’s furnishings, and various estate papers from John Eager Howard.

The Howard Family Estates and Lands, 1826-1915, were formerly three boxes, and have retained this frame. They make up boxes forty-one through forty-three. Included within this sub-collection are genealogical data, the will of Francis Jerdone, the estate papers of Margaretta S. Ridgely, and the transferred papers in the case of Howard vs. Moale.

The last two boxes in the John Eager Howard Collection are Miscellaneous Items, with sporadic dates ranging from 1753-1952. Correspondence from Dr. Upton Scott, General Charles S. Winder’s reports of campaigns in Virginia can be found in box forty-four. Box forty-five contains Howard family portrait sketches and other information, a copy of a sermon on the Trinity by Dean Swift, dancing instructions, the Howards’ wine cellar inventory, and Peggy Chew’s ledgers.

Guide to the John Eager Howard papers
Under Revision
Micah Connor with assistance from Eben Dennis
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2019-08-05: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Catherine Mayfield.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States