Clement Dorsey

Clement F. Dorsey, son of John and Mary (Hammond) Dorsey was born 1774 in Anne Arundel County.  After graduating from St. John’s College in 1793 he began pursuing a career in law.  In 1799 he married Priscilla Hebb, daughter of Colonel Vernon and Anna (Hopewell) Hebb of “Porto Bello” in St. Mary’s County.  Between 1800 and 1810 the family moved to neighboring Charles County where Priscilla died prior to 1812.

The second wife of Clement Dorsey was Dicandia Smith Ireland, only child of Dr. John Ireland and his wife, Susanna Reeder of “Summerseat” in St. Mary’s County.  Dicandia had been married first to Henry Arundel Smith who died in 1809.  Through her first marriage, Dicandia had also inherited Henry Smith’s property located at Benedict in Charles County.

As the British made their way up the Patuxent with the express purpose of burning Washington, D. C., over 5,000 of their soldiers made camp at Benedict.  On June 17, 1814 Mr. Dorsey wrote to General Philip Steuart that when he reached the hill overlooking Benedict, he “found a few of the neighbors collected there from curiosity, and but one musquet among them.”  They watched helplessly as the British loaded their ships with cattle and plunder and then set fire to a barn across the river in Calvert County.

Mr. Dorsey then discovered the townspeople had deliberately left poisoned whiskey for British consumption.  “I considered the American character as deeply implicated in this horrible deed, so inconsistent with humanity and the established usages of nations, that its immediate disclosure was called for, lest its effects might produce the intended design, and thus give to our unfortunate situation a more desolating complexion.”  As a result, Mr. Dorsey warned British officers.

Shortly afterwards, Mr. Dorsey was told by his neighbors that a group of British soldiers was “advancing to Mr. Sothoron’s residence” (located in St. Mary’s County, just across a small creek from Benedict).  A small contingent of the neighborhood men, led by Mr. Dorsey “advanced, but with one gun, without anything to reload her with” and pretended to be a large military force with Mr. Dorsey calling loudly for the “cavalry and artillery to advance.”  The ploy worked and the house was saved.

Clement Dorsey had a long and distinguished career.  In addition to a successful law practice, he represented Maryland’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1825-1831.  He then served as judge of the fifth circuit court of Maryland from 1832 until his death on August 8, 1846 while holding court at Port Tobacco.  He was buried at his home “Summerseat” in St. Mary’s County.


Records of the Alumni Office, St. John’s College

Letter from Clement Dorsey to General Philip Steuart, Maryland Gazette, June 23, 1814

Death Notice, National Intelligencer, Washington, D.C., August 10, 1846

Biographical Dictionary of the U.S. Congress, 1774-2005

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