Dr. Stanislaus Coomes, a native of Southern Maryland, was actively involved in local efforts to defend the region against the British. He was born around 1789 to William and Teresa Coomes, well-to-do residents of the Port Tobacco Parish of Charles County.
Although his father died when he was ten, Teresa Coomes’ management of the family’s assets allowed Stanislaus to graduate from the University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore City in 1811. That same year, he became a member of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty, Maryland’s first permanent organization to regulate and govern the medical profession.
On July 28th, 1812, Dr. Coomes decided to use his medical talents in the war against Great Britain. He was commissioned as one of two Surgeon’s Mates, assistant to Surgeon Jesse Jameston, in Charles County’s 1st Regiment of the Maryland Militia.
As a Surgeon’s Mate, Coomes’ duties included camping with the 1st Regiment when they were called, working in a field hospital to manage injuries that resulted from any fighting, and, most importantly, to protect the militiamen from becoming ill. Among soldiers and militiamen, death by diseases like dysentery, typhoid fever, measles, smallpox, malaria, and pneumonia, was 2.5 times more likely than death by a battle wound.
Stanislaus Coomes, though patriotic, was staunchly against the war. Observing the effects of British activity in Southern Maryland, he described the war as “cruel” and “wanton impolitic,” meaning risky and unwise. Dr. Coomes was troubled by the material damage and “ruin” that befell many citizens of Southern Maryland as a result of British raids in the area.
He called the destruction in the region “a dreadful spectacle to behold amongst us once happy or quiet and prosperous people…” Dr. Coomes accused the Democratic Republicans, the political party in power during the war, of unfairly “carrying it [the war] to unsuspected peaceable places…” He passionately proclaimed: “is not this toryism of the blackest hue, cursed be the war thus they disposed.”
Dr. Coomes also noticed the great military and technological advantage that the British had over the State’s militiamen. Despite this, he remained proud of the region’s local defenders, whom he called “our gallant boys.” Mentioning that the residents of Port Tobacco, Charles County were in constant fear of a British raid, Coomes wrote that “our small number of Militia I am afraid cannot impede their [the British] coming, but rest assured if they attempt it, warm will be their reception.”
Dr. Coomes witnessed a British attack at Benedict prior to August 4, 1814, when he noted the “whistling of the balls” and advised caution against the superior weapons used by the British.
Dr. Coomes survived the war and continued to reside in Southern Maryland. On January 14, 1817, he married Maria Green at her family’s home in Charles County. In 1820, Dr. Coomes and his family, complete with fourteen slaves, were still living in Charles County. Stanislaus Coomes, however, does not appear on the 1830 Federal Census. Instead, his wife Maria is listed as the head of her own household and it is likely that Dr. Coomes died sometime between 1820 and 1830.
Brumbaugh, Gaius Marcus. Maryland Settlers and Soldiers, 1700’s – 1800’s. “Marriages and Deaths.”
Cordell, Eugene Fauntleroy. The Medical Annals of Maryland, 1799-1899. Baltimore: Press of Williams & Watkins, 1903.
Hickey, Donald R. The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict. University of Illinois Press, 1995.
PBS. “Military Medicine in the War of 1812.” Accessed April 13, 2012. http://www.pbs.org/wned/war-of-1812/essays/military-medicine/.
Wright, F. Edward. Maryland Militia, War of 1812 vol. 5. Silver Spring, MD: Family Line, 1979-1986.
U.S. Federal Census of 1810. Charles County, Maryland Federal Census Index. Online. Accessed April 14, 2012. http://us-census.org/pub/usgenweb/census/md/charles/1810/.
U.S. Federal Census of 1820. Charles County, Maryland Federal Census Index. Online. Accessed April 14, 2012. http://us-census.org/pub/usgenweb/census/md/charles/1820/.
U.S. Federal Census of 1830. Charles County, Maryland Federal Census Index. Online. Accessed April 14, 2012. http://us-census.org/pub/usgenweb/census/md/charles/1830/.
“Last Will and Testament of William Coomes.” Reference, Charles County Wills. Microfilm. AK11 (1791-1808) f. 505. College of Southern Maryland: Southern Maryland Studies Center, La Plata, Maryland.
“Letter, Stanislaus Coomes to ‘Dear Uncle.'” August 3, 1814. Maryland State Archives Special Collections, accession 871-1-1. Located at 00/25/11/21. Maryland State Archives. Annapolis, Maryland.