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Book details
  • Genre:HISTORY
  • SubGenre:Modern / 18th Century
  • Language:English
  • Pages:402
  • Paperback ISBN:9781098353285

The Stewards of West River

A Maryland Family During the American Revolution

by Lyman Hall

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From the day the British attacked Lexington and Concord, the Steward family pledged their life to create the United States. Col. Jack Steward’s escapades were against all odds. He led his men into battle from the front. He was defending himself with savagery brutality while commanding his men to fight with savage ferocity to the point of challenging death itself. His battle cry was, “ya can’t live forever.” Back on the home front, his father, Stephen Steward, from his shipyard was fighting on the Chesapeake Bay the Privateers, Tories, and the British who attacked and burned his shipyard. After the Revolutionary War came the War of 1812, and Stephen Steward’s grandson John Stuart Skinner escorts Francis Scott Key where they witnessed the bombing of Fort McHenry. During the bombing, Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Skinner resolves the age-old question of who published our Nation Anthem. 


David Steward, the progenitor of the Steward family, came to America. He was born in Gauldry, a village in Fife, Scotland. During the Third English Civil Wars. Wars were fought between the supporters of the Parliament of England and supporters of the king of England. From the promises of King Charles ll, David fought for the Scottish struggle for the God-given freedom created when his forefathers signed the Arbroath Declaration on April 6, 1320. At either the battle of Dunbar or Worcester, he was captured. British General Oliver Cromwell gave the officers a choice of dying by the sword or being exiled to the American colonies. David chose to be exiled to fight for freedom another day. He never lost dislike for the British, and this was passed down through the generations of Stewards as a legacy.

Four generations later Stephen Steward built the largest shipyard on Fords Creek at the head of the West River. He built ships for the Chesapeake Bay and Merchant Ships to carry goods to Europe and the Caribbean. When the Revolution started, he built freighters, warships and gunboats and launched expeditions on the Chesapeake Bay to fight the British, Tories, and Picaroons. Stephen was in full support of the new Maryland government and he immediately offered his services to the Council of Safety. Stephen’s shipyard served as Maryland’s Naval base and he was an agent for the Council of Safety and Congress. The shipyard was the only site the British attacked in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

Stephen’s son, John “Jack” Steward, joined the Maryland Army, which was assigned to General Washington’s Continental Army that fought from the Battle of Brooklyn Heights to Yorktown, earning promotions from Lieutenant, Captain, Major to Lt. Colonel along the way. His exploits were “in the very teeth of death itself fighting with savage ferocity, and every step of a memorable challenge to death itself.” General Washington awarded Jack with a silver medal. This was one of only eleven medals given out during the war, which today would be equivalent to the Congressional Medal of Honor today.

About the author

I was raised on a dairy farm and one of our large fields backed up to a lake. That field covered over 20 acres, and it had Indian arrowheads scattered all over the area. We did not know if it had been a village or a battle fought there. My father was sure that it had been a battle due to arrowheads scattered all over the field. As a boy of 6, 7, 8, I rode my horse through that field where I was chased, captured, escaped, and had many imaginary adventures. This inspired a lifetime interest and love of history.

During the Korean War, I enlisted in the Airforce and served four years active and four inactive as a S/Sgt on a RB36 in the Strategic Air Command [SAC] during the cold war. The commander of SAC was General LeMay, and we were at war with Russia. It was the atomic age, and our goal was Mutual Assured Destruction [MAD] with Russia.

From my SAC career, I joined a major airline and retired thirty-six years later. During my airline career I started a flight school and covered primary flight training, commercial, instruments, and multiengine training.  

In 1962 I bought a 38ft Columbia sailboat and explored the Chesapeake Bay. In 1967 my sailing partner, Tom Latta, sailed from Annapolis to Cat Island south of New Providence. We commuted from our job to New Providence for a year and sailed back to Annapolis, Md. In 1976 My Partner bought a 60ft Trawler in Los angles, California. We sailed from Los Angles through the Panama Canal to Florida, then Annapolis, Md.


 In 1985, I bought a historical site on the West River in Maryland called Norman's Retreat. It was historically recorded as a 19th-century farm. It wasn't long before I discovered Mr. Thomas Ford had been granted the property in 1659 and built a house where the foundation was still intact.

I learned that the site had extensive archival remains for an 18th-century shipyard.  Shipwright Stephen Steward owned and operated the shipyard as the naval base for Maryland's navy during the American Revolutionary War. March 31, 1781, the British attacked and burned the shipyard. This excited my love of history again and soon led to extensive research: people, places, traveling the Revolutionary War battles, and researching historical persons associated with the Steward shipyard. This research led to the shipwright's son, who fought under Generals Washington and Greene from Brooklyn Heights to Yorktown. The grandson of the shipwright accompanied Francis Scott Key through the rescue of Doctor Beames and the bombing of Fort McHenry. After many years of research, many encouraged me to put it in print as a viable documentary of Maryland's history. Thus, I began the journey of writing this book.

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