Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John Hoskins Stone (1750-1804)
MSA SC 3520-1199

Biography:

Born in 1750 at Poynton Manor in Charles County to David and Elizabeth Stone, John Hoskins Stone grew up in a wealthy political family. His ancestor, William Stone, immigrated to the North American colonies in the 1628 and later served as Maryland’s governor between 1648 and 1656. John Hoskins Stone had many brothers and sisters, most notably Thomas Stone, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His other siblings were Walter, Frederick, David, Samuel, Grace, Elizabeth Anne, Catherine, Anne, Mary, Michael Jenifer Stone, and Daniel Jenifer Stone. [1]

Stone received an education in one of Charles County’s private schools, studying law. He began a long career as a merchant around 1775, meeting George Washington for the first time in a few dealings. In his mid-twenties, Stone became politically active, taking part in Charles County’s committee of correspondence. By 1774, hundreds of committees throughout the North American colonies exchanged letters between each other, establishing a united political organization working against the British and spreading information to the public. Stone also served as a delegate to the Fifth Annapolis Convention in 1775, and signed the Declaration of the Association of the Freemen of Maryland in July 1775. The Declaration approved “of the opposition by Arms to the British troops,” and announced that                                                                                       

WE do unite and associate, as one band,
and firmly and solemnly engage and pledge ourselves to each other,
and to America, that we will to the utmost of our power,
promote and support the present opposition, carrying on,
as well by Arms, as by the continental association, restraining our commerce. [2]

Stone’s military career began in 1775, when he served as a captain in the Charles County militia. He soon decided to apply for captaincy in the First Maryland Regiment instead. “Being very desirous of serving his country in the present state of danger,” Stone used Convention delegates from Charles and…St. Mary’s Counties” as character references. Several delegates from Charles County served in the Maryland Line, including William Smallwood, commander of the First Maryland Regiment, and Francis Ware, a French and Indian War veteran who served as the First Regiment's lieutenant colonel. Stone's uncle, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, also served as the Maryland Council of Safety's first president and had been a powerful member of the gentry prior to the Revolution. Based on Stone's connections and previous service, the Convention commissioned Stone as a captain of the First Regiment’s First Company on January 3, 1776. [3]

As a captain, Stone organized and supervised his company’s troops, ensuring that his troops possessed the proper equipment and training. Stone’s company trained in Maryland for the first half of 1776. In July, however, the entire First Maryland Regiment received orders to travel to New York. George Washington feared an imminent British attack and desperately needed reinforcements. [4]

The First Regiment arrived in time to participate in the Battle of Brooklyn on August 27, 1776. British soldiers outflanked the American soldiers in a surprise attack. The Marylanders retreated, fighting their way toward the Gowanus Creek. The First Company managed to cross the creek along with half of the First Maryland Regiment and escaped the battle, taking few casualties. Other companies, however, remained trapped and subsequently faced a deadly British onslaught. The Marylanders led several charges against the British, holding them at bay for a crucial period of time that saved Washington’s army. [5]

Stone continued to serve with the First Company throughout the Fall of 1776, participating in the Battle of Harlem Heights in September. Alongside "upwards three hundred officers and soldiers of the Maryland Regulars," Stone fell ill "in the Jerseys." Smallwood worried that the lack of "Care" given to the sick soldiers "must hurt the Service upon the New Enlistments." While many Marylanders died to disease, Stone recovered. The Maryland Line went on to fight in the Battle of White Plains in late October, which resulted in heavy losses for the Marylanders. [6]                              

When the army was reorganized in December of 1776, Stone received a promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel. While other officers returned to Maryland to recruit soldiers following the end of their enlistments, Stone remained behind and took command of the regiment. Placed under Brigadier General Hugh Mercer, Stone led the few remaining Marylanders during the Trenton-Princeton campaign. Although the British mortally wounded Mercer during the Battle of Princeton, the American victories revitalized faltering morale. Under orders from Washington, Stone returned to Maryland in January of 1777 to gather new recruits. [7]

While in Maryland, Stone was promoted to the rank of colonel in the First Regiment in February of 1777 after Francis Ware declined the position and resigned his commission. Like Stone, Ware suffered from sickness in the Fall of 1776 and had not recovered by Spring of 1777. Colonel Stone participated in the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, a disastrous battle which allowed the British to capture Philadelphia a few weeks later. Stone protected American artillery forces during the battle, and avoided capture by British troops. [8]

The Maryland Line participated in the Battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777. Washington believed that defeating the British encamped at Germantown would allow the Continental Army to reclaim Philadelphia. General John Sullivan led the seven Maryland Regiments in a series of engagements with the British, but the British ultimately forced Sullivan to retreat, shooting a volley at the division. At some point in the battle, a bullet struck Stone through the ankle, breaking several bones. When other officers asked Stone to leave the field, Stone purportedly replied “no, never while I can wield a sword, will I desert my corps and colors in the face of an enemy.” After taking heavy casualties in the thick fog, Washington ordered the Marylanders to retreat. [9]

Stone’s wound prevented him from effectively leading his troops ever again. Left “uneasy with his wound,” Stone returned to Maryland to recover, first in Baltimore and then at home in Port Tobacco. Unable to “walk without…Crutches” and thus leaving his “Regiment [to] suffer much for the want of a field officer,” Stone urged Washington to accept his resignation. Washington refused, and instead accepted Stone’s suggestion to give Samuel Smith control of the regiment. Smith never received the offer, however, and Stone continued to serve as a colonel in the First Regiment. During his time at Port Tobacco in 1778 and 1779, Stone continued to recruit soldiers and gather supplies for his regiment, and even issued marching orders. [10]

While Stone recovered, Colonel John Gunby of the Seventh Maryland Regiment began to press Washington to rearrange officer rankings for the Maryland Line. Gunby believed that he should outrank Stone due to Stone’s inability to serve effectively. Stone refused to serve if Gunby outranked him, which soon became a reality when Gunby received precedence over Stone. Stone left the service on August 1, 1779. When Washington heard the news of Stone’s resignation, Washington regretted “that any circumstances should exist to deprive the States of so good an Officer.” Although Stone requested the command of 2,500 militia intended to reinforce the Continental Army in July of 1780, officials rejected his request. Stone did not return to the military for the war’s duration. [11]

Due to his service and wound, Stone still received half pay for his rank following his resignation. Stone continued to support Maryland’s soldiers through recruiting and supplying new soldiers, providing food and clothing for the recruits. Beginning in 1779, Stone took a stronger interest in politics. Stone held a position on the Maryland Governor’s Executive Council from 1779 until 1785, advising governors Thomas Johnson, Thomas Sim Lee, and William Paca. Stone owned a house in Annapolis during this period, and continued to hold property in Charles County. In February of 1781, Stone married Mary Couden. The pair later had several children together before her death in 1792: Robert Couden, Couden, Anne, and Elizabeth. [12]

Following the war’s end, Stone also returned to his career as a merchant. Operating out of both Annapolis and Charles County, Stone and his family relied on connections made during the war to become one of Maryland’s most profitable ventures. His brother, Walter, worked in the office of Robert Morris, the Superintendent of Finance for the United States. Returning to Port Tobacco in 1784, Walter used his connections in Philadelphia to found John H. Stone & Company with John and Michael Jenifer Stone. John Hoskins Stone approached Tench Tilghman, one of Washington’s former aides-de-camp, quickly becoming Tilghman’s preferred merchant in the region. Tilghman claimed that Stone had “it in his Power to produce more [tobacco] than any other man on this side of the Potomac.” Stone’s merchant network linked the area between Alexandria, Virginia and St. Mary’s County, Maryland to places like Annapolis, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, greatly expanding the region’s trading network. Although Stone primarily traded crop products like tobacco, the company also entered the slave trade, selling and buying enslaved people. [13]

Stone used the money he earned from his company to buy land. Prior to 1779, Stone owned 250 acres in Charles County. Between 1779 and 1804, Stone bought or received at least 10,000 acres in multiple counties. He inherited 400 acres from his uncle, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, in 1781. By 1783, Stone owned 1,123 acres in Charles County alone, and another 235 acres in Anne Arundel. That number increased to 1,952 acres in Charles County in 1798. Stone also held 20,536 acres in Allegany County. Additionally, Stone owned 12 enslaved people in 1783, and continued to purchase slaves as his wealth grew, owning 24 slaves in 1790. [14]

In 1785, Stone declined serving in the Executive Council, successfully campaigning to become one of Charles County’s members of the Maryland House of Delegates. Stone held this position until 1787. After a short break, Stone lobbied to become an agent selling confiscated British property for Maryland in 1789. Although Stone said that some politicians “seemed to think that [his] terms were too high,” Stone used his political connections to directly appeal to Governor John Eager Howard and his council. Howard served as a Maryland Line officer alongside Stone, and agreed to Stone’s appointment. Stone received a “2% commission on the amount of sums paid into the treasury” from selling the confiscated land, which he thought “might be more advantageous” after his first year as an agent. Stone also secured the position of major general of the Maryland militia’s First Division in 1794 during the height of the Whiskey Rebellion. Stone did not march to end the rebellion, and resigned his commission the following year. Stone continued his political career by serving on the Annapolis City Council between 1792 to 1795. [15]

Stone reached the height of his political influence in 1794 when he became the Governor of Maryland. As governor, Stone expanded the office’s capabilities beyond its limited powers. According to the Maryland Constitution of 1776, the governor shared power with his executive council, reflecting fears over monarch-like abuses of power by a single powerful politician. The Constitution also provided more power to Maryland’s legislative branch than the executive and judicial branches. Stone implicitly changed this relationship, for example, when he delivered an address to the Maryland legislature, commenting on what he believed to be important issues. Members of the legislative branch hoped “that future governors may follow [his] laudable example,” which “although not sanctioned by precedent, or enjoined by the constitution... certainly [had] their use.” [16]

Stone also supported the construction of Washington, D.C. Michael Jenifer Stone previously lobbied for the placement of the capital along the Potomac River, using his connections to sell land at inflated prices in Baltimore for his family’s benefit during speculation over the capital’s location. With funding running low, George Washington personally wrote to John Hoskins Stone “with much reluctance” in 1796, imploring him to bring the matter of loaning $250,000 before the Maryland General Assembly. Stone, a staunch Federalist, convinced the Maryland legislature to provide a loan of $150,000 in December of 1796, which increased to $250,000 by 1799. Stone continued to support Washington until he left office in 1797. Despite Stone’s Federalist views, he also offered to aid Thomas Jefferson’s presidential administration, regardless of Jefferson’s role in founding and leading the Democratic-Republican party. [17]

Stone retired from politics after leaving the office of governor. He eventually decided to stay in Annapolis, where he died on October 4, 1804 “after a long and painful illness.” Local newspapers described Stone as “an honest and honorable man, an inspired soldier, a firm patriot, and a liberal, hospitable, and friendly citizen.” Stone died without writing a will and left behind no inventory or probate, making it difficult to determine his exact wealth at death. [18]

-James Schmitt, Maryland Society Sons of the American Revolution Research Fellow, 2019, additional research provided by Cassy Sottile, Explore America Research Intern

Notes:

[1] Harry Wright Newman, The Stones of Poynton Manor: A Genealogical History of Captain William Stone (self-pub., 1937), pp. 6-10; Edward C. Papenfuse, et al., eds, A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), vol. 2, pp. 784-785, 788-789. “Poynton Manor” is also referred to as “Pointon Manor.”

[2] Papenfuse, 784; George Washington, “Where, how, or with whom, my time is Spent,” March 1775, Founders Online, National Archives; General Ledger B, 1772–1793, Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers, p. 190; Benjamin Warford-Johnston, “American Colonial Committees of Correspondence: Encountering Oppression, Exploring Unity, and Exchanging Visions of the Future,” History Teacher, vol. 50, no. 1 (November 2016), pp. 83, 87-88; Journal of the Maryland Convention July 26 to August 14, 1775, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 11, pp. 3, 66-67.

[3] Proceedings of the Committee of Observation of Charles County, 26 February 1776, Maryland Sate Papers, Red Books, vol. 15, no. 198, MdHR 4578 [MSA S989-22, 1/6/4/10]; John Hoskins Stone to the Maryland Convention, 1775, Maryland State Papers, Red Books, vol. 32, no. 14, MdHR 4603-14 [MSA S989-4646, 1/6/4/35]; Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 5.

[4] Frederick Steuben, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, Part I (Philadelphia: Styner and Cist, 1792), pp. 129-131; Mark Andrew Tacyn, “‘To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), pp. 44-45.

[5] Tacyn, pp. 48-73.

[6] Tacyn, pp. 90-92; Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, July 7 to December 31, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 12, p. 343.

[7] Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from Fold3.com; Reiman Steuart, A History of the Maryland Line in the Revolutionary War (Towson, MD: Metropolitan Press, 1969), p. 137; William S. Stryker, The Battles of Trenton and Princeton (Cambridge: Boston, Houghton, and Mifflin Co., 1898), p. 360; George Washington to John Hoskins Stone, 8 January 1777, Founders Online, National Archives.

[8] Compiled Service Records, NARA M881, from Fold3.com; George Washington Parke Custis, Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington (New York: Derby and Jackson, 1860), p. 205.

[9] Compiled Service Records, NARA M881, from Fold3.com; Steuart, p. 137; George Washington to Richard Peters, 12 May 1777, Founders Online, National Archives; William Paca to Thomas Johnson, 3 September 1777, Maryland State Papers, Red Books, vol. 4, no. 95, MdHR 4561 [MSA S989-5, 1/6/3/38]; Tacyn, pp. 143-146; “Extract of a Letter from Camp,” 5 October 1777, Maryland State Papers, Red Books, vol. 6, no. 36, MdHR 4564 [MSA S989-8, 1/6/3/41]; Custis, p. 205.

[10] Thomas Jones to Thomas Johnson, 10 October 1777, Maryland State Papers, Red Books, vol. 14, no. 99, MdHR 4576 [MSA S989-20, 1/6/4/8]; John Hoskins Stone to George Washington, 22 January 1778, Founders Online, National Archives; George Washington to John Hoskins Stone, 8 February 1778, Founders Online, National Archives; John Hoskins Stone to George Washington, 21 March 1778, Founders Online, National Archives; John Hoskins Stone to Thomas Johnson, 29 June 1778, Maryland State Papers, Brown Books, vol. 5, no. 113, MdHR 4614 [MSA S991-7, 1/6/5/8]; John Hoskins Stone to Thomas Johnson, 9 April 1779, Maryland State Papers, Red Books, vol. 25, no. 65, MdHR 4593 [MSA S989-37, 1/6/4/25]; John Hoskins Stone to Thomas Johnson, 12 July 1779, Maryland State Papers, Red Books, vol. 25, no. 56, MdHR 4593 [MSA S989-37, 1/6/4/25].

[11] John Gunby to George Washington, 18 December 1777, Founders Online, National Archives; Samuel Smith to Otho Holland Williams, 16 February 1779, Williams Papers, Maryland Historical Society; Samuel Smith to Otho Holland Williams, 15 April 1779, Williams Papers, Maryland Historical Society; George Washington to John Hoskins Stone, 13 September 1779, Founders Online, National Archives; Samuel Smith to Otho Holland Williams, 5 July 1780, Williams Papers, Maryland Historical Society.

[12] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, pp. 376, 628; Papenfuse, p. 784.

[13] Jean B. Lee, The Price of Nationhood: The American Revolution in Charles County (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1994), pp. 226-227; Papenfuse, p. 784.

[14] General Assembly, House of Delegates, Assessment Record, 1783, Charles County, Seventh District, General, p. 11 [MSA S1161-5-4, 1/4/5/48]; General Assembly, House of Delegates, Assessment Record, 1783, Anne Arundel, Town Neck Hundred, p. 3 [MSA S1161-1-15 Location: 1/4/5/44]; U.S. Federal Census, 1790, Charles County; Papenfuse, p. 785; Federal Direct Tax, 1798, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 729, p. 1492

[15] Papenfuse, pp. 784-785; John Hoskins Stone to John Davidson, 29 March 1789, Maryland State Papers, Blue Books, vol. 3, no. 26, MdHR 4642 [MSA 0990-4-55, 1/6/4/42]; John Hoskins Stone to John Davidson, 8 April 1789, Maryland State Papers, Blue Books, vol. 3, no. 27, MdHR 4642-27 [MSA 0990-4-56, 16/4/42]; John Hoskins Stone to John Davidson, 1789, Maryland State Papers, Blue Books, vol. 3, no. 28, MdHR 4642-28 [MSA 0990-4-57, 1/6/4/42]; Adjutant General, Militia Appointments, 1794-1804, no. 1, p. 4, MdHR 1349 [MSA S348-1, 2/8/3/13].

[16] Papenfuse, pp. 784-785; David Curtis Skaggs, Roots of Maryland Democracy, 1753-1776 (USA: Greenwood Press, Inc., 1973), pp. 193-195; “The Joint Answer of the Senate and House of Delegates to the Governor’s Address,” Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 1797, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 105, pp. 87-88.

[17] Kenneth R. Bowling, The Creation of Washington, D.C.: The Idea and Location of the American Capital (Fairfax, VA: Georgetown Mason University Press, 1991), pp. 141-142, 186, 233; George Washington to John Hoskins Stone, 6 December 1795, Founders Online, National Archives; George Washington, George to John Hoskins Stone, 7 December 1796, Founders Online, National Archives; John Hoskins Stone to George Washington, 16 December 1796, Founders Online, National Archives; John Hoskins Stone to George Washington, 12 December 1796, Founders Online, National Archives; George Washington to Gustavus Scott, 7 December 1796, George Washington Papers, series 4, General Correspondence, Library of Congress; John Gardiner to Thomas Jefferson, 25 February 1801, Founders Online, National Archives.

[18] Papenfuse, pp. 784-785; Mercantile Advertiser (New York), 18 October 1804; Maryland Gazette (Annapolis), 11 October 1794.

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