Lt. Colonel Joseph Sterett (1773-1821) and his wife Molly Harris' 260-acre estate of “Mount Deposit” lay to the north of Judge Kell’s estate along the Philadelphia Road, two miles east from Baltimore, overlooking Fell’s Point and the harbor. At midnight on September 12, Colonel Sterett having returned with his regiment from the North Point battlefield made arrangements to remove his family. He then took post on Hampstead Hill within sight of his estate along with the gathering militia and federal forces. As Col. Brooke and Admiral Cockburn surveyed the American defenses before them, their commissioned officers and accompanying soldiers took leisure on Sterett’s estate. A British subaltern and four fellow officers decided to venture forth.
“About a couple of hundred yards in front of videttes, stood a mansion of considerable size, and genteel exterior … That a place so neat in all its arrangements, and so well supplied with out-houses of every description…When a crowd of stragglers, artillerymen, sappers, sailors and soldiers of the line, rushed into the hall. In a moment, the walls of the building re-echoed with oaths and exclamations, and tables, chairs, windows, and even the doors, were dashed to pieces, in revenge for the absence of food… through a chasm in a brick wall under ground, the interior of a wine cellar, set round in magnificent array, with bottles of all shapes and dimensions. In five minutes, the cellar was crowed with men, filling in the first place, their own haversacks, bosoms …In less than a quarter of a hour, not a single pint, either of wine [or] of spirits, remained…”
Col. Sterett’s daughter, Louisa remembered vividly: from the family narratives the events that took place at “Surrey” on September 12-13, 1814:
“Fearing that the outrages and atrocities perpetrated by Cockburn and his men might be repeated… the family coach and large farm wagon made their exit by the west road as the British entered on the east by [Judge] Kell’s woods.”
A colored woman, Ellen Smith, and her children seized what family valuables [they could] and secreted them to their slave quarters when British officers denied any soldiers to enter the negro quarters. On a sideboard three officers, Captain Brown, Wilcox and McNamara of the Royal Marines left an inscription on the parlor mantel: “Captains Brown, Wilcox and McNamara, of the Light Brigade, Royal Marines, met with everything they could wish for at this house. They returned their thanks, notwithstanding it was received through the hands of the butler in the absence of the Colonel.”
Today the structural two story remains of “Surrey” still survives in northeast Baltimore, a former community center, now vacant.
Sources: A Subaltern in America; Comprizing His Narrative of the Campaign of the British Army, at Baltimore, Washington, &c.,.by George Robert Gleig (Baltimore: E.L. Carey & a. Hart, 1833), 153-154; The Sun, September 12, 1888.