Brigadier General John Stricker, remembered today as the hero of North Point, found himself in a different type of battle in the summer of 1812. As the commander of the third brigade of the Maryland militia, Stricker had the task of maintaining peace and order in the city. However, when a riot erupted over the nation’s role in the War of 1812, Stricker did little to stop the violence. According to his son John Stricker, Jr., the militia leader failure became “an object of particular resentment and embittered censure” when “partizanship [sic] was at its height and Baltimore was the scene of disgraceful violence.”
While Baltimore’s Republicans favored American involvement in the War of 1812, the city’s Federalists vehemently opposed it. In June 1812, Alexander Contee Hanson published fierce criticism of President James Madison’s declaration of war in the Federal Republican newspaper. A mob quickly descended upon the paper’s offices, sacking the building and forcing the publishers to flee to Georgetown. Hanson and his associates (including Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, a Revolutionary War veteran and father of Robert E. Lee) returned to Baltimore on July 26, establishing a new shop at 45 South Charles Street. Brigadier General Stricker lived just a few houses away at 15 S. Charles Street.
An irate mob again attacked Hanson and his Federalist supporters on July 27, trapping the men inside the building for hours as they were pelted with stones and threatened by gunfire. The mob consisted of both native and foreign born men, most of whom could be described as neither rich nor poor. Druggists, shoemakers, carpenters, grocers, sailors, coopers, and a butcher could be found among the melee. Hanson later described them as “a band of filthy dungeon miscreants.” When Stricker and Mayor Edward Johnson—both Republicans—arrived at the scene in the middle of the night, they attempted to negotiate with the crowd rather than to call in the militia. According to a pamphlet summarizing the ordeal, these two powerful men convinced the Federalist captives of “their own ability to protect the party in the house” and escorted them to the city jail “as a place of safety.”
Stricker issued a call to the militia the next morning, with the mob still surrounding the jail. Only an estimated 30 to 60 militia members actually arrived, as most “absolutely refused” to defend the Federalists. Eventually the mob stormed the jail and attacked Hanson and his associates. Melee ensued. The Republicans fatally stabbed an elderly general named James Lingan, and left the others in the streets badly beaten. A contemporary of Stricker criticized his inaction in the second Baltimore riot of 1812, saying the Brigadier General “no where showed himself as the commander of the militia [...] but contented himself with barely doing what was required of him. [...] There can be doubt that it was in the power of Gen. Stricker to prevent, or easily repel, this attack.”