St. John’s College

This is the first in a series of posts about Oliver Case and the 8th Connecticut during their time in Annapolis, Maryland during the period November 1861 to January 1862.  A recent visit to Annapolis revealed some details along with some photos of the places mentioned by Oliver in his letters.


We had a very pleasant trip down the Chesapeake arriving at Annapolis Tuesday night where we were quartered in a college where we stayed two nights and one day. Thursday we marched for camp, pitched tents and stayed overnight. It is situated one and one half miles from the city, upon an elevated piece of ground, near the camp of the 10th Conn, 25th and 27th Mass, 51st N.Y. and a N.H. regiment.[1]

When Private Oliver Case and the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment arrived at Annapolis on November 5, 1861, they found a city pulled between southern loyalty and northern military force. As discussed in a previous post, Maryland and its governor were conflicted in their decision against secession only eight months before the arrival of Burnside’s expeditionary force in the capital city. Now, Union forces by the thousands were arriving to serve as both an occupying force and to train for future operations deeper in Confederate territory.

St Johns College sign

During his first two nights in Annapolis, Oliver and the other soldiers of the 8th Connecticut were billeted in buildings belonging to St. John’s College. The college was originally founded in 1696 as King William’s School only two years after Annapolis was designated as the capital city for the colony of Maryland. It was originally founded as a preparatory school, but received its charter in 1784 changing the name to St. John’s College. The college was unique for its time being noted for religious tolerance with a policy where “youth of all religious denominations shall be freely and liberally admitted”. At the onset of the war, students departed the school to join both the Union and Confederate armies. With most of students gone, the Union army soon moved onto the grounds and school officials watched helplessly as the army occupied many of the building on campus and, by November 1861, established tent cities on the grounds.

Based on my research at the college, it is most likely that Oliver and his comrades stayed in one of the following buildings:

McDowell Hall

McDowell Hall, built 1742

This hall was originally built by the Maryland Governor Thomas Bladen to be used as a residence for the state’s executive. However, after the Revolutionary War in 1784, the state gave the yet unfinished building to the newly chartered St. John’s College. The school completed the building including the addition of a bell tower (which is still in use today) along with a third floor. Although the building was significantly damaged by fire in 1909, it was reconstructed to its original specifications. It is named for the first principal of King William’s School, John McDowell.

Pinkney Hall

Pinkney Hall, built 1858

At the time the 8th Connecticut arrived on campus, the building was still under construction, but likely able to be occupied by Union troops.  The hall is named for William Pinkney who is the only historical figure of some reputation known to be a graduate of King William’s School.

cannon st johns war 1812

This cannon located between McDowell Hall and Pinkney Hall is a relic of the War of 1812 and was dredged from the Baltimore harbor.

 Chase Stone House

Chase-Stone House, built 1857

Part of the main campus, this building is named for two of Maryland’s signers of the Declaration of Independence, Samuel Chase and Thomas Stone. Both men also served on the college’s board of directors during the 18th century.

Paca Carroll House

Paca-Carroll House built in 1857

This building is named for the other two Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence, William Paca and Charles Carroll. It is a companion to Pinkney and Chase-Stone that was originally constructed for faculty members.

Humphreys Hall

Humphreys Hall built in 1837

This building was designed by the renowned architect Robert Cary Long, Jr. and is notable on the campus for its twin towers. It was named for longtime college president, Hector Humphreys and served as both a laboratory and dormitory during the early years of the school. According to current school officials, this building served as a hospital during the opening months of the Civil War.

[1] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (11 November 1861)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s