John Eager Howard was a great Army officer and leader. Born on June 4, 1752 to a wealthy Maryland planter and his wife, he was well educated and became a Captain in the 2nd Maryland Brigade in July 1776. He quickly advanced in rank. Howard was known to be calm and reserved. He never let his mild temperament interfere with his military methods. He was an outstanding infantryman and always seemed to be involved in the fiercest part of the fighting. By January 1781 he was a Lieutenant Colonel and in charge of the Continental forces under Daniel Morgan at Cowpens, South Carolina (The term cowpens was used to mean pastureland--the field was about 500 yards long and just as wide, a park-like setting dotted with trees, with no undergrowth because it was kept clear by cattle grazing).
After Cowpens, Howard fought other battles including Eutaw Springs in South Carolina. His wounds at Eutaw Springs were so severe that they ended his career, and caused him to suffer the rest of his life. He returned to Maryland, where he married Margaret "Peggy" Chew, daughter of Chief Justice Chew of Maryland, in 1787. Howard was considered to be one of the finest officers of the period.
Photo courtesy of Julia Lehnert
College of Library and Information Services, University of Maryland
After the Revolution, Howard continued his public service. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1788, Governor of Maryland from 1788 to 1791, and a US Senator from 1796 to 1803. He ran unsuccessfully for Vice President in 1816. The state of Maryland honored him in the song, Maryland, My Maryland . In addition there is an equestrian (meaning "on a horse") statue of him in Baltimore near a monument to George Washington on land that Howard donated to the city. In fact, today, much of the land occupied by the city of Baltimore once belonged to Howard.
John Eager Howard died at his home on October 12, 1827, and is buried at Saint Paul's Church in Baltimore. Howard County was named in his honor.