A special installation ceremony will be held at 1pm on Saturday April 30 at the Caroline County Courthouse to honor Thomas Carney, a free-born black man from Denton who served in Maryland’s Revolutionary militia in several crucial battles and won widespread recognition for saving the life of another Maryland patriot, General Perry Benson. The General Perry Benson chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has joined with the NAACP Caroline County Branch to host the ceremony, with Thomas Carney descendants and state and local officials invited as special guests. The Caroline County Commissioners and the Office of Tourism proposed the site on the Courthouse Greens, as it is a cornerstone of Denton’s historic downtown. A grant from the Maryland Historic Trust, and the State Highway Administration made it possible to find the appropriate site.
Historians claim Thomas Carney, described in the 20th century as an African-American, actually was born free on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with Irish roots, and was described as a “light-skinned colored man” with white brothers. Tom’s life on the family farm ended in 1777 when he enlisted in Maryland’s 5th Regiment in time to take part in the October, 1777 Battle of Germantown. He also fought in the Battle of the Guilford Court House, in which he reportedly boasted of using his bayonet to kill 7 enemy soldiers.
Thomas Carney enlisted as a private, but in short order was promoted to corporal after his transfer to Maryland’s 7th regiment. History claims only four African-American soldiers ever achieved that rank. There is no record of an African-American being promoted to sergeant or beyond until years later. Carney fought in a number of other memorable battles at Camden, Hobkirk’s Hill and The Ninety-Six in South Carolina. During The Ninety-Six, the 7th Regiment’s Captain Perry Benson received a life-threatening wound in his arm, with non-stop bleeding.
Described as a man “above the common size” Carney carried Capt. Benson on his shoulders through the battlefield, keeping hold of his musket, until they reached the company surgeon. Carney asked to return to his company, but the commanding officer ordered him to remain to protect his captain. A grateful Capt. Benson was instrumental in granting Carney 50 acres of land in Caroline County, and always made sure to visit Tom first when he was in the area. Their relationship only strengthened through the years as then Brigadier General Perry Benson had Tom serve with him in the Battle of St. Michaels in the War of 1812. An obituary in 1828 reported the death “of a colored man, at the advanced age of 74”, describing Thomas Carney as courageous, kind, brave and loyal.
The General Perry Benson Chapter of the DAR, founded in Talbot County, actively researches and honors Maryland Revolutionary War patriots, and five years ago longtime member Helen “Betty” Seymour began her research into the man who saved the life of the chapter Patriot. Thanks to her, the Maryland Historic Trust and the NAACP Caroline County Branch, now celebrating its 75th anniversary, and the Caroline County Commissioners agreed that native son Thomas Carney deserved permanent recognition. The monument will be located on the Courthouse Greens, adjacent to other landmarks celebrating African Americans who served in the Civil War, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, and the Emancipation Proclamation. The marker will be located on the in the front of the courthouse, (east side) in proximity to the miniature information center on the greens.
The installation ceremony will begin at 1pm, Saturday, April 30 at 109 Market St., Denton. Parking is available.