Captain Charles Ridgely

A painting of Captain Charles Ridgely holding a spyglass
Painting of Captain Charles Ridgely by John Hesselius.


Captain Charles Ridgely (1733-1790) served in the 1750s as a ship’s captain for the mercantile firm James Russell and Company. His maritime adventures included quelling a mutiny, surviving two hurricanes, and being imprisoned by the French during the French and Indian War. In 1763, he retired from the sea and assumed control of the family iron business, while remaining an active agent for British merchants until the Revolutionary War. An active politician and member of the Maryland Legislature, he was the acknowledged political boss of Baltimore City.

After the death of his brother John in 1771 and his father in 1772, Captain Ridgely owned a two-thirds share in the Northampton Ironworks and maintained control of the entire operation. The Northampton Ironworks was a labor-intensive business which relied on a large and diverse workforce of enslaved persons, indentured servants, convict laborers and, during the Revolutionary War, British prisoners of war. The war created an ever-growing market for the forge’s products such as shot, cannons, and camp kettles. Income from this enterprise permitted Captain Ridgely to acquire thousands of acres of land confiscated from the British immediately following the War, and he eventually owned more than twenty-four thousand acres.

Captain Ridgely married Rebecca Dorsey, the daughter of another Anne Arundel County ironmaster. The two had no children, but he raised and educated his nephew Charles Ridgely Carnan to be his business partner and heir. The two resided at the Lower House at Hampton as the great Hampton Hall was under construction from 1783-1790. Known as "The Builder," Ridgely died in June 1790, soon after the mansion was completed.



  • A painting of the Port of Baltimore
    Colonel Charles Ridgely

    The purchaser of most of the Hampton Estate lands

  • Painting of Rebecca Dorsey Ridgely by John Hesselius. NPS
    Rebecca Dorsey Ridgely

    She witnessed the construction of the mansion, but did not live there for long.

  • A painting of  Charles Carnan Ridgely.
    Charles Carnan Ridgely

    Second owner of the Hampton mansion and at one time the governor of Maryland.

  • African American man holding a wheelbarrow outside of the mansion
    Enslaved People

    Hampton was the second largest plantation in Maryland. Learn about the struggle, hardships, and lives of the enslaved.

  • Indentured Servants at Hampton
    Indentured Servants

    Indentured servants made up a significant portion of the Hampton labor force at one time. Read about their stories on the plantation.

  • African American Woman, Nancy Davis, and little white girl Eliza Ridgely
    Learn about more
    People of Hampton

    Hundreds of people lived, worked, and were enslaved at Hampton coinciding America's development as a nation. Explore more of their stories.


Learn More

  • The Ridgely Family of Hampton
    The Ridgely Family

    The Ridgely Family owned and managed the Hampton Estate for almost 200 years. Explore their impact on history!

  • 4 generations of ladies and girls of the Ridgely family on the north portico of Hampton mansion, NPS
    The Ridgelys of Hampton

    Learn about the history of the Ridgely family at Hampton.

  • Enslaved workers working on the plantation farm by the overseer's house and slave quarters.
    Slavery at Hampton

    From the colonial period through 1864, the Ridgelys enslaved over 500 people. Enslaved persons, from young children to the elderly

  • Drawing of people working on a dock
    Indentured Servants at Hampton

    Indentured servants were not willing laborers and the working conditions at Northampton Furnace was grueling.

  • Artist depiction of the iron making process.
    Working Conditions

    Accounts of the working conditions of the forced labor iron works.

  • An artist's depiction of an overseer in the fields watching the enslaved. With a whip behind back.
    Forms of Control

    From physical to mental abuse for the youngest ages to the oldest. Learn about the harsh truths and forms of control.

Last updated: April 2, 2024

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