Rosalie Stier Calvert

Illustration of a woman looking out of a window, seeing war rockets in the distance.
The mistress of Riversdale, Rosalie Stier Calvert, wrote that she heard and saw “cannonballs” (probably Congreve rockets) from her bedroom window during the Battle of Bladensburg. ©Gerry Embleton
Rosalie Stier Calvert, known as the “Mistress of Riversdale,” watched the Battle of Bladensburg from her second-story window at Riversdale Plantation. She later wrote about seeing flying cannonballs (probably Congreve rockets) from her perch. When the battle was over, her husband and enslaved field hands from the plantation helped to bury the dead.

Throughout the war, Calvert skillfully managed the plantation—including about 80 enslaved people—while enduring wartime hardships. She and her household suffered through a typhoid epidemic in the summer of 1813 that took the life of her 17-month-old daughter.

As the war came to an end, Calvert wrote of a “precarious peace” and expressed uncertainty about the reliability of the still emerging national government and economy of the United States. Her experiences during the war and her life at the plantation are captured in great detail in the book Mistress of Riversdale: the Plantation Letters of Rosalie Stier Calvert.

  • You can visit her home and learn more about Rosalie Calvert’s life on a plantation at Riversdale Mansion.
  • View a five-minute video produced by the Maryland Humanities Council of Maryland actress Mary Ann Jung as Rosalie Stier Calvert.

Last updated: May 13, 2020

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