Delaware Military History

Cheyney Clow's Rebellion

During the American Revolution many Delawareans remained loyal to the British Crown. In
1778 a group of Loyalists under the leadership of local resident Cheney Clow constructed a
fort near this location. Concerned that they would march on Dover, a detachment of
Delaware militia commanded by Lt. Col. Charles Pope was sent to investigate. Arriving on
April 14, the party exchanged fire with the fort’s occupants. Returning two days later with
reinforcements, Pope found the post abandoned and destroyed it. Clow was arrested in 1782
following a gunfight in which a man was killed. Charged with murder, Cheney Clow was
executed in 1788.

Cheney Clow (1734 – 1788) was a loyalist from Delaware during the American Revolution
who staged a rebellion against the colonial government that was advocating separation from
Great Britain.

Early life
Cheney Clow was born in 1734 in Delaware, the third of nine children to Nathaniel Clow
and his wife Susannah. They lived in Queen Anne's County, Maryland, owned their own
farm of unknown acres but was said to have been considerable. Land recorded in 1744, 50
acres (200,000 m2) was named "Clow's Hope." In 1747 another 50 acres (200,000 m2) was
recorded and it was called "Boon's Hope". Boon's Hope cost Nathaniel and Susannah 2,100
pounds of tobacco, which was a common practice in the early colonies, paying for items with
tobacco off your own land.

Nathaniel Clow died in 1748, his estate papers and will are filed in the courthouse in
Annapolis. He wanted his estate divided equally among his wife and children. The children
were John born 1732, Mary born 1733, Cheney born 1734, Susannah born 1737, Rachael born
1738, James born1740, Sarah born 1742, Rebecca born 1743 and Ann born 1749.
Susannah Clow died before 1756. The exact date is unknown.

Marriage and family
Cheney Clow married Elizabeth (née ?) and settled in the same area as Nathanial and
Susannah. They farmed and raised a family. They had two children that are known of,
Joshua and Arrana.

Cheney's Rebellion, capture and imprisonment
At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, about a third of the colonist had no desire for
independence from England but in Kent County, Delaware, where Cheney Clow was living,
the Loyalist were greatly outnumbered. Cheney chose to support the King of England and
was commissioned a British Officer at some point either earlier before the Revolution began or
toward the beginning of Colonial Revolutionary activities. He now found himself a Tory. As
the war progressed the Tories constantly created terror by raiding and plundering the
colonist, supplies to the British, robbed the mails, plotted against the life of Washington, and
generally became very disliked by their neighbors.

During the War, in 1778, the colony passed a law requiring all male citizens over the age of 21
to take an "Oath of Allegiance." A Tory would be pardoned if the Oath was given, if not he
would suffer the confiscation of all his land and possessions. When it became time for
Cheney's Oath he refused. He also refused to pay taxes to Delaware claiming he was living in
Maryland. His farm was on both sides of the state line but the house sat in Delaware.

On the morning of April 18, 1778, the Sheriff of Kent County, Delaware, John Clayton, went
out to arrest Cheney Clow. This attempt erupted into a gun battle and one of the Sheriff's
men, named Moore, was killed. Cheney was charged with the murder of the posse member
Moore. Moore had been shot in the back while facing and firing toward Cheney Clow when
he was shot. It is thought that Moore was shot by a member of his own posse. When the
battle was over, Cheney's wife, Susannah, who had been helping her husband load rifles, was
woundedand Cheney was arrested and taken to jail. This action 200 years later would be
known as "Cheney Clow's Rebellion".

At this point, the local citizens wanted Cheney's head, they wanted blood, they wanted him
charged, and executed for treason. For four years he sat in prison and on December 12, 1782,
Cheney Clow was brought to trial. He was tried for treason for his role in the Loyalist
rebellion against Delaware. The jury found him not guilty of treason and he was acquitted
but authorities kept him in prison. It seemed that Cheney hadn't taken the Oath and
therefore could not be charged with treason. Keeping him in prison, they charged him with
burglary and murder, later the burglary charge was dropped for the lack of evidence but he
had to stand trial on the murder charge.

Murder trial and execution
At the trial, the testimony from the Sheriff was that Moore was shot in the back, and not
from Cheney's gun, but probably was shot from one of the Sheriff's own men who was firing
toward Cheney from a position behind Moore. The evidence that Clow actually killed the
man was weak, however, this did not sway the jury. In May 1783, a jury convicted him of
murder and the judge sentenced him to death. He was sentenced to be hanged by the neck
until dead.

It now fell on Delaware's governor Nicholas Van Dyke to set the time and place for the
execution. The Governor wished he could pardon Clow but felt that he was unable to pardon
him for political reasons and did nothing. He did, however, postpone the execution without
ever appointing an actually date. He, in essence, postponed Cheney's execution indefinitely.
Nothing happened for six years. A new Governor, Thomas Collins, came into office in
October 1786. More petitions for pardon were filed by the family but still to no avail. Cheney's
wife and children finally gave up their long fight.

In 1788 a final letter from Cheney Clow, having been in close confinement for 10 years, the
letter addressed to the new Governor requested that a pardon be granted at once or that a
warrant be issued without delay for his execution. The pardon was not granted and Cheney
Clow "went bravely to his death, singing a hymn as he walked to the gallows.

No specific date was recorded for the execution. Cheney had no will, and there is no record of
the disposition of his estate. After they hanged Cheney, the family took his body and buried it
in a secret place. Many think the grave was near the house but unmarked.

In January 1790 the eldest daughter, Arrana, petitioned the State of Delaware to settle the
estate of Clow and to distribute such among his heirs. The petition was "ordered to lie on the
table" and on the table it remained. Nothing regarding the disposition of Clow's possessions
is known.

The site description of Cheney's Rebellion
The present and original appearance of the site of the Cheney Clow Rebellion was
summarized in the US Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of
Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form:

The scene of Cheyney Clow's Rebellion is on two farms, very near the Maryland line, in
Delaware's Kent County; both farms extend across the line into Maryland in Northern Queen
Anne's County. The southern half of the site is the farm of Mary Ford, on which stands the
Clark House, a 21/2-story structure that was built in three parts, with frame portions
flanking the original two-bay brick portion. Part of this house may have been standing
during the Revolution.

Northward from the Clark House, the Gravelly Branch of Chester River divides the Ford farm
from the Holtz farm. Nearby is the survey corner that in 1829 was described as being near the
Cheyney Clow fort site.

In 1829, while James E. B. Clark was assembling his farm, he bought a piece of land from
John and Sophia Chase. One of the corners of the deed was a "small distance above Cheyney
Clow's fort." When this deed is plotted, the point is very near the Gravelly Branch bridge,
north of the stream. This property had descended through the heirs of Robert Wright,
agovernor of Maryland; his father, Solomon Wright, a member of the Maryland convention
of 1775, had owned the property during the Revolution.

Because the fort lay on or near the Wright-Tilghman property line, it is impossible to discover
who owned it during the Revolution. Since both owners were ardent patriots, it is impossible
that they would have knowingly harbored Cheyney Clow.

The acreage that is the subject of-this nomination was the scene of Cheyney Clow's Rebellion.
Documentary sources place Clow's fort on the site, although cursory archaeological surface
collection has failed to reveal tangible evidence of its exact location. Since the fort probably
stood in a large swamp near the confluence of two prongs of Gravelly Branch, it is unlikely
that many surface indications would be found in the plowed fields nearby.

It is known from contemporary military dispatches that the fort stood in the swamps.
According to an 1839 article, some logs of the fort were still in place, even though the
Delaware militia is supposed to have burned it. Since scorching retards rot, and since logs in
wet ground sometimes last many years, it is not surprising that part of the structure should
have survived for half a century after 'the battle.

Significance of Rebellion
The Statement of Significance of the Cheney Clough Rebellion site from the US Department of
the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places Inventory
Nomination Form continues with:

Cheney Clow's Fort site and the surrounding fields were the scene of Kent County, DE's only
Revolutionary battle. Although the fort no longer stands, the two farms on which the battle
took place are still under cultivation. The character of the neighboring country has changed
little since the Revolution.

Cheyney Clow was a local eccentric who obtained a British commission and raised a force of
Tories along the western boundary of Delaware. Although the line between Delaware and
Maryland had be finally settled a few years earlier, Clow insisted that he was a Marylander;
even though his house lay 200 yards inside Delaware, he refused to pay Delaware taxes.
He led his small band of loyalists in raids on the scattered farms of the area, until the
inhabitants appealed for military protection. Charles Pope was sent to put down the
rebellion, and camped with his Delaware militia at Grogtown (now Kenton, DE). In a letter
Caesar Rodney on April 14, 1778, Pope reported that Clow a fort erected nearby. Two days
later, he informed Rodney that he had ordered "militia from the Head of Chester to join me at
Marches Quarter within one-mile and a half of their fortress." The attack proved unsuccessful;
Clow fled, and the militia burned the fort. In May, the Delaware Assembly called for
inhabitants to take an oath of loyalty, which Clow refused. In 1782, a warrant was issued for
Clow's arrest on charges of treason, and the sheriff of Kent County, Delaware was sent to
take him in custody. Clow and his wife defended their house; a man was shot, and Clow was
taken prisoner. He was eventually sentenced to hang, but the sentence was not executed until
1788, when he asked the State to decide between pardon and death. Public sentiment, which
had been a factor in the decision to hang him, changed almost immediately after his death.
Clow became a popular martyr, who had been unjustly executed because of his political
convictions. The circumstances surrounding Cheyney Clow's last ten years serve to
emphasize Kent County's indifferent support of the Revolutionary cause.
Archaeological exploration, to determine the exact fort site, would be desirable.

After Cheney Clow was hung, most of his children stayed in the Northern Queen Anne's
County, Maryland and Kent County, Delaware area, raised families and lived their lives
passing from generation to generation until the present day. One of Cheney's children, his
Son, Joshua, left the Maryland and Delaware area, changed the spelling of the name to
Clough and moved West to the Ohio Valley. Documents show a marriage certificate of Joshua
Clough and Sarah Walker being married in Kent County, Delaware on October 2, 1794 and
they had a son, Edward, who was born in 1794 in Virginia.

Joshua Clow died in Harrison County, Ohio where a large contingent of descendants still

Most of the other lineal descendants of Cheney Clow have lived in and around the area where
Cheney Clow lived and had his rebellion, in the Northern Queen Anne's County,
Marylandarea, specifically the town of Sudlersville, Maryland, ever since. The Clow name has
changed over time and many of the Clow lineage in the area now go by both Clow and
Clough. On April 6, 1967, the local County Newspaper, the Queen Anne's County Record
Observer, ran a story with the headline, "Sudlersville Couple are Married 67 Years!" This
couple was Dudley Clow and his wife, Emma Everett Clow. Mr. Clow was 90 years old at the
time and of interest is that the family still used the 'Clow' spelling instead of 'Clough'. In 1969,
the same newspaper published a photograph of five generations of Cheney Clow's
descendants sitting together on a park bench. All were farmers and/or residents of the local
Sudlersville community. In April 2009, a direct descendant of Cheney Clow, while serving as
the local Fire Chief of the Sudlersville Volunteer Fire Company was killed in a single vehicle
crash while responding to an alarm in a Fire Department Emergency Response Vehicle. 41
year old Charles F. "Buck" Clough, Jr. was hailed as a hero, made national news and his
accident and death has had a profound effect on the small, tight-knit farming community.
Cheney Clow's descendants suffered another terrible blow in the last part of 2009 when
Nelson H. "Dickie" Clough of Millington, Maryland died on Christmas Eve, December 24,
2009. He was 85. He was the uncle and best friend of Charles F. "Buck" Clough, Jr. and was
the current cornerstone of the huge Clough clan in the Northern Queen Anne's County area.
He was a member of United States Army during World War II. He served with D Company,
83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Armored Division. He fought in the Battle of the
Bulge, the Ardennes and the Rhineland. He fought in and across Europe until Victory in
Europe was declared. He was a life member of VFW Post 652 in Millington, MD where he
served as Commander 5 times and he was a member of the American Legion Post 14, Smyrna,
Delaware. His passing has also had a profound effect on the local community and the Clough
family in particular.

Cheney Clow's life and legacy continue to influence the area and his life and actions are still
rippling through the fabric of life in the Kent County, Delaware and Northern Queen Anne's
County, Maryland areas.