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Colonel Nathan Towson


Oil on canvas portrait painting of "Colonel Nathan Towson," (1784-1854), ca. 1813, by Rembrandt Peale. Nathaniel Towson was born in Towson, Maryland, attended school, and learned about planting and farm work. As a young man, he traveled to Kentucky to work another farm that his family had acquired. He later briefly moved to Natchez, Mississippi and joined a volunteer artillery militia unit there. In 1805, he returned to Towson and continued his military service as Adjutant of the 7th Regiment, Maryland Militia. During the War of 1812, he was appointed a captain in the 2nd U.S. Artillery. That year, he led a boarding party and captured HMS "Caledonia" during the Siege of Fort Erie. For his actions, he was promoted to major. Towson distinguished himself in numerous other engagements, including the Battles of Fort George (1813), Stoney Creek (1813), Queenston Heights (1812), Chippawa (1814), and Lundy's Lane (1814). After the war, he served at posts in Boston, Massachusetts and Newport, Rhode Island. In 1819, he was promoted to colonel and appointed paymaster-general of the U.S. Army and moved to Washington, D.C. Towson was brevetted brigadier general in 1834 and promoted to major general in 1848 for his service in the Mexican-American War. He died in Washington, D.C. in 1854 after forty-two years of military service. Towson is buried there at Oak Hill Cemetery.


circa 1813


Oil on canvas


18 x 22 inches

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This portrait was purchased from the Peale Museum in Baltimore by Maryland landscape painter Charles S. Getz (1822-1908), who sold it to the Maryland Historical Society in 1857.

Digital Publisher

Digital resource provided by the Maryland Center for History and Culture


This digital image is made available here for private study, scholarship, and research. Commercial and other uses are prohibited without the permission of the Maryland Center for History and Culture. For more information, visit the MCHC’s Reproductions and Permissions web page.