H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

History of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: online

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tory measures; but there is no American at this day, who
does not reflect with pleasure, that in no instance did our
government sanction them. It is difllcult, however, to refrain
from instituting a comparison between the devastating order of
admiral Cochrane; and the order of general Brown, issued
about the same time, on his entering Canada. " Upon enter-


Effects of the Capture of Washington in Europe — in the United States.

ing- Canada," said he, " tlie laws of war will govern : men
found in arms, or otherwise engaged in the service of the
enemy, will be treated as enemies ; those behaving peaceably,
and following their private occupations, will be treated as
friends. Private property will in all cases be held sacred;
public property, wherever found, will be seized and disposed
of by the commanding general. Any who shall be found
violating this order will be punished with death."


Sensations produced by the Capture of Washington in Europe and in England —
Effect of this Event in the United States— Preparations for tiie Defence of Baltimore
— Admiral Cochrane appears at the mouth of the Patapsco — Debarkation of the British
Troops at North Point — General Strieker marches from Baltimose to meet them —
Battle of North Point — Death of General Ross — Retreat of the American Army — Brit-
ish Army appears before Baltimore — Bombardment of Fort M'llenry — Attack on
Baltimore abandoned — British fleet retires to the West Indies — Affairs on the Northern
Frontier — Invasion of the State of New York by the British under Sir George Prevost
— Progress of the British impeded by General Macomb — British Army occupies Platts-
burg opposite tiie American Works — Gallant Enterprise of Captain Al'Glassin — Brit-
ish and American Fleets on Lake Champlain — Baiile of Lake Champlain — Defeat
of the British Squadron, and Capture of its principal Vessels — Retreat of the British
Army from the American Territorj-,

The capture of Washington was, at first, exulted in by the
British ministry, as a most signal exploit ; but it was viewed
in a very different light on the continent of Europe, and by
the British nation at large. 'J'o say nothing of the prosecution
of hostilities with augmented rigour during the negotiation of a
treaty for peace, the acts of wanton barbarity which accompa-
nied them aroused general indignation. In the British parlia-
ment, so great a sensation was excited, that the perpetrators
were fain to shelter themselves from odium by the basest
falsehoods, and the ministry stated that instructions had been
sent to the coast of America to desist from further inflictions of

But if the effect was powerful abroad, it was overwhelming

throughout the United Slates. Party spirit instantly vanished,

and with it the dissensions which had almost paralysed our

efforts. But one voice was heard ; a glorious union was



Preparations for the Defence of Baltimore.

brouglil about ; and a nation of freemen was seen to rise in its
strength. Tliose who had at first opposed the war on the
ground of its impolicy, or who had condemned tlie invasion of
Canada, now viewed Great Britain only as a powerful nation
about to precipitate her armies on tlic country, with tlie avowed
intention of desolating its fairest portions. Tlie dissensions
of political pc^rtics had terminated with tlie political death of
Napoleon ; and who could now say, that Britain was actuated
by other than the mere thirst for revenge, or the less honour-
able thirst for plunder ? Tlie war now came home to the
interests and feelings of every man. The scenes of prepara-
tion were the most aniniated that could be conceived. The
whole country was in motion ; every town was a camp; and the
peaceful avocations of the citizens, which the war until now had
scarcely interrupted, were laid aside. All the principal cities
instituted their committees of defence ; and the whole of the
population, to the sound of martial music, moved in bands to
the daily occupation of labouring at the erection of intrench-
ments and fortifications.

The New England states, at first so averse to the war, now
exhibited their characteristic activity and energy, and gave
satisfactory proof that nothing was further from their intentions,
than secession from the confederation. The governor of Ver-
mont, who the year before had made an attempt to recall the
militia of the state from the service of the United States, and
on which occasion the militia nobly refused to obey him, now
made ample atonement by promptly calling them forth. The
American ladies, always conspicuous for patriotic conduct in
times of difficulty and danger, never appeared so lovely in their
zeal lor their country.

The next object of attack, it was rightly conjectured, would
be Baltimore ; and the cities of Philadelphia and New York
awaited the result with as much anxiety as if their fate depended
upon its successful issue. After the first moments of despond-
ency occasioned by the capture of Washington had subsided
in Baltimore, and it was discovered that the place would not
be assailed immediately, the inhabitants set about making pre-
parations for defence. A ditch was opened, and a breastwork
thrown up by the inhabitants, on the high ground to the north-
east of the city (to construct which all classes of the people
united), so as completely to protect the town in the only quarter
in which it was accessible by land forces. In the course of
a few days, a considerable number of militia arrived from
Pennsylvania, Virginia and the interior of Maryland ; and the
spirits of the inhabitants were greatly animated by the presence


Admiral Cochrane appears at the mouth of the Patapsco.

of the naval veteran commodore Rodgers, who, with his ma-
rines, took possession of the heavy batteries on the hill above
mentioned. A brigade of Virginia volunteers, and the regular
troops were assigned to general Winder; and the City brigade
was commanded by general Strieker : the whole nnder the chief
direction of major-general Smith. Of these, the two latter were
distinguished revolutionary officers. Tlie approach to the city
by water was defended by Fort i\r Henry, and garrisoned by
about one thousand men, volunteers and regulars, under major
Armistcad. Two batteries upon the Patapsco, to the right of
Fort M' Henry, to prevent the enemy from landing during the
night in the rear of the town, were manned, ilie one by lieu-
tenant Newcombe of the Gucrriere, with a detachment of
sailors ; the otlier, by lieutenant Webster, witli men from
Barney's flcdilla. The former was called Fort Covington; the
latter, tiie City Battery. To the defence of Fort M'Henry,
and to the repulse of the British from tlie lines, the iniiabitants
looked for safety.

Independently of the pretexts which had already led to the
scenes at Washington and Alexandria, the city of Baltimore
was a selected object of the vengeance of the enemy, in conse-
quence of her active and patriotic exertions during the war. No
one could imagine to iiimself a just picture of the state of anxious
feeling in which fifty thousand people awaited the issue of the
event which should determine the safety or destruction of their
city. Even in case of successful resistance, the most painful
incertitude would, for a time, hang over the fate of those who
had risked their lives in its defence. These latter were not
strangers or mercenaries, but friends, brothers, sons, parents
and husbands ; for every one who could wield a musket, even
old men and boys, was found in the ranks. The committee
of safety, composed of those advanced in life and of the most
influential citizens, (among whom was colonel Howard, a hero
of the revolution) took a large share in the preparations to meet
the approaching danger.

The British army having re-embarked on board the fleet in
the Patuxent, admiral Cochrane moved down the river and
proceeded up the Chesapeake ; and, on the morning of the 1 1th
of September, appeared at the mouth of the Patapsco, about
fourteen miles from the city of Baltimore, with a fleet of ships
of war and transports amounting to fifty sail. On the next day,
the land forces, to the number of at least six thousand men,
debarked at North Point, and, under the command of general
Ross, took up their march for the city. General Strieker, who
had claimed for the City brigade under his command the ho-


Debarkation of the British Troops at North Point.

nour of being the first to meet the invader, was detached by
general Siniili, in anticipation of the landing of the British
troops. On the 11 ih, general Strieker proceeded on the road
to North Point, at the head of three thousand two hundred
elleetive men : consisting of the Fifth regiment, under lieuten-
ant-coh)nel .Sterrett, five hun(h-ed and fifty strong; six hundred
and twenty of the Sixt!i, under lieutenant-colonel M'Donald :
five hundred of the Twenty-sevenlli, under lieutenant-colonel
Long; five hundred and fifty of the Thirty-ninth, under lieuten-
ant-colonel Fowler ; seven hundred of the Fifty-first, under
lieutenant-colonel Amey; one hundred and fifty riflemen, under
captain Uyer ; one hundred and fifty cavah'y, under lieutenant-
colonel Riays ; and the Union Artillery, of seventy-five men
and six four-pounders, under captain Montgomery, attorney-
general of the state. A corps of light riflemen and musketry,
taken from general Stansbury's brigade, and the Pennsylvania
volunteers, were detached, under major Randall, to the mouth
of Bear Oreek, with orders to co-operate with general Strieker,
and to check any landing which the enemy might effect in that

At six o'clock P. M. general Strieker reached a meeting-
house, near the head of Bear Creek, seven miles from the city.
Here the brigade halted, with the exception of tiie cavalry,
who moved forward to Gorsuch's farm three miles, and the
riflemen, who took post near a blacksmith's shop two miles,
in advance of the encampment. The following morning, the
12th, at seven o'clock, information was received from the
videttes, that the enemy were debarking troops under cover of
their gun-vessels, which lay off the bluff" of North Point, within
the mouth of the Patapsco river. The baggage was immedi-
ately sent back under a strong guard ; and general Strieker
ordered forward the Fifth and 'I'wenty-seventh regiments, and
the artillery, to the head of Long Log Lane, posting the Fifth
with its right on the head of a branch of Bear Creek and its
left on the main road, the Twenty-seventh on the opposite side
of the road in a line with and to the left of the Fifth, and the
artillery at the head of the lane, in the interval between the
two regiments. The Thirty-ninth regiment was drawn up three
hundred yards in the rear of the Twenty-seventh, and the Fifty-
first at the same distance in the rear of the Fifth. The Sixth
regiment was kept as a reserve within sight, half a mile in the
rear of the second line. Thus judiciously posted, the general
determined to wait an attack, having first given orders, that the
two regiments composing the front line, if compelled to fall


Battle of North Point Death of General Ross.

back, should retire throuo^h the Fifty-first and 'i'hirty-ninih, and
form on the right of the Sixth posted in reserve.

General Strieker now learned, from the cavalry, who ac-
cording to orders had retreated, that the British were moving
rapidly np the road; hut at the moment when lie expected their
approach to he announced and impedeil by the riflemen stationed
in tlie low thick pine and firs in advance, greatly to his chagrin,
he discovered that tiiey were falling back upon the main posi-
tion, under a groundless apprehension tliai the enemy had land-
ed on Back river to cut them off'. 'J'his part of the general's
plan having been frustrated, he placed the riflemen on the right
of his front line, and hy this means better secured thut flank.
The videttes soon after bringing informalion that a party of
the enemy were carousinir in a careless manner at Gorsuch's
farm, several of the officers offered their services to dislodge
them. Captains Levering and Howard's companies, from the
Fifth regiment, about one hundred and fifty in luindier, under
major Heath ; captain Aisqulth's and aftnv other riflemen, in all
about seventy ; ami a small piece of artillery and some cavalry,
under lieutenant Stiles, were sent forward to chastise the inso-
lence of the enemy's advance, and to evince a wish on the part
of the American army to engage. The ilelachment had scarcely
proceeded lialf a mile, when it suddenly came in contact with
the main body of the enemy. In the skirmish which ensued,
major Heath's horse was shot under him, and several of the
Americans were killed and wounded ; while the enemy lost their
commander-in-chief, major general Ross. 'J'his otFicer, who
had imprudently advanced loo far, for the purpose of recon-
noitering, was killed by one of the company of ca|)tain Howard.
After the death of general Ross, the command devolved on colonel
Brooke, who continued to advance notwithstanding this occur-
rence. The American detachment now fell back ; and general
Strieker, perceiving the companies of Howard and Levering
to be too much fatigued to share in the approaching conflict,
ordered tlieni to attach themselves to the reserve. At half
past two o'clock, the enemy commenced throwing rockets,
which did no injury ; and immediately captain Montgomery's
artillery opened a fire upon them, which they returned by a
six-pounder and a howitzer directed upon the left and centre.
The fire was brisk for some minutes, when general Strieker,
with a view of bringing the enemy within canister distance,
ordered it to cease on the American side. Perceiving that the
efforts of the British were chiefly directed against the left flank,
he now ordered up the Thirty-ninth regiment into line with


Cattle of North Point Retreat of the American Army.

and on the left of the Twenty-sevcMith. Two pieces of artil-
lery were also detaohed to the left of the Tliirly-ninth ; and
in order more cosnpletely to protect this flank, colonel Amey
was ordered to form his regiment, the Fifty-first, at right angles
with the line, willi his rightresting near the left of the Thirty-
ninth. This movement was badly executed, and created some
confusion in that quarter, which however was soon rectified.

The enemy's riy;ht column now advanced upon the Twenty-
seventh and Thirty-ninth regiments. Unfortunately, at this
juncture, the Fifty-first regiment, in a sudden panic, after deli-
vering one volley at random, broke and retreated in confusion,
occasioning the same disorder in the second battalion of the
Tiiirty-ninih. The fire on the enemy by this time became ge-
neral from right to left; and the artillery poured an incessant
and destructive stream upon the enemy's left column. The latter
endeavoured to shelter itself behind a loghouse, which soon
after burst into a blaze; captain Sadiler of the Fifth regiment,
who had previously occupied it, having taken the precaution to
fire it, before he and his yagers abandoned it. About ten
minutes past three, the British line came on with a rapid dis-
charge of musketry, which was well returned by the Fifth and
the Twenty-sevenlli regiments, and the first battalion of the
Thirty-ninth regiment. The fire was incessant from this time
until about twenty-five minutes before four o'clock, during
which period general Strieker gallantly contended against four
times his numbers. Finding, however, that the unequal con-
test could be maintained no longer, and that the enemy were
about to outflank him, he was compelled to retire upon his re-
serve, a movement which he eflected in good order. At the
point occupied by this regiment he formed his brigade, and falling
back, took post half a mile in advance of the intrencliments for
the defence of the city. Here he was joined by general Winder,
who had been stationed on the west side of the city, but was
now ordered, with general Douglass's Virginia brigade and
captain Bird's United States dragoons, to take post on the left
of general Strieker. The enemy encamped for the night on the
ground where the battle had been fought, without attempting
a pursuit.

'I'he conduct of the Baltimore brigade, with the exception of
the Fifty-first regiment and the second battalion of the Thirty-
ninth, who were seized with the panic to which raw troops are
so much subject, deserved the highest praise : veterans could
not have done more. Their loss, in killed and wounded, amount-
ed to one hundred and sixty-three, among whom were some
of the most respectable citizens of Baltimore. Adjutant James


British Army appears before Baltimore.

Lowrv Donaldson, of the Twenly-seventh regiment, an eminent
lawyer, was killed in the hottest of the flight; majors Keatli and
Moore, and a number of other officers, were wounded. 'J'he
loss of the British was nearly double that of the Americans,
according to their own acknowleda^ement, and probably was
much greater in reality. In their official statements they com-
puted the American force at six thousand, a great proportion
regulars, and the loss at one thousand ; data from which we
may infer their opinion of the manner in which they were

Among those who distinguished themselves in the battle of
North Point, lieutenant-colonel Sterrett ; majors Heath and
Barry of the Fifth regiment; captaiu Spangler of iheYork (Penn-
sylvania) volunteers; adjutant C'heston, who was slightly wound-
ed; lieutenant-colonel Long of the Twenty-seventh regiment,
which " was unsurpassed in bravery, resolution and enthusi-
asm;" lieutenant-colonel Fowler and major Steigerol the Thirty-
ninth regiment, and the volunteer companies attached to it;
captain Quantril from Hagerstown, and captain JNletzgar from
Hanover, Pennsylvania, the former of whom was wounded ;
captain Montgomery ; brigade-mnjors Calhoun and Fraily ; and
major George J^. Stevenson, aid to general Strieker, were
highly complimented in general orders. Majors Moore and
Robinson, of the Twenty-seventh regiment, were also conspicu-
ously active throujjhout the engagejnent.

'i'iic result of this aflair, together with the death of the British
general, served to cheer the spirits of the mditia, and inspire
confidence. The brigades of generals Stansbury and Foreman ;
the seamen and marines under commodore Rodgers ; the Penn-
sylvania volunteers, under colonels Cobean and Findlay ;
the lialtimore artillery under colonel Harris ; and the marine
artillery under captain Stiles, manned the trenches and battery,
and in this situation spent the night under arms. The enemy
made his appearance early the next day to the east of the
intrenchments, at the distance of two miles, whence he had a
full view of the position of the Americans. During the morn-
ing, by his manamvres to the right, he seemed to show an in-
tention of coming down by the Harford and York roads ; to baffle
which design generals Winder and Strieker adapted their move-
ments. At noon the British concentrated their lorce in front of
the American line, approached within a mile of the intrench-
ments, and made arrangements for an attack that evening.
General Smith, therefore, immediately drew generals Winder
and Strieker nearer to the right of the enemy, and ordered them


Bombardment of Fort M'llenry.

to fall upon liis ilank or rear, in case he should make the at-

In the meantime, the naval attack had already commenced.
The fleet, after landing the troops, as hefore mentioned, proceeded
to bombard Fort M'FJenry, which commands the entrance of tlie
harbour. On the 13th, about sunrise, the British )iad brought
sixteen ships within two miles and a lialf of the fort. Major
Armistead arranged his force in the following manner : the
regular artillerists under captain Evans, and the volunteer artil-
lerists under captain Nicholson, manned the bastions in the star
fort; captains Bunbnry, Addison, Rodman, Berry and lieuten-
ant-commandant Pennington's commands were, stationed on
the lower worlds ; and the infantry under lieutenant-colonel
Stewart and mnjor Lane were in the outer ditch, to meet the
enemy, should he make an attempt to land. The assault com-
menced from five bomb vessels, which had anchored at the
distance of two miles. 'J'hence, finding themselves within
striking distance, and at the same lime out of reach of the guns
of the fort, they maintained an incessant bombardment. The
situation of the garrison was painfully inactive and highly
perilous ; and yet every man stood to his post without shrink-
ing. One of the twenty-four pounders, on the south west
bastion, under captain Nicholson, was dismounted, killing his
second lieutenant and wounding several of his men. 'J'he
enemy now approaching somewhat nearer, a tremendous fire
was instantly of)enedfrom the fort, which compelled him precipi-
tately to return to his former position. The bombardment was
keptup during the whole day and night. The city, assailed on
both sides, awaited the result in wakeful silence : when suddenly,
about midniolu, a tremendous cannonade was heard in the direc-
tion of the besieged fort ; and the affrighted population believed
that all was over. Their fears, however, were happily soon
quieted. Some barges of the enemy, having passed Fort
M'Henry unobserved, had made an unsuccessful attempt to
land a body of troops ; and after suffering immense loss from
the guns of the City Battery and Fort Covington, had hastily
retired. At seven o'clock next morning, the 14th, the bom-
bardment of the fort terminated, after upwards of fifteen hun-
dred shells had been thrown, a large portion of which burst
over the fort, scattering their fragments amongst its defenders
and materially injuring several of the buildings. The personal
damage sustained was, nevertheless, inconsiderable. Only four
were killed, and twenty-four wounded : among the former, lieu-
tenant Clagget and sergeant Clemni, of captain Nicholson's
volunteers, greatly la.mented by their fellow-citizens for their


Attack on Baltimore abandoned British Fleet retires to the West Indies.

personal bravery and high private standing ; and of the latter,
lieutenant Russel, a gentleman of the Baltimore bar, of Pen-
nington's company, who nobly persisted in continuing at his
post during the whole bombardment.

In the course of the night of the 13th, admiral Cochrane had
held a conference with colonel Brooke, the commander of the
land forces, at which it was mutually agreed to relinquish the
enterprise as impracticable. 'I'he retreat of the army com-
menced immediately, and was highly favoured by the extreme
darkness and tlie continued rain ; while the uninterrupted
continuance of the bombardment of Fort M'Henry served to
divert the attention of the Americans. In the meantime, along
the American lines ten thousand men waited the approach of
day with much anxiety ; and there is every reason to believe,
that they would have repelled the enemy with great loss, had
he made an attack. When day dawned, however, it was dis-
covered that he had disappeared. General Winder, with the
Virginia brigade, captain Bird's dragoons, major Randal's light
corps and all the cavalry, was immediately detached in pur-
suit of him : but so exhausted were tlie troops with conti-
nued watching, having been under arms during three days and
nights, exposed the greater part of the time to very inclement
weather, that it was found impossible to do any thing more
than pick up a few stragglers. Besides, the time which had
elapsed since the commencement of the retreat of the enemy,
had given them an opportunity of protecting their embarkation
in such a manner as eflectually to secure their rear. The troops
were taken on board in the evening of the same day ; and on the
morning of the following day, the 15th, the British fleet de-
scended the bay.

The intelligence of this happy event was received in the
neighbouring cities with demonstrations of rapturous joy.
But a moment before, the popular dismay appeared to have
reached its acme, and tlie most gloomy anticipations were
indulged ; for all the larger towns, equally with Baltimore,
were threatened with devastation. The feelings of the inhabi-
tants of the city itself, can with difBculty be conceived.
Measures were taken to celebrate the occurrence, and to reward

Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 29 of 32)