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Chapter 19

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Title
Chapter 19
Identifier
http://www.nflibrary.ca/nfplindex/show.asp?b=1&ref=oo&id=298087
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272-303
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Text
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272

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

ie

CHAPTER XIX.
Early intimation of the attack upon Washington
Defensive preparations in consequence—Arrival
at BerMuda of troops from France—Departure
of general Ross in the Tonnant for the Chesapeake—Reconnoissance on shore by the latter and
rear-admiral Cockburn—Meditated attack upon
Washington—Arrival of the troops from Bernluda—Different routes to Washington—Captain
Gordon's affair in the Potomac—Disembarcalion of the troops at Benedict in the Patuxent—
Pursuit, by the combined forces, of commodore
Barney's flotilla—Its destruction—March of tlw
British troops—Their arrival at Upper Marlborough — Rear-admiral Cockburn's Junction
with them — Advance of the British towards
Washington—Correct American account of their
number—Retreat of the American army by Ma' densburg to Washington— Further advance of
the British—American account of general Winder's force—Re-advance to Bladensburg—Ap'pearance on the field ''of the president of the'
United States—American account of the battle
of Bladensburg — Flight of the Americans—
Mutual loss—Behaviour of Mr. Madison—His
narrow escape from capture—American plans (f
-

273

their towns and cities; of New York in particular
—Brief description of Washington—Advance of
part of the British force from Bladensburg-Its encampment near Washington—Reconnoissance of general Ross and other officers—Fire
opened upon them—Advance of the light coinpanics—Destruction of the capitol and two houses
whence thefire proceeded—Explosion at the navyyard—Arrival at the encampment of remainder
of British forces—Entry into Washington of
200 British—Destruction of the president's house;
also of the treasury and war offices—Ancedote of
a British centinel—Amount of American force
in the vicinity —Accident at Greenleaf's-pointDestruction of the secretary's of state's office, ropewalks, ordnance, bridge, navy-yard, fc. —
Amount of public property destroyed—Acknowledged respect paid to private property—Departure of the British front Washington—Their
unmolested arrival, and disembarkation, at Benedict—American accounts—Erroneous impression
respecting rear-admiral Cockburn's conduct at
Washington—Sir Alexander Cochrane's letter to
Mr. Munro, and its reply—Mr. Madison's proclamation—British accounts—Annual Register
—Parliamentary speech.

SOME hints thrown out by the British commissioners at the conference at Ghent, coupled
with the rumoured. destination of British troops
VOL. II.

a

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MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

. GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

shipping in the ports of France, induced the
American commissioners to intimate to their
government, that an attack upon the federal
city would probably be made in the course of
the 'summer of 1814. This notice reached Mr.
Madison:on the 26th of J une; and, on the 1st of
July, he submitted to his council a plan for immediately calling 2 or 3000 men into the field,
and holding 10 or 12000 militia and volunteers,
of the neighbouring states, in readiness to reinforce that corps. On the next day, he created
into a military district, the whole state of Maryland, the district of Columbia, and that partof
Virginia north of the Rappahannock river, embracing an exposed coast of nearly 1000 miles;
vulnerable at every point, and intersected by
many large rivers, and by Chesapeake bay. On
the 4th of July, as a further defensive preparation, the president made a requisition to the
several states of the union, for 93500 militia, as
authorized by law ; designating their respective
quota, and requesting the executive magistrates
of each state, to detach and hold them in readiness for immediate service. Of these 93500
militia, 1.5000 were to be drawn from the tenth
military district, or that surrounding the metropolis ; for whose defence they were intended.
- On the 2d of June sailed froni Verdun roads,
the Royal Oak, rear-admiral Malcolm, accompanied by three frigates, three sloops, two bomb-

s

275

vessels, five ships armees en fide, and three
transports, having on board the 4th, 21st, 44th,
and 85th, regiments, with a proportion of royal
artillery, and sappers and miners, under the
command of major-general Ross. On the 24th
of July the squadron arrived at Bermuda, and
there joined vice-admiral Cochrane, in the
Tonnant. On the 2d of August, vice-admiral
Cochrane, having received on board-the Tonnant
major-general Ross and his staff, sailed, in company with the Euryalus; for' Chesapeake bay ;
and, on the 14th of August, arrived, and joined
the Albion, vice-admiral COckburn, off the mouth
of the Potomac. On the next day, majorgeneral Ross, accompanied by rear-admiral
Cockburn, went on shore to reconnoitre. The
rear-admiral's knowledge of the country, as well
as the excellent plan he adopted to prevent surprise, enabled the two officers to penetrate
further, than would otherwise have been, •rudent. The thick woods that skirt, and the
numerous ravines that intersect, the different
roads around Washington, offer important advantages to an ambushing enemy. Rear-admiral
Cockburn, therefore, in his frequent walks
through the country, invariably moved forward
between two parties of marines, occupying, in
open order, the woods by the road-side. Each
marine carried a bugle, to be used as a signal,
in case of casual separation, or the appearance
T 2

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MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

of an enemy. It was during the excursion witir
general Ross, that rear-admiral Cockburn sug
gested the facility of an attack upon the city of
Washington ; and general Ross determined, as
soon as the troops should arrive from Bermuda,
to make the attempt.
On the 17th of August, rear-admiral Malcolm,
with the troops, arrived, and joined vice-admiral
Cochrane, off the mouth of the Potomac ; and
the whole proceeded to the Patuxent, about N
miles further up the bay. In the meantime,
captain Gordon, with some vessels of the squadron, had been detached up the Potomac, to
bombard Fort-Warburton, situate on the left
bank of that river, about 14 miles below the
federal city ; and captain Parker, with the Menelaus frigate, up the Chesapeake, above Baltimore,
to create a diversion in that quarter. The
successful proceedings of captain Gordon, in
the destruction of the fort ; and,—a measure
entirely his own,—the capture of the populous
town of Alexandria, will be found fully
detailed in our naval volume.* The direct
route to Washington, from the mouth of the
Potomac, was up that river, about 50 miles, to
Fort-Tobacco ; thence, over land, by the village
of Piscataway, 32 miles, to the lower bridge across
the eastern branch of the Potomac ; but, as no
doubt could be entertained that this bridge,
,

* James's Nay. Occur. p. 381-6.

277

which was half a mile long, and had a draw at
the west-end, would be defended, as well by a
body of troops, as by a heavy sloop of war and
a armed schooner, known to be in the river,
the route up the Patuxent, and by Bladensburg,
where the eastern branch, in case of the bridge
at that spot being destroyed, could be easily
forded, was preferred.
Commodore Barney's gun-boats were still lying
in the Patuxent, up which they had been driven.*
An immediate attempt against this " muchvaunted flotilla" offered two advantages ; one,
in its capture or destruction, the other, as a pretext for ascending the Patuxent, with the troops,
destined fbr the attack of the city. Part of the
ships, having advanced as high up the river as
the depth of water would allow, disembarked the
troops, on the 19th and 20th of August, at Benedict,t a small town, about .50 miles south-east
of Washington. On the evening of the 20th,
rear-admiral Cockburn, taking with him the
armed boats and tenders of the fleet, proceeded
up the river, to attack commodore Barney's
flotilla ; and to supply with provisions, and, if
necessary, afford protection to, the army, as it
ascended the right bank. For the full details of
the successful enterprise against the American
flotilla, we must refer to our naval volume.t In
+ See Plate V. * See 252. p.
$ James's Nay. Occur. p. 375.

-

27S

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

justice to commodore Barney, we shall here
introduce general Wilkinson's statement upon
-the subject. " Cockburn," says the general,
" with hisTharges, pursued Barney's flotilla,
which had, by order of president Madison, been
unfortunately abandoned, and was, without resistance,blown up ; when it will be apparent to
every competent judge, that, from the narrowness
of the channel, -the -commodore could have
defended himself, and repulsed any floating force
the enemy could have brought against him ; and
his flanks were well secured, by the extent of the
marches on both sides of the river."
Mr. Thomson has found out, that general
Ross, while on his march, avoided an engagement with an inferior number of American troops.
Having previously stated the British force at
" about 6000 regulars, seamen, and marines,"
'being 1000 more than Mr. O'Connor, and 2000
more than doctor Smith makes them, Mr. Thom'sin says :—" The enemy approached the woodyard, 'a: position 12 miles only from the city, and
- t which general Winder's forces were drawn up.
ITheEe :consisted of about 5000 men, and offered
battle to the British troops. But general Ross,
'fipOni reaching the neighbourhood of Nottingbarn, turned to his right, and took the road to
Marlborough, upon which general 11 inder fell
back to Battalion Old Fields, about eight miles
-

* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 766.

2 79
9

from the city."* To make it appear, also, that
the British were actually pursued', he, in the very
next paragraph, declares, that " several prisoners" were taken. As general Ross, after
stating the landing of the army, says merely
On the 21st it.reached Nottingham," we should
have only the improbability of the thing,. to
oppose to Mr. Thomson's gasconade, had not
general Wilkinson touched upon the subject.
" On the morning of the 22d," says the general,
" the cavalry of Laval and Tilghman, say 200
men, with the regular troops, under lieutenantcolonel Scott, about 400 strong, were ordered
to advance towards Nottingham, and reached
• den's house, where they were soon followed by
major Peter, with six 6-pounders, flying artillery, and a detachment of about 250 select men.
General Ross marched from Nottingham, the
same morning, by the chapel road leading to
Marlborough ; and, on discovering the American troops, made a detachment to his left to
meet them, which advanced to the foot of the
hill near Oden's house, when the American
-troops fell back, and the enemy resumed their
march." t
On the afternoon of the 22d, general Ross,
with the troops, arrived, and encamped, at the
town of Upper Marlborough, situate about four
:-

"

* Sketches of the War, p. 331.
1 Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p.765.
-

280

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

i

miles up the western branch of the Patuxent,
The men, therefore, after having been nearly
three months on board ship, had, in less than
three days, marched 40 miles ; and that in the
month of August, when the sultriness of the climate could scarcely be tolerated. We may (twin
some idea of the military obstacles that might
have presented themselves during the march, by
the observations of general Wilkinson. " Not a
single bridge," says he, " was broken, not a causeway destroyed, not an inundation attempted,
not a tree fallen, not a rood of -the road obstructed, nor a gun fired at the enemy, in a
march of near 40 miles, from Benedict to Upper
Marlborough, by a route on which there are 10
or a dozen difficult defiles ; which, with a few
hour's labour, six pieces of light artillery, 300
infantry, 200 riflemen, and 60 dragoons, might
`have been defended against any force that could
approach them : such is the narrowness of the
road, the profundity of the ravines, the steepness of the acclivities, and the sharpness of the
'ridges."* While general Ross and his men were
resting themselves at Upper Marlborough, generel Winder and his army, now joined by coinmodore Barney and the men of his flotilla, were
lying at their encampment at the long Old
Fields, only eight miles distant. With the full
knowledge of what a fatiguing march the British
* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 759.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

281

had made, the hero of La Colle mill declares,
that general Ross, with his " 4 or 5000 veteran
troops, ought to have marched upon and routed"
general 11, inder.* The latter, however, "rashly
kept his position during the night ;" and, on
the next morning, the American troops were
reviewed , by Mr. Madison, " their commanderin-chief, whose martial appearance gladdened
4
every countenance and encouraged every heart." .'
Soon after the review, a detachment from the
A►netican army advanced along the road to
Upper Marlborough ; and, after exchanging a,
few shots with the British skirmishers, fell back
to the main body.
On the morning of the 23d, rear-admiral Cockburn, having left at Pig-point, directly opposite
to the western branch,-} - the marines of the ships,
under captain Robyns, and two divisions of the
boats, crossed over, with the third division, to
Mount Calvert ; and proceeded, by land, to the
British encampment at Upper Marlborough.
The little opposition experienced by the army
in its march from Benedict, and the complete
success that had attended the expedition against
commodore Barney's flotilla, determined majorgeneral Ross to make an immediate attempt
upon the city of Washington, distant from
Upper Marlborough not more than 16 miles.
At the desire of the major-general, the marine
* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 760. f See Plate V,

282

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

and naval forces at Pig-point were moved over
to Mount Calvert; and the ship-marines, marineartillery, and a proportion of seamen, joined the
army at Upper Marlborough. It is now time
to give the numbers of the British, so fearlessly
approaching the metropolis of the United States.
Fortunately, the only American account which
pretends to any accuracy upon that point,
supplies us with the necessary information.
" Those," says Dr. Smith, " who had the best
opportunities of counting them, (the British,)
calculated that their whole number was about
4000; and this calculation is warranted by the
incidents in the field."* .He then states, that
the British army, under major-general Ross, was
distributed into three brigades ; the first brigade, commanded by colonel Brooke, of the
44th, and composed of the 4th and 44th regiments ; the second brigade, commanded by
colonel Patterson, of the 21st regiment, and
composed of that regiment, the second battalion
of marines, and the ship-marines under captain
Robyns ; the third brigade, commanded by
colonel Thornton, of the 85th light infantry,
and composed of that regiment, the light companies of the 4th, 21st, and 44th regiments, one
company of marine skirmishers, a detachment
of colonial marines, also of royal artillery, with
two 3-pounders and a howitzer, and a party of

-

* History of the United States, Vol. III. p. 298.

283

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

seamen and engineers, with rockets.* Leaving
captain Robyns, with the marines of the ships,
in possession of Upper Marlborough, majorgeneral Ross and rear-admiral Cockburn, with
the troops, marines, and seamen, whose number,
notwithstanding the absence of captain Robyns
and his party, we will still state at 4000, moved
forward, on the evening of the 23d ; and, before
dark, arrived, and bivouacked for the night, at
a spot five miles nearer to Washington.t
As if by concert, the American army retired
from the long Old Fields„ about the same time
that the British army advanced ironijipper
Marlborough ; the patrolesof the latter actually occupying, before midnight, the ground
which the former had abandoned.. The Atnerican army did not stop till. it reached Washington ; where it encamped, for the night, near the
navy-yard." On the same evening, upwards of
2000 troops arrived at Bladensburg from Baltimore. At day-light on the morning of the
24th, general Ross put his troops in motion for
Bladensburg, 12 miles frOm his camp ; and,
having halted by the way, arrived at the heights
facing the village about half-past 11 o'clock. §
While the British troops are resting themselves,
and preparing for the attack, we will endeavour
;

* Mist. of the United States, Vol. III. p. 298.
t Sec Plate V. 1: Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 767.
S See Plate VI. d d.

284

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

to place before the reader, the force which they
had to overcome, before they could enter the
,metropolis of the United States.
" The army under general Winder," says
doctor Smith, " consisted of
"

United States' dragoons
Maryland ditto
District of Columbia ditto
Virginia ditto
-

140
240
50
100

— 530

Regular infantry
Seamen and marines



.500
600
—1100
1353
500

- < _

Stansbury's brigade of militia
Sterrett's regiment, ditto
Baltimore artillery, ditto
Pinkney's battalion, ditto ;
Smith's brigade, ditto
Cramer's battalion, ditto
Waring's detachment, ditto
Maynard's ditto ditto
-

150
150
—2153
1070
240
150
1
50
—1610
800
350
—1150

.

-

Beall's and Hood's regiment of ditto
Volunteer corps

Total at Bladensburg
a

6513

..

At hand,
Young's brigade of militia
Minor's Virginia corps
-

450
600
—1050
Grand Total

of

the U. S. Vol. III. p. 207.

7593*

GREAT IIRITAIN AND AMERICA. '1

280

'According to general Armstrong's letter to
the editor of the " Baltimore Patriot," of September 3, general Winder had, under his command, exclusive of the 15000 militia he was
directed to call out, as many regular troops
and seamen, as would make his total force,
when assembled, " 16300 men." " General
Winder," proceeds doctor Smith, " after the
battle, reported his forces at about 5000
men ;* nearly 2600 less than appears from
the preceding detairt Nor has the general
given any account of his artillery ; although we
find that " the American army had, on the field,
not fewer than 23 pieces, varying from 6• to
18.pounders." This army was drawn up, in
two lines, upon very commanding heights, on
the north of the turnpike-road leading from
Bladensburg to Washington ; and, as an additional incitement to glory on the part of the
American troops, their president was on the
field. " Every eye," says general Wilkinson;
"was i mmediately turned upon the chief; every
bosom throbbed with confidence ; and every
nerve was strung with valor. No doubts
remained with the troops that, in their chief
magistrate they beheld their commander-in
chief, who, like another Maurice, having, by his
irresolution in council, exposed the country to
the chances and accidents of a general engage,

* App. No. 66.

t list. of the U. S: Vol. III. p. 297.

E36

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

ment, had now come forward to repair the'
error, by his activity in the field ; determined to
throw himself into the gap of danger, and not
to survive the honor of his country, especially
entrusted to his guardianship." f,t
The affair,. .for it hardly deserves the name
of battle,--of Bladensburg, may be given in the
words of general 'Wilkinson ; assisted by a reference tae his own diagram.t `.‘ The enemy," says
the general, ". made the attack with their light
brigade ; the right wing, led by colonel Brooke,
of the 44th regiment, and the left by colonel
Thornton, of the 85th. They crossed the bridge
in disorder, and the skirmishers advanced in
loose order, and forced the battery and riflemen
in h, i. The right wing formed in u, it, and
followed the skirmishers through the corn-field,
p, p, and the orchard, q, q, and over the field,
forward of the tobacco-house, k.
Captain
Doughty," (with a corps of riflemen,) " formed
in 1, gave a few fires, and retired with the rest
of the troops ; and the enemy pursued to the
fence 14, 14 ; while our troops generally retreated," proceeds the general, " by 1.1, r. R."
Before we proceed to detail the operations of
colonel Thornton's 'wing, a:little explanation,
as to numbers, may be necessary. The American force, thus routed by about 750 rank and
file of the 4th and 44th regiments, including a
lit Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 781.
f See Plate VI.
,

281

rocket-party, consisted of, regular and militia
dragoons, 530; major Pinkney's battalion of
militia-riflemen, 150 ; Doughty?s riflemen, number not stated ; Stansbury's militia-brigade,
1353 ; Sterret's militia-regiment, 500 ; Baltimore artillery, with six pieces,* 150 ; major
Peters, with six pieces of artillery, and lieutenantcolonel Scott, with the 36th United States?'
regiment, together, 500 ;t Burch's artillery
with four pieces,: number of men not given ;.
Smith's militia brigade, 1070: total 4000 men,
and 16 pieces of artillery. It is fortunate that
we have American testimony for the extraor-'
dinary account here given.
Requesting the reader again to turn to the
diagram, we will, with 'general. Wilkinson's
assistance, narrate the `proceedings of the remainder of the British and American forces.
" Colonel Thornton," Says he, " with the left
wing, pushed up the turnpike-road, and was
about to attack the 5th regiment, in flank, when
it gave way. There were a great many commanders this day, and, among them, not the
least discerning, colonel Wadsworth ; who, to
avoid interference with others, and render what
service he could, had prepared, and, with a few
hands, brought forward, two field-pieces. to t, t,
on the turnpike, with intention to open and
.

-

* See Plate VI: h.

t Ibid. O.

1- Ibid. 9 and 10.

GREAT BRITAIN AN1 AMERICA.

Vig MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN
maintain a retreating fire upon the column of
the enemy as it advanced ; which, while his
flanks were secure, would undoubtedly have
retarded, galled, and cut them sensibly ; but,
after the first shot, which will be found in the
under-work of the bridge, his men introduced
the wrong end of the cartridge, and, instead of
drawing it to get it out, depressed the muzzle of
the piece until the trail and wheels overturned,
and, by this time, the enemy was so near as to
oblige them to flee for safety. Seeing the troops
on his right give way, colonel Thornton advanced,
crossed the conduit, and ascended the opposite
side of the ravine ; but was so warmly received
by .commodore Barney's battery of three
18 pounders at 4, '' that, after some pause and
fluctuation, he turned to his left, and displayed
in a field in 2, 2, where he, for a few rounds,
combated a valorous little band of the marine
corps, commanded by captain Miller, with
three 1 2 -pounders, in 3, and the flotilla-men of
commodore Barney, in 5, 5 ; which forced him
to incline to his left, and endeavour to turn the
American right, by a wood, in 2, 2, 2, 2, where
lie was met by colonel Beall, who was formed
under the summit of a conical hill, in 6, 6."
General Wilkinson then introduces a long letter
from colonel Beall ; from which we gather, that,
after firing a few rounds, the latter and his
See Plate VI. .)
4

e89

regiment, took to their heels. After a resistance,
which, compared to the behaviour of the American troops in general, may be termed gallant,
the flotilla-t►en and marines retreated ; leaving
upon the field, their commanders, commodore
Barney and captain Miller, severely wounded ;
and who, along with their guns, fell into the
hands of the British. Without considering that
the American right was reinforced by its re-,
treating left, or the British left by its advancing
right, we may state the relative numbers, at this
end of the field, as 750 British and 2500 Americans. Ten pieces of cannon were taken ; but
not above 120 prisoners ;* " owing," says rearadmiral Cockburn, " to the swiftness with
which the enemy went off, and the fatigue our
army had previously undergone." t The retreating American troops proceeded, with all
haste, towards Vt ashington ; and the British
troops, including the rear-division, which had,
just at the close of the short scuffle, arrived upon
the ground, halted, to take some refreshment.
Had it not been for the American artillery,
the loss of the British would have been very
trifling. We find 24 pieces marked upon gene.,
ral Wilkinson's diagram. Those at h completely enfiladed the bridge, and were very
destructive to the advancing column. Under
* App. No. 66. + App. No. 6S1,
o, 10, 4, 3, t t,
See Plate VI.
COL.

290.

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

these circumstances, the British loss amounted
to, one captain, two lieutenants, five serjeanti .
and 56 rank and file, killed ; two lieutenant.
colonels, one major, one captain, 14 lieutenants,
two ensigns, 10 serjeants, and 155 rank and
file, wopnded ; total, 64 killed, 185 wounded:
grand ,,total, 249. Of the American loss we
have no very accurate account. Mr. Thomson,
in the single instance of the Bladensburg battle,
does.,. not say a word on the subject. Doctor
Smith says :—" General Winder supposed that
the loss of his army was from 30 to 40 killed,
and from 50 to 60 wounded.* It is believed,
however, that this is a large computation ; for
doctor Catlet, the attending surgeon, stated the
killed at 10 or 12 ; and the wounded, some of.
whom died, at 30.'1 As the British two
3-pounders and howitzer, being stationed near
to e, in Bladensburg village, were of little
service j, and, as the Americans did not stay to
receive many rounds of musketry, nor one thrust
of the bayonet, their trifling loss is by no meat!;
extraordinary. Without wishing to exult over
a. fallen foe, we may express our surprise, that,
the classical ground,} in the neighbourhood of,
which " the meritorious conquerors of Tecum-,
seli,"§ among other American troops, were,
drawn, up, should Itare failed to inspire them
9

-

;

;

*App. No. 66. -I- Hist, of the U. States, Vol. III. p. 498.
t Thermopylw,"tiber,
§ Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 770; and our Vol. I. p. 294.

291

with a portion of that " ROman;" or, in reference
to " American," " second degree' valor," spoken
of by an American congress-man.*
What became of Mr. Madison ? is a question
the reader is, no doubt, anxious to have solved.
We shall here quote, and let it be understood
that we are quoting, the words of an American
writer : —" Not all the allurements of fame, not
all the obligations of duty, nor the solemn invocations of honor, could excite a spark of courage :
the love of a life which had become' useless to
mankind, and served but to embarrass the public
councils, and prejudice the public cause, stifled
the voice of Patriotism, and prevailed over the
loVe of glory ; and, at the very firSti. :shot; the
trembling coward, with a faltering ivoice,' 676
claimed:— '' Come, general Armstrong; ,:conn;,
Colonel Munro ; let us go, ,and leav'e its to the
Commanding general.',iitf7 :According :to ::(the
testimony of Mr.:William Simmons, one of the
witnesses examined by the American committeeof inveStigation, assembled .in consequence of
the capture of Washington, the American pre•
sident, the attorney-general, and secretaries of
war and state, were indebted'tb' his inforina;
tion, for notrhaVtng fallen into the•hands of
.• •
narla4Ini rat .41ic1b urn;
majo r-gen eral
colonel Thornton, and a number of staff-officers,
Who, in their undress toats, had entered
,

* See p. 25.

t WilliinsOn'S Memoirs, Vol.'I. p. 783.

u"2



292

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN
. GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

densburg, by a circuitous route, unobserved by
any but Mr. Simmons. A delay of five minutes
would, it appears, have placed the commanderin-chief of the armies of the United States, and
the whole executive corps, in the hands of the
British.
Europeans, often to their cost, read accounts
of the fine rich land to be met with, in almost
all parts of the United States. It is a matter of
equal policy, to show the existence of markets
capable of carrying off the abundant produce of
so fruitful a soil : therefore, most plans of towns
or cities sent to Europe from the United States,
have their sites ready covered with all the
streets, which even a century may not see built.
We have now before us a large folding map of
the city of New York, with all its squares
filled up in black, resembling a map of
London, rather than of Liverpool, which it
scarcely reaches in population. It will not,
then, surprise the reader, that the city of
Washington, or, as the bard of Lalla Rookh once
sang,—
" This famed metropolis, where Fancy sees
Squares in morasses, obelisks in trees;
Which travelling fools and gazetteers adorn,
With shrines unbuilt, and heroes yet unborn ;"

covering, as it does, about eight square miles of
ground, should contain no more than 400 houses;

293

less, than is to be found in a single street
of London.*
As soon as the troops were refreshed, general
loss and rear-admiral Cockburn, " with 1000
wen," t moved forward from Bladensburg; and,
at about eight o'clock in the evening, arrived
at an open piece of ground, two miles from the
federal city. The troops were here drawn up,
while major-general Ross, rear-admiral Cockburn, and several other officers, accompanied by a
small guard, rode forward to reconnoitre. On
arriving opposite to some houses, the party halted;
and, just as the officers had closed each other, in
order to consult whether or not it would be
prudent to enter the heart of the city that night,
a volley was fired from the windows of one of two
adjoining houses, and from the capitol ; § which
volley killed one soldier, and general Ross's
horse from under him, and wounded three
soldiers. Rear-admiral Cockburn instantly
rode back to the detachment, stationed in
advance ; and soon returned with the light
companies. The house was then surrounded ;
and, after some prisoners had been taken from
set on fire ; the adjoining house fell with it.
The capitol, which was contiguous to these
+ History of the United States, Vol. III. p. 294.
* Strand.
§ App. No. 62.
Wilkinson's Memoirs, Vol. I. p. 791.
II Poulson's Philadelphia paper, of August 29, 1814.

291k

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houses, and which:was " capable of being made
an impregnable citadel against an enemy, with
little artillery, and that of the lighter class,"*
was also set on fire. The " capitol containing
the senate-chamber, representative-hall, supreme
ourt-room, congressional: library, and legisla-:
tive archives ;" -r these rooms, " or public buildings," as many of our London journalists have
called; them, could not otherwise than share
the, fate of the building of which they formed
part. •
.
Scarcely had the flames burst out from the
capitol and the two contiguous houses, than an
awful explosion-announced, that the Americans
Were employed upon the same business in the
lower part of -the city. By this time the remainder of the British forces from Bladensburg
had arrivedatthe encampment. At about halfpast 10, after n party had been sent to destroy
the fort-and-public works at Greenleaf's point,
major-general Ross, and rear-admiral Cockburn,
each at the head of a small detachment of men,
numbering, together, not more than 200, t. proceeded down
hill towards the president's
palace.
Finding it utterly abandoned, and ,
hearing,• probably, that a guard of soldiers, with
two pieces, of CRIIBQIIiyvelhumunted on travel.
,

c

:

ling carriages;"* had been stationed at, and but
recently fled from, this the American " commander-in-Chief's" head-quarters, the British
caused it to be set on fire. A log-hut, under
similar circumstances, would have shared the
same fate, and the justice of the measure not
been disputed. Why, then, in a country where
.

-

-

.

" equality of rights" is daily preached up,
should the palace be held more sacred than the
cottage ? The loss of the one falls, where it
ought, upon the nation at large ; the loss of the
other,—a lamentable case, at all times,—solely
Upon the individual proprietor. rind generals
Armstrong and M'Clure consulted this principle,
the village of Newark would have remained
undestroyed ; and the feelings of humanity not
have been so outraged as they still are, at the
bare recital of that atrocious proceeding.
To the building, containing the treasury and
war offices, the torches of the conquerors were
next applied. On arriving opposite to the office'
of the " National lntelligencer," the American
government-paper,—whose editor, -Mr. Gales, a'
British subject, had been giving currency to the
-

-

grossest falsehoods againstthe British commanders in the Chesapeake, and against the British
rear-admirat -Cockburn'
Character in general
observed to the inhabitants near him, that he

,

-

*Uistory of the United States, Vol. III. p. 29(. 1 Ibid. 291.
- .

.44: Wilkinson's Men►. Vol. I. p. 791.

• Testimony of Mr. Wm. Simmons before, tke Americas
)

committee of investigation.

296

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

m ust destroy it. On being told, however, that the
adjoining buildings would be likely to take fire
be desisted. The rear-admiral, then, wishing the
inhabitants good night', and assuring them
that private. property and persons should be
respected, departed to his quarters on the capi,
tol-hill,. Early on the next morning the rearadmiral was seen walking about the city, accompanied by three soldiers only. Indeed, general
"Wilkinson says :—" A single centinel, who had
been accidentally left on post near the office of
the National Intelligencer, kept undisturbed
possession of the central part of the metropolis,
until the next morning ; of which there are
several living witnesses."* At this time, too, it
appears, an American " force of more than 4000
combatants" was posted upon the heights of
Georgetown,* which is a continuation of the
city to the westward.
During the morning of the 25th, the secretary
of state's office was burnt, and the types and
printing materials of the government-paper were
destroyed. A. serious accident had happened to
the party sent to Greenleaf's-point. Some
powder, concealed in a well, accidentally took
fire, killing 12, and wounding 30, officers and
men. Three extensive rope-walks, at some distance from the city, were, by the British, entirely
consumed ; and so was an immense quantity of
* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 791.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

297

small-arms and heavy ordnance ;* as well as the
great bridge across the Potomac : t a -very
prudent military measure, especially as the Americans had themselves destroyed the two bridges
crossing the eastern branch. t A party, under
captain Wainwright, of the Tonnant, destroyed
the few stores and buildings in the navy-yard,
which had escaped the flames of the preceding
night. As the British were in haste to be gone,
and as the vessels, even could they have been
floated in safety down the Potomac, were not
wanted by us, it was very considerate in the
American government to order the destruction
of the frigate, of 1600 tons, that was nearly
ready to be launched, and of the fine sloop
of war, Argus, ready for sea ; and whose 20:3 2-pounders would have assisted so powerfully
in defending the entrance to the city by the
lower bridge. According to the official estimate of
" the public property destroyed,"t the value has
been much over-rated. It appears not to haveexceeded 1624280 dollars, or £365463 sterling.
With respect to private property, we have only
to quote passages from American prints, to show
how that was treated. One newspaper says :" The British officers pay inviolable respect to
private property, and no peaceable citizen is
molested." § A writer from Baltimore, under
.

t See Plate V.
App. No. 65.
Columbian Centincl, August 31st.

t App. No. 67.

298

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

the date of " August 27th," says:!—" The enemy;
learn, treated the inhabitants'of Washington
well."* But what says Mr. Gales, the mouthpiece of the government,' he whose presses bad
been destroyed and whose " types had been so
shamefully dispersed."?—" When we remarked,"
says he, " in our paper of yesterday, that private
property had, in general, been scrupulously
respected. • by the 'enemy during his late incursion, We'SPoke what we believed, from a hasty
survey, and perhaps without sufficient inquiry.
Greater respect was certainly paid to private
property than has usually been exhibited by the
enemy in his marauding parties. No houses
were half as much plundered by the enemy, as
by the knavish wretches about the town, who
profited by the general distress. There were,
however, 'Several private buildings wantonly destroyed, and some of those persons who remained
in the city were scandalously maltreated."t We
are to consider that this charge contains the
utmost that has been alleged against the British
during their 20 hours' occupation of the metropolis of the United States. The " several private
buildings," besides " the dwelling-house owned
and occupied by Mr. Robert Sewall, from behind which a gun was fired at general Ross,"
consisted of a commodious dwelling, belong-

* Boston paper, September 1st.
1 National Intelligencer, August 31st.
-

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

299

ing to the estate of general Washington, and
Carroll's hotel :"* the former suffered, from its
contiguity to, or absolute junction with, the
house from which the firing had been directed;
the latter, not unlikely; from the act of some of
" the knavish wretches about the town, Whci
profited by the general distress." That the
British officers did all they could to secure the
inhabitants from injury, both in their persons
and properties, may be gathered from Mr. Thomson's acknowledgment, -that,—" the plunder of
individual property was prohibited, and sol-:
diers, transgressing the order, were severely
punished." t
We shall dismiss this subject with an American
statement, which, we trust, will set at rest all
remaining doubts. " The list of plunder and
destruction, copied from a vile and libellous
print of that city, into several federal papers,
is a gross and abominable fabrication, known to
be such by every inhabitant. Most of the plunder was committed by rabble of the plaCe, fostered among the citizens ; and from whOse villainy no place is free, in times of peril, and
relaxation of the law. The British army, it is
no more than justice to say, preserved a moderation and discipline, with respect to private
* History of the United States, Vol. III. p. 295.
Sketches of the War, p. 336.

300

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

persons and property, unexampled in the annals
of war."*
At eight o'clock on the evening of the 25th,
the British left Washington, i.)y the way of
Bladensburg. Here such of the wounded as
could ride, or be transported in carriages, were
provided with 30 or 40 horses, 12 carts and
waggons, one coachee, and several gigs. With
these, preceded by a drove of 60 or 70 cattle,
the army moved leisurely along. On the evening of the 29th it reached Benedict, - 50 miles
from 'Washington, without a single musket
having been fired ;.t. and, on the following day,
re-embarked in the vessels of the fleet. No complaints, that we can discover, have been made
against the British, during their retreat across
the country ; although, as an American writer
has been pleased to say, " general Ross scarcely
kept up his order, sufficiently to identify the body
of his army."§ The Americans are very difficult to please. If the British decline fighting
double the number of Americans, shiness is alleged against them ; if, on the other hand, they
not only fight, but conquer, as at Bladensburg,
more than double their number of Americans,
they are denied all credit. In this spirit doctor
Smith says :—" The success of general Ross, in
* Georgetown paper, September 8th.'
+ See Plate V.
:1: App. No. 62.
§ Hist. of the United States, Vol. III. p. 299.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

301

this expedition, cannot be ascribed to the display
of superior military skill. It was not due to his
force, or the deportment of his troops in the
field. The resolution to march an army, 50
miles into the interior of a country thickly
inhabited, and in the face of another, of superior
numbers, affords strong proof of his temerity,
but none of his prudence. He succeeded against
every rational calculation."—How could this
writer touch upon " deportment of troops" ?We rather think, that major-general Ross and
rear-admiral Cockburn made their " calculation," upon what they conjectured would be the
"deportment" of the American troops; although
they certainly did not expect quite so great a
contrast to " temerity," as they found upon the
field at Bladensburg.
All the American writers who have had occasion to deplore the fate of Washington-city, have
levelled their abuse against rear-admiral Cockburn ; " on whom," says one of them, " if the
safety of the citizens' dwellings had alone depended, they would have rested on a slender
guarantee." t How will this writer ; how will
all the other American writers ; how will the
British public in general, receive the assertion,
that rear-admiral Cockburn got blamed by his
commanding officer, for not having acted more

L

v .* Hist. of the United States. Vol. III. p. 299.

„, . +

Sketches of the War, p. 3.F,6.

302

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

in the spirit of " retaliation" than he did ? This
brings us to sir Alexander Cochrane's letter,*
in which that harsh word appears.: It was an
ill-advised letter ; serving only to convict us of
a seeming intention to do what we never did do.
What" towns and districts" upon the American
coaSt did,tile British " destroy and lay waste"?
Was Washington destroyed and laid waste ?Was Alexandria destroyed and laid waste?—We
deny that there was any thing done at either of
those places. unless it was the behaviour of an
American naval commander at Alexandria,t
that was at all contrary to the usages of civilized warfare." This letter was just what Mr.
Munro:1: wanted. It enabled him to declaim;
at,length, about " ithe_, established and known
humanity of the American nation." § The
chief. of Mr. Munro's, unsupported assertions
have already been replied to, in different parts
of this work : we have, at present, only to do
with _the paragraph in which he tells us, that
".`,in the course of ten years past, the capitals
o_Lthe principal powers of the continent of
Europe have :been:, conquered and occupied,.
alternately, by the :victorious armies of each
other ; and no instance of such wanton and unjustifiable destruction has been seen ;" and
refers us to distant ages for a " parallel" to our
i

;

"

i

i

behaviour. We will dismiss Mr. Munro with
this question, —Did any one of the " sovereigns"
to whom he alludes, fly " in panic terror" *
from one end of his city, while an enemy entered the other ? In his search for a " parallel,"
too, where will he find, even if lie goes back to
distant and barbarous ages," that a sovereign
behaved, as we have American testimony for
asserting, that Mr. Madison, " the commanderin-chief of the armies of the United States,"
did behave, at, or rather before, the battle of
Bladensburg ?
But Mr. Madison himself must issue his " Proclamation ;" t dated from " Washington," too, the
seat of empire," which lie, only six days before,
had abandoned, to seek " an ,,asylum among
the hills, west of the great falls." The five
day's march of our troops, including the battle
in which he set so bright an example, he calls a
"! sudden incursion," He then ventures to state
the American troops at Bladensburg, as " less
numerous" than their British opponents. This
is excellent. Admitting that, the British were
in possession of Washington " for a single day'
(and night) only," were the 4000 American
troops, drawn up in full view of the destruction
of " the costly monuments of state," led forth.
by Mr. Madison, or led forth at all, to drive the;
British away ? " We destroyed," he says, " the
t'z-"
• •
• Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 789. t App., No. 70.
"

,

* App, No. 68.:
+ James's, Naval Occurrences, p. 383.
Now president of the United States. § App. No. 69.

303

304 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

public- edifices, having no relation in their
structure to operations of war, nor used at the
time for military annoyance." Was it no "
litary annoyance," to kill one soldier and wound
three, and, by mere accident, not to kill the
British commanding general ? Where was the
war declared, but in the " senate-chamber and
representative-hall," contained within the Capitol ? What enforced " military annoyance,'
or gave life to the " operations of war," but the
dollars in the " treasury-office" ? On the other
hand, " the patent-office," in which were collected the rarest specimens of the arts of the
country, having no relation to the " operations of
war," was not, in the slightest degree, injured.•
Who, when colonel Campbell, of the United
States' army, destroyed the dwelling-house and
other buildings of a Canadian inhabitant, de.
dared the act to have been " according to the
usages of war," t because a troop of British
dragoons had just fled from them ? Why then
was not the destruction of the president's palace,
from which a company of American artillery,
with two field-pieces, had just fled, equally
" according to the usages of war" ? The only
surprise is, that the American government should
have so well succeeded in hood-winking the
people of Europe. One British editor rates his
-

* Sketches of the War p p. 3 .36.
+ See p. 111.

4

GREAT 'BRITAIN _"AND AMERICA.
-.

303

ferocious countrymen; for " having levelled
with the dUst the splendid palaces and .sumptuous edifices by which the city of Washington
was so libera14.- einhellished.' "This can but
raise.a smile ; -especially upon a reference to the
e.stirnated value of these•".Splendid fialaces."!
We shall forbear to notice the long account of
" the extent of devastation practised :-.by the
victors" at■ Washington, which has .,found !. its
way into that faithful record of frays; • murders,
i

-

-

,

births, marriages, and deaths, but certainly not
of historical events, the Annual Register for
1814 ;" and thence, of course, into most of the
prints of the :United States. But .what.was
there done by the British at Washington, that
could provoke an .eminent parliamentary orator
to.describe their proceedings as " so abhOrrent,
so inconsistent with the habits of a free and generous people ;—so to be hated and detested,
'condemned and abjured" ?t " In burning
Washington," says this same speaker, " we had
acted worse than the Goths, when they were
before the walls of Rome." In another place
he talks of " the pillage of private property." t
What a pity this gentleman did not read even
the whole of the American accounts, before he
ventured to sanction, with his respectable name
* App. No. 67.
+ Parliamentary Proceedings, November 8, 1814,
VOL, II.

X

272

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

ie

CHAPTER XIX.
Early intimation of the attack upon Washington
Defensive preparations in consequence—Arrival
at BerMuda of troops from France—Departure
of general Ross in the Tonnant for the Chesapeake—Reconnoissance on shore by the latter and
rear-admiral Cockburn—Meditated attack upon
Washington—Arrival of the troops from Bernluda—Different routes to Washington—Captain
Gordon's affair in the Potomac—Disembarcalion of the troops at Benedict in the Patuxent—
Pursuit, by the combined forces, of commodore
Barney's flotilla—Its destruction—March of tlw
British troops—Their arrival at Upper Marlborough — Rear-admiral Cockburn's Junction
with them — Advance of the British towards
Washington—Correct American account of their
number—Retreat of the American army by Ma' densburg to Washington— Further advance of
the British—American account of general Winder's force—Re-advance to Bladensburg—Ap'pearance on the field ''of the president of the'
United States—American account of the battle
of Bladensburg — Flight of the Americans—
Mutual loss—Behaviour of Mr. Madison—His
narrow escape from capture—American plans (f
-

273

their towns and cities; of New York in particular
—Brief description of Washington—Advance of
part of the British force from Bladensburg-Its encampment near Washington—Reconnoissance of general Ross and other officers—Fire
opened upon them—Advance of the light coinpanics—Destruction of the capitol and two houses
whence thefire proceeded—Explosion at the navyyard—Arrival at the encampment of remainder
of British forces—Entry into Washington of
200 British—Destruction of the president's house;
also of the treasury and war offices—Ancedote of
a British centinel—Amount of American force
in the vicinity —Accident at Greenleaf's-pointDestruction of the secretary's of state's office, ropewalks, ordnance, bridge, navy-yard, fc. —
Amount of public property destroyed—Acknowledged respect paid to private property—Departure of the British front Washington—Their
unmolested arrival, and disembarkation, at Benedict—American accounts—Erroneous impression
respecting rear-admiral Cockburn's conduct at
Washington—Sir Alexander Cochrane's letter to
Mr. Munro, and its reply—Mr. Madison's proclamation—British accounts—Annual Register
—Parliamentary speech.

SOME hints thrown out by the British commissioners at the conference at Ghent, coupled
with the rumoured. destination of British troops
VOL. II.

a

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MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

. GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

shipping in the ports of France, induced the
American commissioners to intimate to their
government, that an attack upon the federal
city would probably be made in the course of
the 'summer of 1814. This notice reached Mr.
Madison:on the 26th of J une; and, on the 1st of
July, he submitted to his council a plan for immediately calling 2 or 3000 men into the field,
and holding 10 or 12000 militia and volunteers,
of the neighbouring states, in readiness to reinforce that corps. On the next day, he created
into a military district, the whole state of Maryland, the district of Columbia, and that partof
Virginia north of the Rappahannock river, embracing an exposed coast of nearly 1000 miles;
vulnerable at every point, and intersected by
many large rivers, and by Chesapeake bay. On
the 4th of July, as a further defensive preparation, the president made a requisition to the
several states of the union, for 93500 militia, as
authorized by law ; designating their respective
quota, and requesting the executive magistrates
of each state, to detach and hold them in readiness for immediate service. Of these 93500
militia, 1.5000 were to be drawn from the tenth
military district, or that surrounding the metropolis ; for whose defence they were intended.
- On the 2d of June sailed froni Verdun roads,
the Royal Oak, rear-admiral Malcolm, accompanied by three frigates, three sloops, two bomb-

s

275

vessels, five ships armees en fide, and three
transports, having on board the 4th, 21st, 44th,
and 85th, regiments, with a proportion of royal
artillery, and sappers and miners, under the
command of major-general Ross. On the 24th
of July the squadron arrived at Bermuda, and
there joined vice-admiral Cochrane, in the
Tonnant. On the 2d of August, vice-admiral
Cochrane, having received on board-the Tonnant
major-general Ross and his staff, sailed, in company with the Euryalus; for' Chesapeake bay ;
and, on the 14th of August, arrived, and joined
the Albion, vice-admiral COckburn, off the mouth
of the Potomac. On the next day, majorgeneral Ross, accompanied by rear-admiral
Cockburn, went on shore to reconnoitre. The
rear-admiral's knowledge of the country, as well
as the excellent plan he adopted to prevent surprise, enabled the two officers to penetrate
further, than would otherwise have been, •rudent. The thick woods that skirt, and the
numerous ravines that intersect, the different
roads around Washington, offer important advantages to an ambushing enemy. Rear-admiral
Cockburn, therefore, in his frequent walks
through the country, invariably moved forward
between two parties of marines, occupying, in
open order, the woods by the road-side. Each
marine carried a bugle, to be used as a signal,
in case of casual separation, or the appearance
T 2

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MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

of an enemy. It was during the excursion witir
general Ross, that rear-admiral Cockburn sug
gested the facility of an attack upon the city of
Washington ; and general Ross determined, as
soon as the troops should arrive from Bermuda,
to make the attempt.
On the 17th of August, rear-admiral Malcolm,
with the troops, arrived, and joined vice-admiral
Cochrane, off the mouth of the Potomac ; and
the whole proceeded to the Patuxent, about N
miles further up the bay. In the meantime,
captain Gordon, with some vessels of the squadron, had been detached up the Potomac, to
bombard Fort-Warburton, situate on the left
bank of that river, about 14 miles below the
federal city ; and captain Parker, with the Menelaus frigate, up the Chesapeake, above Baltimore,
to create a diversion in that quarter. The
successful proceedings of captain Gordon, in
the destruction of the fort ; and,—a measure
entirely his own,—the capture of the populous
town of Alexandria, will be found fully
detailed in our naval volume.* The direct
route to Washington, from the mouth of the
Potomac, was up that river, about 50 miles, to
Fort-Tobacco ; thence, over land, by the village
of Piscataway, 32 miles, to the lower bridge across
the eastern branch of the Potomac ; but, as no
doubt could be entertained that this bridge,
,

* James's Nay. Occur. p. 381-6.

277

which was half a mile long, and had a draw at
the west-end, would be defended, as well by a
body of troops, as by a heavy sloop of war and
a armed schooner, known to be in the river,
the route up the Patuxent, and by Bladensburg,
where the eastern branch, in case of the bridge
at that spot being destroyed, could be easily
forded, was preferred.
Commodore Barney's gun-boats were still lying
in the Patuxent, up which they had been driven.*
An immediate attempt against this " muchvaunted flotilla" offered two advantages ; one,
in its capture or destruction, the other, as a pretext for ascending the Patuxent, with the troops,
destined fbr the attack of the city. Part of the
ships, having advanced as high up the river as
the depth of water would allow, disembarked the
troops, on the 19th and 20th of August, at Benedict,t a small town, about .50 miles south-east
of Washington. On the evening of the 20th,
rear-admiral Cockburn, taking with him the
armed boats and tenders of the fleet, proceeded
up the river, to attack commodore Barney's
flotilla ; and to supply with provisions, and, if
necessary, afford protection to, the army, as it
ascended the right bank. For the full details of
the successful enterprise against the American
flotilla, we must refer to our naval volume.t In
+ See Plate V. * See 252. p.
$ James's Nay. Occur. p. 375.

-

27S

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

justice to commodore Barney, we shall here
introduce general Wilkinson's statement upon
-the subject. " Cockburn," says the general,
" with hisTharges, pursued Barney's flotilla,
which had, by order of president Madison, been
unfortunately abandoned, and was, without resistance,blown up ; when it will be apparent to
every competent judge, that, from the narrowness
of the channel, -the -commodore could have
defended himself, and repulsed any floating force
the enemy could have brought against him ; and
his flanks were well secured, by the extent of the
marches on both sides of the river."
Mr. Thomson has found out, that general
Ross, while on his march, avoided an engagement with an inferior number of American troops.
Having previously stated the British force at
" about 6000 regulars, seamen, and marines,"
'being 1000 more than Mr. O'Connor, and 2000
more than doctor Smith makes them, Mr. Thom'sin says :—" The enemy approached the woodyard, 'a: position 12 miles only from the city, and
- t which general Winder's forces were drawn up.
ITheEe :consisted of about 5000 men, and offered
battle to the British troops. But general Ross,
'fipOni reaching the neighbourhood of Nottingbarn, turned to his right, and took the road to
Marlborough, upon which general 11 inder fell
back to Battalion Old Fields, about eight miles
-

* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 766.

2 79
9

from the city."* To make it appear, also, that
the British were actually pursued', he, in the very
next paragraph, declares, that " several prisoners" were taken. As general Ross, after
stating the landing of the army, says merely
On the 21st it.reached Nottingham," we should
have only the improbability of the thing,. to
oppose to Mr. Thomson's gasconade, had not
general Wilkinson touched upon the subject.
" On the morning of the 22d," says the general,
" the cavalry of Laval and Tilghman, say 200
men, with the regular troops, under lieutenantcolonel Scott, about 400 strong, were ordered
to advance towards Nottingham, and reached
• den's house, where they were soon followed by
major Peter, with six 6-pounders, flying artillery, and a detachment of about 250 select men.
General Ross marched from Nottingham, the
same morning, by the chapel road leading to
Marlborough ; and, on discovering the American troops, made a detachment to his left to
meet them, which advanced to the foot of the
hill near Oden's house, when the American
-troops fell back, and the enemy resumed their
march." t
On the afternoon of the 22d, general Ross,
with the troops, arrived, and encamped, at the
town of Upper Marlborough, situate about four
:-

"

* Sketches of the War, p. 331.
1 Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p.765.
-

280

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

i

miles up the western branch of the Patuxent,
The men, therefore, after having been nearly
three months on board ship, had, in less than
three days, marched 40 miles ; and that in the
month of August, when the sultriness of the climate could scarcely be tolerated. We may (twin
some idea of the military obstacles that might
have presented themselves during the march, by
the observations of general Wilkinson. " Not a
single bridge," says he, " was broken, not a causeway destroyed, not an inundation attempted,
not a tree fallen, not a rood of -the road obstructed, nor a gun fired at the enemy, in a
march of near 40 miles, from Benedict to Upper
Marlborough, by a route on which there are 10
or a dozen difficult defiles ; which, with a few
hour's labour, six pieces of light artillery, 300
infantry, 200 riflemen, and 60 dragoons, might
`have been defended against any force that could
approach them : such is the narrowness of the
road, the profundity of the ravines, the steepness of the acclivities, and the sharpness of the
'ridges."* While general Ross and his men were
resting themselves at Upper Marlborough, generel Winder and his army, now joined by coinmodore Barney and the men of his flotilla, were
lying at their encampment at the long Old
Fields, only eight miles distant. With the full
knowledge of what a fatiguing march the British
* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 759.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

281

had made, the hero of La Colle mill declares,
that general Ross, with his " 4 or 5000 veteran
troops, ought to have marched upon and routed"
general 11, inder.* The latter, however, "rashly
kept his position during the night ;" and, on
the next morning, the American troops were
reviewed , by Mr. Madison, " their commanderin-chief, whose martial appearance gladdened
4
every countenance and encouraged every heart." .'
Soon after the review, a detachment from the
A►netican army advanced along the road to
Upper Marlborough ; and, after exchanging a,
few shots with the British skirmishers, fell back
to the main body.
On the morning of the 23d, rear-admiral Cockburn, having left at Pig-point, directly opposite
to the western branch,-} - the marines of the ships,
under captain Robyns, and two divisions of the
boats, crossed over, with the third division, to
Mount Calvert ; and proceeded, by land, to the
British encampment at Upper Marlborough.
The little opposition experienced by the army
in its march from Benedict, and the complete
success that had attended the expedition against
commodore Barney's flotilla, determined majorgeneral Ross to make an immediate attempt
upon the city of Washington, distant from
Upper Marlborough not more than 16 miles.
At the desire of the major-general, the marine
* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 760. f See Plate V,

282

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

and naval forces at Pig-point were moved over
to Mount Calvert; and the ship-marines, marineartillery, and a proportion of seamen, joined the
army at Upper Marlborough. It is now time
to give the numbers of the British, so fearlessly
approaching the metropolis of the United States.
Fortunately, the only American account which
pretends to any accuracy upon that point,
supplies us with the necessary information.
" Those," says Dr. Smith, " who had the best
opportunities of counting them, (the British,)
calculated that their whole number was about
4000; and this calculation is warranted by the
incidents in the field."* .He then states, that
the British army, under major-general Ross, was
distributed into three brigades ; the first brigade, commanded by colonel Brooke, of the
44th, and composed of the 4th and 44th regiments ; the second brigade, commanded by
colonel Patterson, of the 21st regiment, and
composed of that regiment, the second battalion
of marines, and the ship-marines under captain
Robyns ; the third brigade, commanded by
colonel Thornton, of the 85th light infantry,
and composed of that regiment, the light companies of the 4th, 21st, and 44th regiments, one
company of marine skirmishers, a detachment
of colonial marines, also of royal artillery, with
two 3-pounders and a howitzer, and a party of

-

* History of the United States, Vol. III. p. 298.

283

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

seamen and engineers, with rockets.* Leaving
captain Robyns, with the marines of the ships,
in possession of Upper Marlborough, majorgeneral Ross and rear-admiral Cockburn, with
the troops, marines, and seamen, whose number,
notwithstanding the absence of captain Robyns
and his party, we will still state at 4000, moved
forward, on the evening of the 23d ; and, before
dark, arrived, and bivouacked for the night, at
a spot five miles nearer to Washington.t
As if by concert, the American army retired
from the long Old Fields„ about the same time
that the British army advanced ironijipper
Marlborough ; the patrolesof the latter actually occupying, before midnight, the ground
which the former had abandoned.. The Atnerican army did not stop till. it reached Washington ; where it encamped, for the night, near the
navy-yard." On the same evening, upwards of
2000 troops arrived at Bladensburg from Baltimore. At day-light on the morning of the
24th, general Ross put his troops in motion for
Bladensburg, 12 miles frOm his camp ; and,
having halted by the way, arrived at the heights
facing the village about half-past 11 o'clock. §
While the British troops are resting themselves,
and preparing for the attack, we will endeavour
;

* Mist. of the United States, Vol. III. p. 298.
t Sec Plate V. 1: Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 767.
S See Plate VI. d d.

284

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

to place before the reader, the force which they
had to overcome, before they could enter the
,metropolis of the United States.
" The army under general Winder," says
doctor Smith, " consisted of
"

United States' dragoons
Maryland ditto
District of Columbia ditto
Virginia ditto
-

140
240
50
100

— 530

Regular infantry
Seamen and marines



.500
600
—1100
1353
500

- < _

Stansbury's brigade of militia
Sterrett's regiment, ditto
Baltimore artillery, ditto
Pinkney's battalion, ditto ;
Smith's brigade, ditto
Cramer's battalion, ditto
Waring's detachment, ditto
Maynard's ditto ditto
-

150
150
—2153
1070
240
150
1
50
—1610
800
350
—1150

.

-

Beall's and Hood's regiment of ditto
Volunteer corps

Total at Bladensburg
a

6513

..

At hand,
Young's brigade of militia
Minor's Virginia corps
-

450
600
—1050
Grand Total

of

the U. S. Vol. III. p. 207.

7593*

GREAT IIRITAIN AND AMERICA. '1

280

'According to general Armstrong's letter to
the editor of the " Baltimore Patriot," of September 3, general Winder had, under his command, exclusive of the 15000 militia he was
directed to call out, as many regular troops
and seamen, as would make his total force,
when assembled, " 16300 men." " General
Winder," proceeds doctor Smith, " after the
battle, reported his forces at about 5000
men ;* nearly 2600 less than appears from
the preceding detairt Nor has the general
given any account of his artillery ; although we
find that " the American army had, on the field,
not fewer than 23 pieces, varying from 6• to
18.pounders." This army was drawn up, in
two lines, upon very commanding heights, on
the north of the turnpike-road leading from
Bladensburg to Washington ; and, as an additional incitement to glory on the part of the
American troops, their president was on the
field. " Every eye," says general Wilkinson;
"was i mmediately turned upon the chief; every
bosom throbbed with confidence ; and every
nerve was strung with valor. No doubts
remained with the troops that, in their chief
magistrate they beheld their commander-in
chief, who, like another Maurice, having, by his
irresolution in council, exposed the country to
the chances and accidents of a general engage,

* App. No. 66.

t list. of the U. S: Vol. III. p. 297.

E36

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

ment, had now come forward to repair the'
error, by his activity in the field ; determined to
throw himself into the gap of danger, and not
to survive the honor of his country, especially
entrusted to his guardianship." f,t
The affair,. .for it hardly deserves the name
of battle,--of Bladensburg, may be given in the
words of general 'Wilkinson ; assisted by a reference tae his own diagram.t `.‘ The enemy," says
the general, ". made the attack with their light
brigade ; the right wing, led by colonel Brooke,
of the 44th regiment, and the left by colonel
Thornton, of the 85th. They crossed the bridge
in disorder, and the skirmishers advanced in
loose order, and forced the battery and riflemen
in h, i. The right wing formed in u, it, and
followed the skirmishers through the corn-field,
p, p, and the orchard, q, q, and over the field,
forward of the tobacco-house, k.
Captain
Doughty," (with a corps of riflemen,) " formed
in 1, gave a few fires, and retired with the rest
of the troops ; and the enemy pursued to the
fence 14, 14 ; while our troops generally retreated," proceeds the general, " by 1.1, r. R."
Before we proceed to detail the operations of
colonel Thornton's 'wing, a:little explanation,
as to numbers, may be necessary. The American force, thus routed by about 750 rank and
file of the 4th and 44th regiments, including a
lit Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 781.
f See Plate VI.
,

281

rocket-party, consisted of, regular and militia
dragoons, 530; major Pinkney's battalion of
militia-riflemen, 150 ; Doughty?s riflemen, number not stated ; Stansbury's militia-brigade,
1353 ; Sterret's militia-regiment, 500 ; Baltimore artillery, with six pieces,* 150 ; major
Peters, with six pieces of artillery, and lieutenantcolonel Scott, with the 36th United States?'
regiment, together, 500 ;t Burch's artillery
with four pieces,: number of men not given ;.
Smith's militia brigade, 1070: total 4000 men,
and 16 pieces of artillery. It is fortunate that
we have American testimony for the extraor-'
dinary account here given.
Requesting the reader again to turn to the
diagram, we will, with 'general. Wilkinson's
assistance, narrate the `proceedings of the remainder of the British and American forces.
" Colonel Thornton," Says he, " with the left
wing, pushed up the turnpike-road, and was
about to attack the 5th regiment, in flank, when
it gave way. There were a great many commanders this day, and, among them, not the
least discerning, colonel Wadsworth ; who, to
avoid interference with others, and render what
service he could, had prepared, and, with a few
hands, brought forward, two field-pieces. to t, t,
on the turnpike, with intention to open and
.

-

* See Plate VI: h.

t Ibid. O.

1- Ibid. 9 and 10.

GREAT BRITAIN AN1 AMERICA.

Vig MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN
maintain a retreating fire upon the column of
the enemy as it advanced ; which, while his
flanks were secure, would undoubtedly have
retarded, galled, and cut them sensibly ; but,
after the first shot, which will be found in the
under-work of the bridge, his men introduced
the wrong end of the cartridge, and, instead of
drawing it to get it out, depressed the muzzle of
the piece until the trail and wheels overturned,
and, by this time, the enemy was so near as to
oblige them to flee for safety. Seeing the troops
on his right give way, colonel Thornton advanced,
crossed the conduit, and ascended the opposite
side of the ravine ; but was so warmly received
by .commodore Barney's battery of three
18 pounders at 4, '' that, after some pause and
fluctuation, he turned to his left, and displayed
in a field in 2, 2, where he, for a few rounds,
combated a valorous little band of the marine
corps, commanded by captain Miller, with
three 1 2 -pounders, in 3, and the flotilla-men of
commodore Barney, in 5, 5 ; which forced him
to incline to his left, and endeavour to turn the
American right, by a wood, in 2, 2, 2, 2, where
lie was met by colonel Beall, who was formed
under the summit of a conical hill, in 6, 6."
General Wilkinson then introduces a long letter
from colonel Beall ; from which we gather, that,
after firing a few rounds, the latter and his
See Plate VI. .)
4

e89

regiment, took to their heels. After a resistance,
which, compared to the behaviour of the American troops in general, may be termed gallant,
the flotilla-t►en and marines retreated ; leaving
upon the field, their commanders, commodore
Barney and captain Miller, severely wounded ;
and who, along with their guns, fell into the
hands of the British. Without considering that
the American right was reinforced by its re-,
treating left, or the British left by its advancing
right, we may state the relative numbers, at this
end of the field, as 750 British and 2500 Americans. Ten pieces of cannon were taken ; but
not above 120 prisoners ;* " owing," says rearadmiral Cockburn, " to the swiftness with
which the enemy went off, and the fatigue our
army had previously undergone." t The retreating American troops proceeded, with all
haste, towards Vt ashington ; and the British
troops, including the rear-division, which had,
just at the close of the short scuffle, arrived upon
the ground, halted, to take some refreshment.
Had it not been for the American artillery,
the loss of the British would have been very
trifling. We find 24 pieces marked upon gene.,
ral Wilkinson's diagram. Those at h completely enfiladed the bridge, and were very
destructive to the advancing column. Under
* App. No. 66. + App. No. 6S1,
o, 10, 4, 3, t t,
See Plate VI.
COL.

290.

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

these circumstances, the British loss amounted
to, one captain, two lieutenants, five serjeanti .
and 56 rank and file, killed ; two lieutenant.
colonels, one major, one captain, 14 lieutenants,
two ensigns, 10 serjeants, and 155 rank and
file, wopnded ; total, 64 killed, 185 wounded:
grand ,,total, 249. Of the American loss we
have no very accurate account. Mr. Thomson,
in the single instance of the Bladensburg battle,
does.,. not say a word on the subject. Doctor
Smith says :—" General Winder supposed that
the loss of his army was from 30 to 40 killed,
and from 50 to 60 wounded.* It is believed,
however, that this is a large computation ; for
doctor Catlet, the attending surgeon, stated the
killed at 10 or 12 ; and the wounded, some of.
whom died, at 30.'1 As the British two
3-pounders and howitzer, being stationed near
to e, in Bladensburg village, were of little
service j, and, as the Americans did not stay to
receive many rounds of musketry, nor one thrust
of the bayonet, their trifling loss is by no meat!;
extraordinary. Without wishing to exult over
a. fallen foe, we may express our surprise, that,
the classical ground,} in the neighbourhood of,
which " the meritorious conquerors of Tecum-,
seli,"§ among other American troops, were,
drawn, up, should Itare failed to inspire them
9

-

;

;

*App. No. 66. -I- Hist, of the U. States, Vol. III. p. 498.
t Thermopylw,"tiber,
§ Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 770; and our Vol. I. p. 294.

291

with a portion of that " ROman;" or, in reference
to " American," " second degree' valor," spoken
of by an American congress-man.*
What became of Mr. Madison ? is a question
the reader is, no doubt, anxious to have solved.
We shall here quote, and let it be understood
that we are quoting, the words of an American
writer : —" Not all the allurements of fame, not
all the obligations of duty, nor the solemn invocations of honor, could excite a spark of courage :
the love of a life which had become' useless to
mankind, and served but to embarrass the public
councils, and prejudice the public cause, stifled
the voice of Patriotism, and prevailed over the
loVe of glory ; and, at the very firSti. :shot; the
trembling coward, with a faltering ivoice,' 676
claimed:— '' Come, general Armstrong; ,:conn;,
Colonel Munro ; let us go, ,and leav'e its to the
Commanding general.',iitf7 :According :to ::(the
testimony of Mr.:William Simmons, one of the
witnesses examined by the American committeeof inveStigation, assembled .in consequence of
the capture of Washington, the American pre•
sident, the attorney-general, and secretaries of
war and state, were indebted'tb' his inforina;
tion, for notrhaVtng fallen into the•hands of
.• •
narla4Ini rat .41ic1b urn;
majo r-gen eral
colonel Thornton, and a number of staff-officers,
Who, in their undress toats, had entered
,

* See p. 25.

t WilliinsOn'S Memoirs, Vol.'I. p. 783.

u"2



292

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN
. GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

densburg, by a circuitous route, unobserved by
any but Mr. Simmons. A delay of five minutes
would, it appears, have placed the commanderin-chief of the armies of the United States, and
the whole executive corps, in the hands of the
British.
Europeans, often to their cost, read accounts
of the fine rich land to be met with, in almost
all parts of the United States. It is a matter of
equal policy, to show the existence of markets
capable of carrying off the abundant produce of
so fruitful a soil : therefore, most plans of towns
or cities sent to Europe from the United States,
have their sites ready covered with all the
streets, which even a century may not see built.
We have now before us a large folding map of
the city of New York, with all its squares
filled up in black, resembling a map of
London, rather than of Liverpool, which it
scarcely reaches in population. It will not,
then, surprise the reader, that the city of
Washington, or, as the bard of Lalla Rookh once
sang,—
" This famed metropolis, where Fancy sees
Squares in morasses, obelisks in trees;
Which travelling fools and gazetteers adorn,
With shrines unbuilt, and heroes yet unborn ;"

covering, as it does, about eight square miles of
ground, should contain no more than 400 houses;

293

less, than is to be found in a single street
of London.*
As soon as the troops were refreshed, general
loss and rear-admiral Cockburn, " with 1000
wen," t moved forward from Bladensburg; and,
at about eight o'clock in the evening, arrived
at an open piece of ground, two miles from the
federal city. The troops were here drawn up,
while major-general Ross, rear-admiral Cockburn, and several other officers, accompanied by a
small guard, rode forward to reconnoitre. On
arriving opposite to some houses, the party halted;
and, just as the officers had closed each other, in
order to consult whether or not it would be
prudent to enter the heart of the city that night,
a volley was fired from the windows of one of two
adjoining houses, and from the capitol ; § which
volley killed one soldier, and general Ross's
horse from under him, and wounded three
soldiers. Rear-admiral Cockburn instantly
rode back to the detachment, stationed in
advance ; and soon returned with the light
companies. The house was then surrounded ;
and, after some prisoners had been taken from
set on fire ; the adjoining house fell with it.
The capitol, which was contiguous to these
+ History of the United States, Vol. III. p. 294.
* Strand.
§ App. No. 62.
Wilkinson's Memoirs, Vol. I. p. 791.
II Poulson's Philadelphia paper, of August 29, 1814.

291k

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA:

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

houses, and which:was " capable of being made
an impregnable citadel against an enemy, with
little artillery, and that of the lighter class,"*
was also set on fire. The " capitol containing
the senate-chamber, representative-hall, supreme
ourt-room, congressional: library, and legisla-:
tive archives ;" -r these rooms, " or public buildings," as many of our London journalists have
called; them, could not otherwise than share
the, fate of the building of which they formed
part. •
.
Scarcely had the flames burst out from the
capitol and the two contiguous houses, than an
awful explosion-announced, that the Americans
Were employed upon the same business in the
lower part of -the city. By this time the remainder of the British forces from Bladensburg
had arrivedatthe encampment. At about halfpast 10, after n party had been sent to destroy
the fort-and-public works at Greenleaf's point,
major-general Ross, and rear-admiral Cockburn,
each at the head of a small detachment of men,
numbering, together, not more than 200, t. proceeded down
hill towards the president's
palace.
Finding it utterly abandoned, and ,
hearing,• probably, that a guard of soldiers, with
two pieces, of CRIIBQIIiyvelhumunted on travel.
,

c

:

ling carriages;"* had been stationed at, and but
recently fled from, this the American " commander-in-Chief's" head-quarters, the British
caused it to be set on fire. A log-hut, under
similar circumstances, would have shared the
same fate, and the justice of the measure not
been disputed. Why, then, in a country where
.

-

-

.

" equality of rights" is daily preached up,
should the palace be held more sacred than the
cottage ? The loss of the one falls, where it
ought, upon the nation at large ; the loss of the
other,—a lamentable case, at all times,—solely
Upon the individual proprietor. rind generals
Armstrong and M'Clure consulted this principle,
the village of Newark would have remained
undestroyed ; and the feelings of humanity not
have been so outraged as they still are, at the
bare recital of that atrocious proceeding.
To the building, containing the treasury and
war offices, the torches of the conquerors were
next applied. On arriving opposite to the office'
of the " National lntelligencer," the American
government-paper,—whose editor, -Mr. Gales, a'
British subject, had been giving currency to the
-

-

grossest falsehoods againstthe British commanders in the Chesapeake, and against the British
rear-admirat -Cockburn'
Character in general
observed to the inhabitants near him, that he

,

-

*Uistory of the United States, Vol. III. p. 29(. 1 Ibid. 291.
- .

.44: Wilkinson's Men►. Vol. I. p. 791.

• Testimony of Mr. Wm. Simmons before, tke Americas
)

committee of investigation.

296

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

m ust destroy it. On being told, however, that the
adjoining buildings would be likely to take fire
be desisted. The rear-admiral, then, wishing the
inhabitants good night', and assuring them
that private. property and persons should be
respected, departed to his quarters on the capi,
tol-hill,. Early on the next morning the rearadmiral was seen walking about the city, accompanied by three soldiers only. Indeed, general
"Wilkinson says :—" A single centinel, who had
been accidentally left on post near the office of
the National Intelligencer, kept undisturbed
possession of the central part of the metropolis,
until the next morning ; of which there are
several living witnesses."* At this time, too, it
appears, an American " force of more than 4000
combatants" was posted upon the heights of
Georgetown,* which is a continuation of the
city to the westward.
During the morning of the 25th, the secretary
of state's office was burnt, and the types and
printing materials of the government-paper were
destroyed. A. serious accident had happened to
the party sent to Greenleaf's-point. Some
powder, concealed in a well, accidentally took
fire, killing 12, and wounding 30, officers and
men. Three extensive rope-walks, at some distance from the city, were, by the British, entirely
consumed ; and so was an immense quantity of
* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 791.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

297

small-arms and heavy ordnance ;* as well as the
great bridge across the Potomac : t a -very
prudent military measure, especially as the Americans had themselves destroyed the two bridges
crossing the eastern branch. t A party, under
captain Wainwright, of the Tonnant, destroyed
the few stores and buildings in the navy-yard,
which had escaped the flames of the preceding
night. As the British were in haste to be gone,
and as the vessels, even could they have been
floated in safety down the Potomac, were not
wanted by us, it was very considerate in the
American government to order the destruction
of the frigate, of 1600 tons, that was nearly
ready to be launched, and of the fine sloop
of war, Argus, ready for sea ; and whose 20:3 2-pounders would have assisted so powerfully
in defending the entrance to the city by the
lower bridge. According to the official estimate of
" the public property destroyed,"t the value has
been much over-rated. It appears not to haveexceeded 1624280 dollars, or £365463 sterling.
With respect to private property, we have only
to quote passages from American prints, to show
how that was treated. One newspaper says :" The British officers pay inviolable respect to
private property, and no peaceable citizen is
molested." § A writer from Baltimore, under
.

t See Plate V.
App. No. 65.
Columbian Centincl, August 31st.

t App. No. 67.

298

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

the date of " August 27th," says:!—" The enemy;
learn, treated the inhabitants'of Washington
well."* But what says Mr. Gales, the mouthpiece of the government,' he whose presses bad
been destroyed and whose " types had been so
shamefully dispersed."?—" When we remarked,"
says he, " in our paper of yesterday, that private
property had, in general, been scrupulously
respected. • by the 'enemy during his late incursion, We'SPoke what we believed, from a hasty
survey, and perhaps without sufficient inquiry.
Greater respect was certainly paid to private
property than has usually been exhibited by the
enemy in his marauding parties. No houses
were half as much plundered by the enemy, as
by the knavish wretches about the town, who
profited by the general distress. There were,
however, 'Several private buildings wantonly destroyed, and some of those persons who remained
in the city were scandalously maltreated."t We
are to consider that this charge contains the
utmost that has been alleged against the British
during their 20 hours' occupation of the metropolis of the United States. The " several private
buildings," besides " the dwelling-house owned
and occupied by Mr. Robert Sewall, from behind which a gun was fired at general Ross,"
consisted of a commodious dwelling, belong-

* Boston paper, September 1st.
1 National Intelligencer, August 31st.
-

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

299

ing to the estate of general Washington, and
Carroll's hotel :"* the former suffered, from its
contiguity to, or absolute junction with, the
house from which the firing had been directed;
the latter, not unlikely; from the act of some of
" the knavish wretches about the town, Whci
profited by the general distress." That the
British officers did all they could to secure the
inhabitants from injury, both in their persons
and properties, may be gathered from Mr. Thomson's acknowledgment, -that,—" the plunder of
individual property was prohibited, and sol-:
diers, transgressing the order, were severely
punished." t
We shall dismiss this subject with an American
statement, which, we trust, will set at rest all
remaining doubts. " The list of plunder and
destruction, copied from a vile and libellous
print of that city, into several federal papers,
is a gross and abominable fabrication, known to
be such by every inhabitant. Most of the plunder was committed by rabble of the plaCe, fostered among the citizens ; and from whOse villainy no place is free, in times of peril, and
relaxation of the law. The British army, it is
no more than justice to say, preserved a moderation and discipline, with respect to private
* History of the United States, Vol. III. p. 295.
Sketches of the War, p. 336.

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MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

persons and property, unexampled in the annals
of war."*
At eight o'clock on the evening of the 25th,
the British left Washington, i.)y the way of
Bladensburg. Here such of the wounded as
could ride, or be transported in carriages, were
provided with 30 or 40 horses, 12 carts and
waggons, one coachee, and several gigs. With
these, preceded by a drove of 60 or 70 cattle,
the army moved leisurely along. On the evening of the 29th it reached Benedict, - 50 miles
from 'Washington, without a single musket
having been fired ;.t. and, on the following day,
re-embarked in the vessels of the fleet. No complaints, that we can discover, have been made
against the British, during their retreat across
the country ; although, as an American writer
has been pleased to say, " general Ross scarcely
kept up his order, sufficiently to identify the body
of his army."§ The Americans are very difficult to please. If the British decline fighting
double the number of Americans, shiness is alleged against them ; if, on the other hand, they
not only fight, but conquer, as at Bladensburg,
more than double their number of Americans,
they are denied all credit. In this spirit doctor
Smith says :—" The success of general Ross, in
* Georgetown paper, September 8th.'
+ See Plate V.
:1: App. No. 62.
§ Hist. of the United States, Vol. III. p. 299.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

301

this expedition, cannot be ascribed to the display
of superior military skill. It was not due to his
force, or the deportment of his troops in the
field. The resolution to march an army, 50
miles into the interior of a country thickly
inhabited, and in the face of another, of superior
numbers, affords strong proof of his temerity,
but none of his prudence. He succeeded against
every rational calculation."—How could this
writer touch upon " deportment of troops" ?We rather think, that major-general Ross and
rear-admiral Cockburn made their " calculation," upon what they conjectured would be the
"deportment" of the American troops; although
they certainly did not expect quite so great a
contrast to " temerity," as they found upon the
field at Bladensburg.
All the American writers who have had occasion to deplore the fate of Washington-city, have
levelled their abuse against rear-admiral Cockburn ; " on whom," says one of them, " if the
safety of the citizens' dwellings had alone depended, they would have rested on a slender
guarantee." t How will this writer ; how will
all the other American writers ; how will the
British public in general, receive the assertion,
that rear-admiral Cockburn got blamed by his
commanding officer, for not having acted more

L

v .* Hist. of the United States. Vol. III. p. 299.

„, . +

Sketches of the War, p. 3.F,6.

302

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

in the spirit of " retaliation" than he did ? This
brings us to sir Alexander Cochrane's letter,*
in which that harsh word appears.: It was an
ill-advised letter ; serving only to convict us of
a seeming intention to do what we never did do.
What" towns and districts" upon the American
coaSt did,tile British " destroy and lay waste"?
Was Washington destroyed and laid waste ?Was Alexandria destroyed and laid waste?—We
deny that there was any thing done at either of
those places. unless it was the behaviour of an
American naval commander at Alexandria,t
that was at all contrary to the usages of civilized warfare." This letter was just what Mr.
Munro:1: wanted. It enabled him to declaim;
at,length, about " ithe_, established and known
humanity of the American nation." § The
chief. of Mr. Munro's, unsupported assertions
have already been replied to, in different parts
of this work : we have, at present, only to do
with _the paragraph in which he tells us, that
".`,in the course of ten years past, the capitals
o_Lthe principal powers of the continent of
Europe have :been:, conquered and occupied,.
alternately, by the :victorious armies of each
other ; and no instance of such wanton and unjustifiable destruction has been seen ;" and
refers us to distant ages for a " parallel" to our
i

;

"

i

i

behaviour. We will dismiss Mr. Munro with
this question, —Did any one of the " sovereigns"
to whom he alludes, fly " in panic terror" *
from one end of his city, while an enemy entered the other ? In his search for a " parallel,"
too, where will he find, even if lie goes back to
distant and barbarous ages," that a sovereign
behaved, as we have American testimony for
asserting, that Mr. Madison, " the commanderin-chief of the armies of the United States,"
did behave, at, or rather before, the battle of
Bladensburg ?
But Mr. Madison himself must issue his " Proclamation ;" t dated from " Washington," too, the
seat of empire," which lie, only six days before,
had abandoned, to seek " an ,,asylum among
the hills, west of the great falls." The five
day's march of our troops, including the battle
in which he set so bright an example, he calls a
"! sudden incursion," He then ventures to state
the American troops at Bladensburg, as " less
numerous" than their British opponents. This
is excellent. Admitting that, the British were
in possession of Washington " for a single day'
(and night) only," were the 4000 American
troops, drawn up in full view of the destruction
of " the costly monuments of state," led forth.
by Mr. Madison, or led forth at all, to drive the;
British away ? " We destroyed," he says, " the
t'z-"
• •
• Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 789. t App., No. 70.
"

,

* App, No. 68.:
+ James's, Naval Occurrences, p. 383.
Now president of the United States. § App. No. 69.

303

304 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

public- edifices, having no relation in their
structure to operations of war, nor used at the
time for military annoyance." Was it no "
litary annoyance," to kill one soldier and wound
three, and, by mere accident, not to kill the
British commanding general ? Where was the
war declared, but in the " senate-chamber and
representative-hall," contained within the Capitol ? What enforced " military annoyance,'
or gave life to the " operations of war," but the
dollars in the " treasury-office" ? On the other
hand, " the patent-office," in which were collected the rarest specimens of the arts of the
country, having no relation to the " operations of
war," was not, in the slightest degree, injured.•
Who, when colonel Campbell, of the United
States' army, destroyed the dwelling-house and
other buildings of a Canadian inhabitant, de.
dared the act to have been " according to the
usages of war," t because a troop of British
dragoons had just fled from them ? Why then
was not the destruction of the president's palace,
from which a company of American artillery,
with two field-pieces, had just fled, equally
" according to the usages of war" ? The only
surprise is, that the American government should
have so well succeeded in hood-winking the
people of Europe. One British editor rates his
-

* Sketches of the War p p. 3 .36.
+ See p. 111.

4

GREAT 'BRITAIN _"AND AMERICA.
-.

303

ferocious countrymen; for " having levelled
with the dUst the splendid palaces and .sumptuous edifices by which the city of Washington
was so libera14.- einhellished.' "This can but
raise.a smile ; -especially upon a reference to the
e.stirnated value of these•".Splendid fialaces."!
We shall forbear to notice the long account of
" the extent of devastation practised :-.by the
victors" at■ Washington, which has .,found !. its
way into that faithful record of frays; • murders,
i

-

-

,

births, marriages, and deaths, but certainly not
of historical events, the Annual Register for
1814 ;" and thence, of course, into most of the
prints of the :United States. But .what.was
there done by the British at Washington, that
could provoke an .eminent parliamentary orator
to.describe their proceedings as " so abhOrrent,
so inconsistent with the habits of a free and generous people ;—so to be hated and detested,
'condemned and abjured" ?t " In burning
Washington," says this same speaker, " we had
acted worse than the Goths, when they were
before the walls of Rome." In another place
he talks of " the pillage of private property." t
What a pity this gentleman did not read even
the whole of the American accounts, before he
ventured to sanction, with his respectable name
* App. No. 67.
+ Parliamentary Proceedings, November 8, 1814,
VOL, II.

X