A Letter Home: Rear-Admiral Pulteney Malcolm, RN., to his wife Clementia, 10-16, September 1814.

Sir Pulteney Malcolm

Sir Pulteney Malcolm. Painted by Samuel Lane. Engraved by Wm. Ward, engraver to His Majesty

During the Battle for Baltimore, 12-14 September 1814, Rear-Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm (1768-1838), admiral of the Blue Squadron on board HM ship-of-the-line Royal Oak was anchored off North Point the embarkation site of the British army ten miles below Fort McHenry. At the time he began his letter, making additions as the days passed, the British fleet of 50 warships proceeded up the Chesapeake from their naval base at Tangier Island,Virginia towards Baltimore. Malcolm was third in command at Baltimore following Vice-Admiral Alexander I.F. Cochrane and Rear-Admiral Sir George Cockburn.

“…we are now going to Baltimore – my principle objection is the sickly season, and its being to[o] short for a Coup de Main – I wish that we had gone to the North for two months and then returned – the Americans in general are very averse to the war[.] they have nothing to do to animate them, and their only pleasure is railing at each other, which they do to perfection – the wind is fair and I shall be at the mouth of the Patapsco [River] to night. I trust we shall succeed, but I fear our information is not sufficiently correct the Admiral [Cochrane] has been over persuaded to change his plan of directions – and I think so has has [sic] the General [Ross] by [Rear Admiral] Cockburn and the Quarter Master General, both dashing, sanguine Men, full of Zeal and enterprise but sail rather fast.

 16th Sept. – We landed on the 12th fourteen miles from Baltimore at North point – I took leave of the General about five or six miles on the road, at two o’clock – at three the Enemy were discovered and just as our Troops were formed an unfortunate Ball struck my esteemed and gallant friend – the only words he spoke – were [“]take me to the Royal Oak and if I die request the Admiral to write my wife,[”] I sincerely lament him[.] I had formed a strong friendship for him and it was reciprocal[.] he was not only a brave, but he was a good man[.]

he was always in the front, at Washington he escaped by miracle, he had two Horses shot under him…. he died on his way to the beach in the arms of a Lieut of the Royal Oak who had always accompanied him, I have had his Body preserved, and we propose burying him at Hallifax and erecting a Monument.

 Our Army defeated the Americans but on their approach to Baltimore they found it defended by a strong entrenched Camp with double their numbers to defend it – we had got within shot of the Batteries – but they had sunk ships to prevent our approach – our Bombs could only throw Shells into the Forts[.] they could not reach the Town – Sir. A. Cochrine [Cochrane] was in the [frigate] Surprise and your friend in the Sea Horse with [Captain James] Gordon as fine a fellow as ever step’d[.]

It became a question wither the Camp should be stormed – it was considered that we might force the works, but that our loss would be more than our little Army could stand – it was therefore resolved to retreat which they did and embarked without molestation – If the General had lived he would have retreated, and there is only this to be said that on approaching Baltimore it was found to[o] strong and we [gave up] the enterprise having beat a superior force on the road – My own opinion it that if it had be[en] attacked in the night by the Bayonet it should have succeeded but it was a greater risk than Col. [Arthur] Brooke was authorized to run – he is a very good officer, we have not lost many men – they all did their duty famously – the Seamen were particularly-steady – six hundred of them were on shore

 …. I begin to hold up my head, but this war must not continue[.] we should make Peace as soon as possible[.] I shall write you by the Packet my kind Love…ever yours Pult. Malcolm

This excerpt is from a wonderful letter in the collections of the Maryland State Archives and is an illuminating insight to our understanding of the Battle for Baltimore and the death of General Ross. The letter was acquired by the Archives as a gift from the Friends of Maryland State Archives made possible by Robert Gordon. The transcription was provided by Maria Day and Jean Russo.

Further evidence concerning the death of Major General Ross that corresponds with the above discovery is from the Captain’s Log of HMS Royal Oak that states on September 12: “At 9 p.m. Lieut. Haynes came on board with the body of Major General Ross Killed in Action with the enemy near Baltimore. Midnight Moderate and Cloudy.”  The lieutenant the letter refers to was a Lieutenant Haynes.

The next day September 13: “…Expended 129 Gallons of Rum to preserve the Corpse of Major General Ross. Midnight. Moderate and Cloudy.” 

SOURCE:  SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Fort McHenry Bombardment Collection) Rear-Admiral Pulteney Malcolm, Near Baltimore, at sea,  Letter to Mrs. [Clementia] Malcolm, No. 2 Upper Harley St., London, Sept 10-16, 1814,  MSA SC 5968-1-1.;  “A Log of the Proceedings of H.M. Ship Royal Oak, Joseph Pearce, Esq. Captain between the 6th September 1814 and 6th March 1815.”  (ADM 51/2760, , Captains Log, HMS Royal Oak, Public Records Office, The National Archives).

Published in: on October 18, 2011 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

The London Times vs. Baltimore

In the fall of 1813 American privateers, especially those from Baltimore became a serious threat to British merchantmen on the Atlantic amd West Indies causing the insurance rates, economy and ship owners of England to put pressure on the Royal Navy to chastise the Americans. In September 1813 The London Evening Star published the following:

“The American Navy must be annihilated – her arsenals and dock-yards must be consumed; and the turbulent inhabitants of Baltimore must be tamed with the weapons which shook the wooden turrents of Copenhagen [in 1807]… All the panting about maritime rights, with which the Americans have recently nauseated the ears of every cabinet minister in Europe, must be silenced by the strong and manly voice of reason- the utima ration regum, paradoxial as it may seem, is here the only remedy – and America must be BEATEN INTO SUBMISSION! The law of nations have been always the law of the strongest – England is, therefore the DICTATOR of the maritime laws of the civilized world, and long may she retain her superiority! ”  London Evening Star, September 1813.”

In September 1814 the British would launch a naval and military attack on Baltimore.

Published in: on September 20, 2011 at 4:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Reward: Admiral George Cockburn’s Ears

By the summer of 1813 Rear Admiral George Cockburn had with his royal naval squadron raided up and down the Chesapeake Bay, destroying, burning and in effect pillaging the region that he became the most hated British naval officer in America. On August

Too much British.- A certain James O. Boyle, “naturalized Irishman,” as he calls himself, residing at Pugh Town, Va., offers a reward of one thousand dollars for the head of “the notorious incendiary and infamous scroundrel, an dviolator [of] all laws, human and divine, the British admiral COCKBURN – or, five hundred dollars for each of his ears, on delivery.”

I do not know what Mr. O. Boyle could make of the ears of Cockburn to requite the expenditure. Brig. gen. Proctor, who has more experience in the value of head skins that any one else, only gives six dollars for a whole scalp. Perhaps, as commodore Chauncey briught away the trophy suspended in the legislative hall of Upper Canada (the scalp of a female). Mr. O. Boyle designs to supply its loss with ears of a monster.”

Niles’ Weekly Register (Baltimore),  August 21, 1813

Published in: on August 21, 2011 at 7:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Promotion for Major George Armistead, U.S.Army

On September 20, 1814, President James Madison sent a letter to Major George Armistead with a breveted promotion of lieutenant-colonel to date from September 12, 1814. The actual letter has never been found, though the following was posted in the Baltimore Federal Gazette on September 26, 1814.

We are much gratified by having it in our power to announce, that the President of the United States has evidenced his approbation of the gallant conduct of Major George Armistead of the corps of artillery as commander of Fort McHenry, during the late attack and bombardment, by giving him a brevet appointment of Lieut. Colonel in the Army of the U. States.” 

Published in: on August 8, 2011 at 9:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Division Orders, Third Division, M.M., August 19, 1814.

On August 19, 1814 British naval and military forces landed at Benedict, Maryland on the Patuxent River and began their march towars Upper Marlboro and finally Washington. D.C.

The enemy have appeared in great force off the mouth of the Potomac, their movements appear to be up the bay. Orders have been issued from the President of the United States directing the third brigade to be called into federal service. Therefore ordered, that the whole brigade be held in readiness for actual service, that they parade at 4 o’clock this day, completely armed and equipped.

The quarter masters of the respective regiments, will draw their cartridges, and every box will be filled upon the ground. The men for the present will quarter at their respective homes. The reveille will beat at gun firing every morning when the regiments will assemble and train by regiment until 8 o’clock; they will again assemble at 4 o’clock, and train until seven o’clock.

On the alarm guns being fired, the regiments will meet on their respective parade grounds, and await further orders. The Third Brigade is now in the pay of the United States, in service subject to the articles of war.

By ordered. MAJ. GEN. SMITH

Isaac McKim, First Aid de Camp, 3rd division, M.M.

Published in: on August 5, 2011 at 8:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mendes I.Cohen – Defender of Fort McHenry

On May 7, 1879 Mendes I. Cohen, one of the Old Defenders of  Baltimore in 1814  died at the age of 83 years in Baltimore. He was the younger of two other brothers, Jacob I. and Philip Cohen all of whom served in the War of 1812 in the defense of Baltimore. He served as a private in Captain Joseph H. Nicholson’s U.S. Volunteer artillery company, the Baltimore Fencibles. He was one of the original stockholders in the Holiday Street Theatre where soon after the bombardment of Fort McHenry, “The Star-Spangled Banner ” was first sung in public.

One of his , if not most important contributions to the State of Maryland was to have the 1825 Jew Bill approved and passed by the Mayland Legislature to allow Jews to hold public office as well as in the Maryland Militia where he was elected captain of the Maron Rifles, a city volunteer company. He served as vice-president of the Hebrew Benevolent Association and director of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and the Firemen’s Insurance Company.

In later years he visited Europe on three ocassions visit the sites of the Middle East. In September 1873 at the age of seventy-nine  made his last visit to Fort McHenry being one of the last surviving members of the Baltimore Fencibles and defenders of Fort McHenry.

Source: “The Late Mendes I. Cohen,” The Sun, May 8, 1878.

Published in: on July 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

First Troop, True Republican Blues, 9th Cavalry District, 6th Brigade, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties, 1813-14

The news was astounding, By the June 30, 1807 nearly everyone had read in the Talbot County Republican Star and Eastern Shore Advertiser that HMS Leopard had fired a warning shot and boarded the U.S. Frigate Chesapeake off Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Star stated that “We know not, indeed, that this savage outrage has a precedent in naval annuals.” For the residents of the Eastern Shore it was personal. One of the three American sailors taken off and impressed into British service was mariner John Stachan, a native of Queen Anne’s County who had enlisted onboard two years earlier.

The country’s honor as a sovereign republic had been approached. All across the Eastern Shore militia companies were formed and elect commissioned officers received. The best known militia companies raised were the First Troop, True Republican Blues of Queen Anne’s County. On August 25, 1813 a notice was posted for “those persons who have already associated for the purpose of forming a TROOP OF HORSE to meet at the Talbot County courthouse.”

In February 11, 1813, the Maryland Legislature passed “A supplement to the act, entitled, An Act to Regulate & Discipline the Militia of this State,” that reorganized the separate cavalry troops attached to each of the eleven brigades into eleven cavalry Regimental Districts within the state. Each district was to be composed of two squadrons of two troops each, commanded by a lieutenant colonel, each squadron a major, each troop consisting of forty-eight officers and enlisted men of the following: 1 captain, 2 lieutenants, 1 quartermaster sergeant, 4 sergeants, 4 corporals, a farrier, 1 saddler, 1 trumpeter and 32 privates.

 Lt. Colonel Edward Lloyd commanding the troop called together the non-commissions officers four times a year to drill exercise and each regiment shall meet in the fall, and each squadron to meet in the spring, and each troop to meet eight times a year.

Sources: Republican Star, April 7, June 30, August 4, 25, 1807.

Published in: on July 5, 2011 at 10:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

HMS Volcano and the Carcasses Red Glare: September 1814

The bombs and rockets that are commemorated in our national anthem were not the creation of Francis Scott Key’s imagination, in 1814, the bomb was the most potent weapon and the rocket the most spectacular in Britain’s naval arsenal. Another weapon used against Fort McHenry, which is not mentioned in Mr. Key’s song was the carcass shell. It was the fireball of Captain David Price’s bomb ship, HMS Volcano, one of five bomb ships employed by the British during the naval bombardment of Fort McHenry on September 13-14,1814.

Like the 13-inch bomb shell, the carcass was a hollow cast iron spherical shell weighing 190 pounds. It differed from the exploding “bomb bursting in air” in that it was intended to set buildings on fire. It also proved useful at night, as the projectile while burning, assisted in aiming other shells. Instead of one vent hole for a single fuse, the carcass had three openings, each two inches in diameter, filled with an incendiary composition that upon firing burned for eleven minutes after being launched from the bomb ship two miles distance from Fort McHenry. Its trajectory a mile into the sky, then on its downward plunge over the Fort would on impact upon a building and set it on fire.

In the late evening hours of September 13th, the final entry of HMS Volcano’s log for that day indicated the number of shells expended since 12 Noon:

 “10 [p.m.] heavy rain with squalls, furled sails, firing at intervals. Midnight rain. Fired 72 13-inch & 70 10-inch shells & 4 carcasses”

With a total of 146 shells thrown in a twelve hour period, HMS Volcano alone had expended shells of 10 and 13-inch caliber, at intervals of one every five minutes. A survey of the other bomb vessels showed no entries of carcasses being fired. If the British had captured Fort McHenry and sailed past the Fort, the carcass would have been used to set many of Baltimore’s wooden structures on fire. During the centennial observance in 1914, one of the carcasses was mounted on a granite pedestal which may be seen today in the parks Visitor Center, serving as a reminder of what may have happened if the events of September 1814 had turned in favor of the British.

Published in: on June 28, 2011 at 12:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Major General Samuel Smith (1752-1839)

On April 22, 1839 Major General Samuel Smith, veteran of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 in which he commanded the Third Dividion of Maryland Militia during the Battle ofor Baltimore in September 12-14, 1814. Of the many obituaries this one from the Baltimore Sun is sufficient to draw attention to his many public services to the State of Maryland and the City of Baltimore. 

Death of General Smith. General Samuel Smith, died at his residence [Montebello] yesterday afternoon, at 5 o’clock, in the 88th year of his age. He was a man of whom Baltimore was justly proud. A brave soldier, a sound statesman, and an honorable high-minded patriot; he ever obeyed the call of his country, and in two wars fought her battles, and in peace aided her in the legislature councils. Elected as mayor of the city, for his services in having restored the city from a state of anarchy in good order and respect for the laws, he labored by every means that a debilitated frame would permit, to perform the duties of his office.

It was the last public honor conferred upon him, and it was one springing from the reverence of his fellow citizens for his virtue and integrity. He has lived to see the country for whose freedom he battled, a great and powerful nation, and the city he defended from the pollution of a foreign foe [during the War of 1812], rising to the height of opulence and prosperity. His long life has been well spent, and his name will be inscribed among the greatest of the American patriots – his memory revered, and his services remembered with gratitude. As a mark of respect, it is suggested that the flags of the public buildings and shipping be displayed at  half-mast today, and until his corpse is consigned to the tomb [in Westminster Cemetery in downtown Baltimore].”

Source: The Sun (Baltimore), April 23, 1839.

Published in: on June 27, 2011 at 6:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hampstead Hill: The Bulwark of Baltimore’s Defense, September 1814.

In late August 1814, soon after the capture of Washington by the British expeditioanry forces, Baltimoreans began to erect a line of earthen entrenchments to protect the expected advance of the British army from the Philadelphia Road (Rt. 40). The length of the entrenchments and redoubts upon Hampstead or Londenslager’s Hill (today Patterson Park), stretched from the waterfront Sugar House in Fell’s Point near Harris Creek, northward to the Belair Road (Rt. 1), a distance of one mile.

The arrival of Commodore John Rodgers naval brigade from Philadelphia on August 26 of 350 U.S. Marines and sailors from the frigate Guerriere gave the city hope of a defense. Around this corps of veteran naval veterans, Major General Samuel Smith gathered the  15,000 arriving  militia from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland. These troops gave support to the train of thrity-four field guns that crested the defense lines upon Hampstead Hill.

In 1857, forty-three years after the War of 1812, a Baltimore Sun correspondent remembered:

“The length of the breastworks…were arranged several efffective semi-cirular batteries, well mounted with cannon and ably manned, some of them by volunteer artillery companies of Baltimore, and others by sailors and men of war’s men, whilst the spaces which intervened between the batteries were occupied by the county militia and portions of the militia from adjacent states, who had patriotically hastened to the assistance of their beleaguered fellow-citizens of Baltimore. And, in addition to the forces already mentioned, nearly all of the Baltimore [3rd]brigade, composed of cavalry, artillery, riflemen and infantry, to the number of more than three thousand men, were assigned positions in and about these entrenchments.”

The only surviving trace of these entrenchments is a horseshoe shaped earthen redoubt immediately to the eastern front of the 1890 Japanese pogoda that occupied the site of the center of the American lines in 1814.

Source: The Sun (Baltimore), September 15, 1857. Report of Major General Samuel Smith, September 9, 1814. Samuel Smith Papers, Library of Congress.

Published in: on June 27, 2011 at 12:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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