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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On August 19, 1814 when the British expeditionary forces landed at Benedict, Maryland General Orders were sent out by Major General Samuel Smith and consequently to those neighboring states of Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania to come to Washington and Baltimore’s defense. With the capture of Washington on August 24, it became apparent the next tarket was Baltimore, thus many of the arriving militia halted at Baltimore and camps were established within a ten mile radius of the city. In Baltimore it soon became a logistical problem to find quarters for the militia, including those from outlying Maryland counties. Major Paul Bentalouu, Quartermaster General stated that “fifteen thousand have assembled and many more are coming in daily.”
The Third Division Quartermaster of Baltimore Major Jeremiah Sullivan, obtained the shelter of numerous ropewalks whose protective sheds, some 1,000 feet long could accomodate 500 troops each. Every available building including fifty-one storied warehouses and dwellings were utilized along the docks, even within the unfinished granite walls of the catholic cathedral rising up on Howard’s Hill (now the Basilica of the Assumption). Here are a few examples: 60th Virginia Regiment – Hadsgis Ropewalk; 56th Virginia Regiment – Piper’s Ropewalk; Pennsylvania Militia - Oliver’s Ropewalk; companies of the 36th, 38th and 14th U.S. Infantry were in tents on Hampstead Hill.
In addition the troops needed food, canteens, knapsacks, cooking kettles, musket cartridges all had to be procured locally. Many companies, some independently arriving from as faraway as Hagerstown, MD., Hanover, PA., and Wilmington, DE., were without muskets or adequte equipage. Within weeks after the Battle for Baltimore, militia companies continued to arrive who had to be accomodated. Such was the scene in Baltimore during the perilous days of September 1814.
Sources: Samuel Smith Papers, Library of Congress, MSS18794, Reel 4, Cont. 5-6.
In the second of two skirmishes that led to the Battle of North Point, Major General Robert Ross, having been shot by members of Captain Edward Aisquith’s First Baltimore Sharp Shooters, who were in the forward advance, was taken in route back to the British landing site. Along the North Point Road, his staff laid the General by the side of the road under a large poplar tree that over hung the roadside. It was here he breathed his last. An entry in the captain’s log of HM Ship-of-the-line Royal Oak states clearly that Ross’ remains arrived onboard that evening at 9 p.m., some eight hours after having been shot.
The tree was situated on the farm of Mr. Vincent Green, a veteran of the battle near the crossroads of North Point Road and present day Wells Avenue. In March of 1844 the venerable old tree was cut down for fear it may fall on an unsuspected traveler. It was known as the “Ross Tree.” “Such was the veneration in which it was held that many individuals secured pieces as relics.”
Sources: The Sun, March 22, 1844; September 8, 1907.