Benedict, Maryland: A Secret Letter, July 17, 1814

The river port of Benedict on the Patuxent River in southern Maryland was founded in 1683 and named for Benedict Leonard Calvert (1700-1731) the Proprietory Governor of Maryland. The former tobacco port still retains its small hamlet look and the fields where the British encamped are still to be seen along the river. Several British incursions had taken place along the river with the lucrative prize lure of  “Upper Patuxent tobacco” numbering in the thousands of hogsheads either taken, burnt or sent adrift down the river. Such raids created a substantial loss of export revenue to Maryland and the destruction of farms.

Since June of 1814 the Patuxent River had become a constant tarket for British raiding parties. They landed at Benedict  where some heavy skirmishing took place. It would appear intelligence was gained and taken to Rear-Admiral Cockburn.  One resident wrote, “I found the whole country in a state of alarm..” Once the British had left, Maryland militia arrived in town to counter any threat and established Camp Benedict.

On July 17, 1814, a month before the main invasion fleet with Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane arrived in the Patuxent River from Bermuda, Rear-Admiral George Cockburn sent a secret letter to Admiral Cochrane:, The letter is dated: “HMS Albion off Jerome Point, Chesapeake, 17 July 1814.”

“…I feel no hesitation in stating to you that I consider the Town of Benedict in the Patuzent River to offer us advantages for this purpose beyond any other spot within the United States. It is, I am infoirmed, only 44 or 45 miles from Washington and there is a high road between the two places, which tho hilly is good…I therefore firmly beleive that within 48 hours after the arrival in the Patuxent of such force as you expect, the City of Washington might be possessed without difficulty or opposition of any kind…The army on their arrival would be sure of good quarters in the Town of Benedict, and a rich country around it to afford the necessary immediate supplies….”

On August 19th the main invasion force accompanying Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane arrived landed troops along a three mile shoreline of the Patuxent. The view must have been magnificant, the great sails of 46 ships, colorful pennants from the top masts, barges and small craft carrying the troops ashore, columns forming on the beach, and camp being place.  Tw0 days later the British army set off for Washington D.C., and as Admiral George Cockburn had predicted there was little “opposition of any kind” from the Americans.

Source: George Cockburn Papers, MSS18794, Reels 1-9, Library of Congress; Baltimore Patriot, June 25, 1814.

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Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 9:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

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