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.