By August of 1814 there were numerous reports of additional 8-15,000 fresh regiments on their way to America, destined as rumors spread, for the Chesapeake to join Major General Robert Ross. To command was to be Lieutenant-General Rowland Hill, the Duke of Wellington’s most trusted officer and like General Ross veteran of the Peninsula campaigns. Hill was held in high esteem by his officer corps as well as the soldiers.
At a London dinner General Hill suggested such a command would be “sufficient to chastise the Yankees, and bring the war to a speedy termination.” Hill though had not desired the appointment “though it will be politic to keep up the idea of a large force going to America.” On 10 August Earl Bathurst, Secretary of State in London informed Hill that it was not to be. However before news would arrive in America the Battle of Bladensburg would have been fought and an attack on Baltimore eminent. The Niles Weekly Register informed its readers on 24 August that Lord Hill was to have “more fresh regiments on the way.”
Baltimore, fearful for a second assault, despite the repulse of the British on 14 September made preparations for a British military reinforcement expedition that never came to be. By 17 September Admiral Cochrane was still expecting reinforcements. Writing to Lord Melville “…the ball is at our feet, – and give me but Six thousand Men – Including a Rifle and Cavalry Regt., and I will engage to master every Town South of Philadelphia and keep the Whole Coast in such a State of Alarm, as soon to bring the Most Obstinate upon their Marrow bones.” Such were the rumors of the day. Smith kept the militia at Baltimore until 15 November just in case.
Sources: The Life of Lord Hill, G.C.B. Late Commander of the Forces by Edwin Sidney (London: John Murray, 1845); Baltimore Patriot, October 15, 26, 1814.
Dr. James Haines McCulloh, Jr., (1793-1869) a Maryland native received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania on July 17, 1814 and subsequently received a commission in the U.S. Army as Garrison Surgeon at Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor. On the morning of September 13, 1814 he became the first American officer to visit the North Point battlegrounds while still being occupied by British forces, treating the wounded, and caring for the dead. McCulloh was first American officer to receive the news of the death of Major General Robert Ross, R.A. Below is his official medical report to Major General Samuel Smith on September 14, 1814 that provide the first American account of the North Point Battlefield after the action.
McCulloh mistakenly noted the 12th when he visited the battlegrounds, actually it was the morning of the 13th.
Sir, Baltimore, Sept 14, 1814
I left the trenches on Hampstead Hill about 6 o’clock on the morning of the 12th  Inst. & in about an hour fell in with the British picquet who were about a mile in advance from the Battle ground of the [13th] Inst. I was immediately received & carried to their quarters of the Officers who commanded the picquet who very politely requested me to remain in his quarters until he could advertise the commanding General of my coming. This was immediately done & a surgeon of the nay ordered to direct me to any wounded countrymen. Within about 200 yards in the rear of a red house, I believe called Cooks House [Tavern]. I saw the riflemen & Light troops advancing in no great order & with the interval of 3 or 4 feet between each man. At a short distance behind the centre of this
advanced line came two pieces of Artillery brass 9 Pdr & one howitzer. I afterwards passed the several columns that had halted while I passed. I think I may safely believe there were between 6 & 7000 troops – soldiers, marines, seamen & perhaps 200 blacks in the British uniform. I was then shewn the Meeting House in which some of our wounded men lay along with a few British.
And not finding my father here I instantly requested permission to go over the field of battle which was granted & one of the surgeons accompanied me. On reaching the field of action, the surgeon promised me the use of some letters to bring the wounded in which were somewhat easier than carrying. To procure these litters it was necessary we should pass over the ground which the British had met with the most serious opposition. I think there were at least 300 killed & wounded. In my view with the red uniform from the men who brought in my wounded I understood Gen’l [Robert] Ross was killed
which was in part confirmed by one of their surgeons telling me Gen’l Ross was shot through the lungs. In the cover of a few hours I had all the wounded brought in which were 28 in number. 2 of these died in the course of the night after. I had dressed them & extracted their balls, one of which was a grape. Towards evening a number of seamen came up from the shipping with cartridges in kegs & slung across their backs. Most of the seamen had white rags tied on their right arms. In the evening their whole body of men had left the Meeting House on the march to town, excepting a few marines about 9 or 10. That night there were a great number of men around the Meeting House & who I suppose marched on. After the main body about 11 or 12 o’clock [p.m.] between 6 & 7 next morning [13th] the whole army appeared in sight bring along with them what I supposed they had carried up with them in the night with large saws such as are used in sawing planks, pick-axes
spades &c., I have _____ Admiral or General Cockburn for he appeared to be called one or the other indifferently & Colonel or as greatly styled General Brooke. Admiral Cockburn appeared to have the command & with him I especially was conceived brought the parole & exchange of our wounded fellow citizens. He also mentions to me that in the course of a few hours they would draw in their pickets & that I would pass unmolested to procure my horse for coming up home I had to follow a lieutenant to the beach where the wounded were embarked & was there told the last of their men had now to go on board. I left them as soon as possible & rode up to town on my way & opposite Cook’s House [Tavern] I met some U.S. Dragoons [Captain John Bird’s] & perhaps a regiment of [Pennsylvania] militia had they arrived an hour sooner they must have unavoidably been engaged in battle. I must here give the British troops the character of having behaved in the most gentlemanly & attentive manner to their wounded prisoners & of not having
in a single instance as far as I could learn treated them with inhumanity or neglect making no difference between their & our own wounded. The conference I had with General Brooke relative to the water said to have been poisoned I have formerly mentioned to you. Though I only mention 28 of our wounded there were many more laying at the farm houses, etc., in the neighborhood which I did not leave until arrangements had been made for transporting them to the city. The reason the British troops did not attack our trenches was that they considered the position too strong & the hill being slippery in consequence of the heavy rain. Some officers told me that Admiral Cockburn wished to storm our lines & that the seamen had volunteered for the purpose but Gen’l Brooke would not acquiesce in his arrangement
The troops could have been easily surprised and cut down by our cavalry at almost anytime that I was with them. Their arms were stacked in the woods & the men roaming at large & firing with the muskets found in the woods at cattle, pigs, etc., the consequence of which would have been that the picquts could not have alarmed the main body with their firing & an enterprising & spirited corps of 1000 horsemen I think might have routed & surprised their whole force. This as far as I can recollect are all circumstances worthy of being noted. And I conclude with my acknowledgements to you for interest you appeared to feel for our wounded countrymen & the speedy assistance procured for them.
I have the Honor to be, Yours Jas. McCulloh, Jr. Garrison Surgeon, U.S. Army.
[Source: Samuel Smith Papers, Library of Congress.]
After the war McCulloh was assigned to Fort Detroit (Michigan) from April-November 15, 1815, until he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on 24 April 1816. After the war, be began a lifelong serious pursuit of the studies of archeological and anthropological, becoming a respected author of several treatises and books on the origins of native Indians of Central America and in 1822, became curator of the Maryland Academy of Sciences. He died in Baltimore on December 27, 1869. Grave site unknown.
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).
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
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.
“Their conduct was marked by great spirit and vivacity, and perfect obedience.”
Captain James Ross, HMS Albion, May 29, 1814.
On April 2, 1814, Admiral John B. Warren having been relieved, Vice-Admiral Alexander I.F. Cochrane took command of the British North American Station and issued the following to encourage those blacks or settlers who so desired to imigrate or enlist in his Majesty’s forces (Corps of Colonial Marines). Within the year an estimated 300 runaway slaves having escaped their masters plantations on the Chesapeake tidewater.
PROCLAMATION OF VICE ADMIRAL SIR ALEXANDER F.I. COCHRANE, R.N.
By the Honorable Sir ALEXANDER COCHRANE, K.B. Vice Admiral of the Red, and Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Ships and Vessels, upon the North American Station, &c, &c, &c.
WHEREAS, it has been represented to me, that many Persons now resident in the UNITED STATES, have expressed a desire to withdraw therefrom, with a view of entering into His Majesty’s Service, or of being received as Free Settlers into some of His Majesty’s Colonies.
This is therefore to Give Notice,
That all those who may be disposed to emigrate from the UNITED STATES will, with their Families, be received on board His Majesty’s Ships or Vessels of War, or at the Military Posts that may be established, upon or near the Coast of the UNITED STATES, when they will have their choice of either entering into His Majesty’s Sea or Land Forces, or of being sent as FREE settlers to the British Possessions in North America or the West Indies, where they will meet with due encouragement.
Given under my Hand at Bermuda, this 2nd day of April, 1814, ALEXANDER COCHRANE.
By Command of the Vice Admiral, WILLIAM BALHETCHET. GOD SAVE THE KING.
Source: Proclamation, April 2, 1814. Admiralty Archives 1/508,579, London Public Records Office. Printed in Easton, Md., Republican Star, May 3, 1814.
“She is, perhaps the most beautiful vessel that ever floated on the ocean…She has carried terror and alarm through the W. Indies…and frequently chased by British vessels…” Niles’ Weekly Register, 1815
The Chasseur ’was launched at the Thomas Kemp’s shipyard at Fell’s Point on December 12, 1812, described as a topsail-schooner-rigged, sharp-built vessel documented for a letter-of-marque. After two rather unsuccessful voyages she was sold at auction deliverable in New York. She had a new captain, well known in Fell’s Point, Captain Thomas Boyle (1775-1825) who had commanded the private armed vessel Comet a year before. She cleared New York on July 24 and charted her course to the English coast.
Having learned that the British admiralty had proclaimed the U.S. east coast under strict naval blockade, they having such great naval forces, Captain Boyle sent his own blockade proclamation into London. It was taken in by a captured an English merchantman and posted at the maritime insurance firm of Lloyd’s of London for all to see. The audacious proclamation read:
BY THOMAS BOYLE, ESQUIRE; COMMANDER OF THE PRIVATE ARMED BRIG CHASSEUR
Whereas, it has been customary with the admirals of Great Britain commanding small forces on the coast of the United States, particularly with Sir John Borlase Warren and Sir Alexander Cochrane to declare the coast of the said United States in a state of rigorous blockade, without possessing the power to justify such a declaration, or stationing an adequate force to command such a blockade.
I do, therefore, by virtue of the power and authority in me vested (possessing sufficient force) declare all the ports, harbors, bays, creeks rivers, inlets, outlets, island and sea coast of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in a state of strict and rigorous blockade, and I do further declare that I consider the forces under my command adequate to maintain strictly, rigorously and effectually, the said blockade.
And, I do hereby require the respective officers, whether captains or commanding officers, under my command, employed or to be employed on the coast of England, Ireland and Scotland, to pay strict attention to this my proclamation.
And, I hereby caution and forbid the ships and vessels and every nation, in amity and peace with the United States, from entering or attempting to come out of any of the said ports, harbors, bays, creeks, rivers, inlets, islands, or sea coasts, on or under my pretense whatever; and that no person may plead ignorance of this my proclamation, I have ordered the same to be made public in England.
Given under my hand on board the Chasseur. By the commanding Officer, THOMAS BOYLE, J.B. STANSBURY, SECRETARY.
Sources: The Republic’s Private Navy: The American Privateering Business as practiced by Baltimore during the War of 1812, by Jerome R. Garitee (Mystic Seaport, 1977); Tom Boyle: Master Privateer by Fred W. Hopkins, Jr. (Tidewater, MD., 1976); The Fell’s Point Story by Norman G. Ricket (Baltimore: Bodine & Associates, Inc., 1976).
On August 14, 1814, onboard HM frigate Menalaus, Captain Sir Peter Parker reported he had anchored his ship off Maryland’s Eastern Shore opposite Annapolis unnoticed, while two of his officers rowed in a ships boat six miles across the bay and went ashore to reconnoiter the town. One of the officers, Lt. Benjamin Benyon, a Royal Marine commented that “… the Town is very pretty, the finest building is the State House which is in the centre of the Town, its built of brick, on the top of it is a large dome, this erected by the great Washington. This Town is well fortified, there are three thousand troops in it…”
Captain Parker informed the admiral that “…I may with safety give it as my opinion that Annapolis would face a very easy conquest (Two of my Officers walked round Fort Madison in the Night without being discovered.)…” That the officers and seamen had crossed the bay, approached Fort Madison, landed and walked freely unnoticed, suggest that the harbor defenses were not properly being guarded. Certainly a stronger presence should have been posted when a large British expeditionary forces had just entered the Patuxent River and eventually marched towards the U.S. Capitol.
Sources: Captain Peter Parker, RN, to Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane, August 30, 1814; Journal Kept during the Years 1813-1814 aboard HMS Menelaus, By Lieutenant Benjamin G. Benyon, RM;. (Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio).
On November 15, 1813 onboard His Majesty’s Ship-of-the-Line Albion at 9 a.m., in the Chesapeake, a naval court martial was executed upon a Thomas Budd, Ordinary Seaman. He was “Sentenced to receive three hundred and fifty lashes on his bare back with a Cat-of Nine Tails alongside such ship or ships…” A boat with a lieutenant onboard was to attend and see the execution was carried into effect. “I would not have more of the Punishment inflicted at one time on the Prisoner that he may be able to bear…whenever the Surgeon shall give it as his opinion that the said Prisoner cannot bear more with safety…”
The following ships are to carry their flogging allotment as the Prisoner was carried and the punishment effected onboard His Majesty’s ships; HMS Ruby, HMS Mohawk, HMS Picton, and HMS St. Lawrence. It is very likely he expired soon after his first lashes which had the effect the Admiral desire – the consequences for desertion.
By Orders, Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, HMS Albion, November 12, 1813.
Source: Papers of Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, Library of Congress.
“MARYLAND INVADED…it appears the enemy have taken possession of Kent Island, and that the inhabitants of every description have removed to the main land…From the circumstance of landing cannon on Kent Island, it appears to be the intention of the enemy to keep possession of it for some time; and certainly a more eligible situation could not have been selected for their own safety and convenience or from which to annoy us.” Captain Charles Gordon, U.S.N., August 13, 1813.
On August 5, 1813, British boats carrying the First Battalion Royal Marines and the 102nd Regiment Foot under the command of Colonel Sidney Beckwith, a total of 2,034 soldiers landed and marched overland to the “Narrows,” separating the island from the Eastern Shore. Here they encamped establishing four other encampments at Broad Creek, Parson’s Point, Kent Point, and Kent Island Narrows with their field headquarters at the home of Thomas Harrison’s estate of “Belleview” near Broad Creek and hoisted a Union Jack over its rooftop.
Admiral John Borlase described Kent Island as a “valuable & beauty Island which is half as large as the Isle of Wright…a central Point between Annapolis, Baltimore, Washington and the Eastern Ports of the State of Maryland..” The British prepared Kent Island from which it would launch raids on St. Michaels (August 10 and 26) and upon Queenstown (August 13). Their occupation on land and with seventeen warships posed a formidable base from which raids could be conducted.
On August 27 the British departed to prepare for winter quarters, then renew their attacks in Maryland the following spring .