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).