Dr. William Beanes arrives onboard HM Brig Thetis, August 28, 1814.

New Discoveries & New Interpretations of the War in the Chesapeake.
For nearly 200 years the story that Dr. William Beanes of Upper Marlborough, Md., who was taken prisoner from his home by the retreating British forces from Washington, D.C. in August 1814, was placed onboard Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane’s ship-of-the-line flagship HMS Tonnant has been told to readers of history and former historians.

A recent discovered letter written by Dr. William Beanes about his personal ordeal, now allows us to interpret the real updated story – that having been taken several miles away to the Patuxent River, where the British fleet had anchored, he was placed initially – not onboard the admiral’s flagship – but onboard HMS Brig Thetis with runaway slaves from Prince Georges County and later transferred to yet another ship. He remained on this last vessel until finally transferred on September 7 to the American flag-of-truce sloop-packet the President along with lawyer Francis Scott Key and Colonel John Stuart Skinner, U.S. State Department prisoner of war exchange agent.

Sources: Withheld until formally published.

See the depostions regarding Harriet Brooke at: Claim of Harriet Brooke, Calvert County, Case No. 660, Case Files. Ca. 1814-28, entry 190, Record Group 76, National Archives, College Park reproduced in:

http://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc5300/sc5339/000243/000000/000002/restricted/msa_sc_5339_243_2-0082.pdf

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“Why, in the name of God, have we no part of the Maryland Regiments…to save us from destruction…”

In the last campaigns of the fall of 1813,  British warships under the command of Captain Robert Barrie of  H.M. ship-of-the-line Dragon continue to carry our numerous raids on the southern western shores of Maryland. Throughout the summers of 1813-14 the British raided along the Patuxent-Potomac rivers and the islands of Blackistone and St. George’s (November 1814). In a letter dated November 6, 1813 a gentleman farmer in St. Mary’s County  informed his friend in Washington of the predatory British raids:

“Once more we are thrown on the tempestuous waves of predatory war. The enemy have again appeared to harass and annoy us. The most terrible evil, however, is the destruction of negroes, which is extending to a ruinous and most alarming extent. Between one and two hundred have joined the fleet in the last week. If the war continues a year longer, all our men of property will be entirely ruined. Why, in the name of God, have we no part of the Maryland Regiments sent from Washington to save us from destruction…”

Source: Engine of Liberty and Uniontown Advertiser (Maryland), November 6, 1813.

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 5:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

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.

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