Naval Orders: “the utmost Hostility against the shores of the United States…” April 1814

Vice Admiral Sir Alexander F.I. Cochrane to Rear Admiral George Cockburn, Bermuda, April 28, 1814.

Arriving at Bermuda from London, the newly appointed naval commander-in-chief of the North American Station, replacing Admiral Sir John Warren (1758-1822), Admiral Cochrane (1758-1832) issues his orders to his second in command on the Chesapeake – Rear Admiral George Cockburn (1772-1853), the most hated British naval officer in America. In 1813 Admiral Cockburn attacked with the naval and military forces available to him under Admiral Warren the principal Maryland bay shore towns of Havre-de-Grace (May 3); Fredericktown & Georgetown (May 5), Hampton & Craney Island, Va. (June 24-25), Queenstown (August 10), St. Michaels (August 13, 26). Now in the Spring of 1814 the final  invasion of the Chesapeake is being formulated and placed into effect in June when the expeditionary forces that Admiral Cochrane needs will arrive under Rear-Admiral Pultney Malcolm.

“….You are at perfect liberty as soon as you can muster a Sufficient force, to act with the utmost Hostility against the shores of the United States – Their Government authorizes & directs a most destructive War to be carried on against our Commerce & and we have no means of retaliating but on shore, where they must be made to feel in their Property, what our merchants do in having their Ships destroyed at Sea; & taught to know that they are at the mercy of an invading foe. This is now more necessary in order to draw off their attention from Canada, Where I am told they are sending their whole military force – Their Sea Port Towns laid in Ashes & the Country wasted will be some sort of a retaliation for their savage Conduct in Canada where they have destroyed our Towns, in the most inclement Seasons of the Year; it is therefore but just, that Retaliation shall be made near to the Seat of their Government from whence those Orders emanated, you may depend upon the most cordial Support in whatever you may undertake against the Enemy – …..”

On August 16th the British expeditionary forces arrived in the Chesapeake and on August 19th landed at Benedict, Md., on the lower Patuxent River and marched north to ultimately Washington, D.C. having forced the destruction of  Commodore Joshua Barney’s U.S. Chesapeake Flotilla (August 22) and the humiliating defeat of the hastily formed American army at Bladensburg, Md (August 24).

Sixteen months earlier on April 27-30, 1813 American forces captured York, the provincial capital of Upper Canada and lay waste to the city. Today it is known as Toronto.

Source: LB, UkENL, Alexander F.I. Cochrane Papers, MS 2349, pp. 29-32 National Library of Scotland (Copy, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.).

Published in: on March 12, 2014 at 11:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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