Dr. James Haines McCulloh, Jr. (1793 -1869), visits the North Point Battlefield, Sept. 13, 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 [13] 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.


Published in: on December 21, 2011 at 8:52 pm  Comments Off on Dr. James Haines McCulloh, Jr. (1793 -1869), visits the North Point Battlefield, Sept. 13, 1814  
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