The 1814 Memorial Cannons of Patterson Park


On August 14, 1903 at a meeting of the annual Society of War of 1812 in Maryland it was proposed to distribute the War of 1812 cannon described as “…musty and formidable old weapons of war… planted in the streets in different sections of the city as [traffic]“buffers…”

On February 7-8, 1904 the great Baltimore fire destroyed 140 acres of 1500 buildings, etc., of a major part of central downtown Baltimore along the waterfront. In the aftermath of cleaning and rebuilding newly found cannons were also uncovered. Through the auspices of the Society of the War of 1812 in Maryland and the Society of the Daughters of the War of 1812 in the United States these would find new sites to help Baltimore City commemorate military sites associated with the Battle for Baltimore in 1814. Two of the primary sites were Riverside Park (the site of Fort Look-out in South Baltimore); Battery Babcock Monument (McComas St., South Baltimore) and the best known – Patterson Park established in 1825 upon grounds that highlighted the main land defenses protecting the City of Baltimore in 1814 known then as Hampstead or Laudenslager’s Hill.

Today five of these cannon (iron 6-Pdrs) found in the aftermath of the fire are mounted on concrete pedestals with the date “1814” imprinted on each, two of which are known to have been found during the waterfront construction of the Fell’s Point Recreation Pier. They were designed by Mr. John Appleton Wilson (1851-1927), an active member of the Society of the War of 1812 in Maryland, as well as the Baltimore Municipal Art Commission and American Institute of Architects. In 1879 he and a cousin William Thomas Wilson, formed a partnership and named their new firm J.A. & W.T. Wilson, Architects.

Sources: Baltimore American and The Sun newspapers, 1873-1915.

Published in: on February 14, 2014 at 4:53 pm  Comments Off on The 1814 Memorial Cannons of Patterson Park  

Recruitment Notice: “First Marine Artillery of the Union”

In the summer of 1814, Captain George Stiles (1760-1819), veteran sea captain of Fell’s Point issued a recruitment notice for those to enroll in this amphibious corps of 200 seamen and maritime artisans. The First Marine Artillery of the Union was organized in 1808 as a naval militia corps under the auspices of the City of Baltimore. During the War of 1812 “they were as a host to Baltimore.” This indefatigable corps of seamen built the marine dual gun batteries at Fort McHenry, Fort Babcock, and the Lazaretto as well as manning the gunboats of the harbor. In September 1814 they were stationed upon the defenses of Hampstead Hill (Patterson Park).  

First Marine Artillery on the Union

Meet at your gunhouse at 3 o’clock on Saturday next, in uniform complete, to exercise the heavy field ordnance. Knowing as you do, that the weight of this metal requires much strength, renders it unnecessary for any entreaties to be advanced by your captain, for your prompt attendance.

The object of this early hour is to admit agreeable to your constitution, new members; we have a right to expect every master and mate in port. The cloud gathers fast and heavy in the East, and all hands are called – few, very few, are the number of masters or mates belonging to this port that will be justified in excusing themselves from service by one of their skippers not being so firm as the other, or that he has seen five or forty; if he cannot sponge and ram as well as his messmates, he can pass a cartridge.

It is well known by all Tars the just stigma that is fixed by the ship’s crew on the man that skulks below, or under the lee of the long boat, when all hands are called; their services were not wanting until the present; but now your city calls all to arms, you are therefore invited and entreated to fall into our ranks.

Many 18 pounders are already manned and many more fit for service; come and join as we give a long pull, a strong pull and a pull altogether – and save the ship.

By order of the Captain, ROBT. G. HENDERSON, Secretary.

Source: Baltimore American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, July 22, 1814.

Published in: on April 12, 2011 at 11:10 am  Comments Off on Recruitment Notice: “First Marine Artillery of the Union”  

Battery Babcock, 1813-1814

“I deem it absolutely necessary top erect a small Battery, south of the [powder] Magazine on the [Patapsco]river bank. It mounted six 18-pounder French naval guns behind a four foot high breastwork with a powder magazine in the rear covered with earth.”  Maj. General Samuel Smith, May 1813.

Known as the Six Gun Battery or the Sailor’s Battery, this  half-eliptical earthen gun battery built of sod, was located one and a half miles west of Fort McHenry upon the shores of the Patapsco Ferry Branch, southwest of present day Riverside Park in South Baltimore.

The U.S. was not willing to provide the expense of erecting it, so the City of Baltimore hired Captain Samuel Babcock, U.S. Engineers to lay out a plan requiring twenty or thirty men to dig the foundation. By the summer of 1813 it was completed and was garrisoned  by a company of  U.S. Sea Fencibles under Capt. William H. Addison. In September 1814 during the Battle for Baltimore, Sailing Master John Adams Webster (1786-1877) commanded the battery with seventy-five sailors from the U.S. Chesapeake Flotilla.   His 1853 account  provides a detailed report on the heroic occurences that took place on the night of September 13-14, 1814 when Battery Babcock, Forts Covington and McHenry, repulsed a  British barge offensive, the last action of the Battle for Baltimore.

“…Day and night we were on the alert, until hope was nearly extinct, when on the night of the 13th, about eleven o’clock, the bomb vessels appeared to renew their fire with redoubled energy. It was raining quite fast, and cold for the season. The rapid discharge of the bombs from the enemy’s shipping excited great vigilance among my officers and men. I had the cannon double shotted with 18-pound balls and grape shot and took a blanket and laid on the breastworks, as I was much exhausted.  About midnight I could hear a splashing in the water.The attention of the others was aroused and we were convinced it was the noise of the muffled oars of the British barges. Very soon afterwards we could discern small gleaming lights in different places. I felt sure then that it was the barges, which at that time were not more than two hundred yards off…”

Battery Babcock  soon thereafter opened its fire upon the barges, along with nearby Forts Look-Out, McHenry and Covington. Captain Charles Napier,RN commanding the British flotilla of barges, caught in a whethering cross-fire, soon retreated to the fleet having lost two barges in the attempt. However he had done his duty in providing “a diversion” for the land forces before Hampstead Hill for a midnight assault that never, though planned, materilized. 

In 1914 during the centennial celebration of the battle, a 6-pounder cannon was mounted near the original site on a granite stone monument pedestal.

Sources: The battery site, no longer extant, is located under the I-95 southern approach to the Fort McHenry Tunnel. Samuel Smith to the Committee of Public Supplies, May 4, 1813, Baltimore City Archives, RG 22; John A. Webster to Mayor Brantz, July 2, and August 10, 1853, The [Baltimore] Sun, Sept. 23, 1928. The British Invasion of Maryland, 1812-1815 by William M. Marine (Baltimore: 1913, reprinted by Genealogical Pub. Co., 1977), 177-181.

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 2:50 pm  Comments Off on Battery Babcock, 1813-1814