“Yo! Ho! “Free Trade and Sailor’s Rights” to Baltimore

On September 6, 1814 nearly a week after the American defeat at the Battle of Bladensburg, MD., on August 24 and three days from engaging the British flotilla decending the Potomac River from Alexandria, Va., having capitulated to Captain James A. Gordon, RN, the sailors of Commodores John Rodgers, Oliver Hazard Perry and David Porter returned to Baltimore.

“Fourteen wagons full of our noble seamen the first surmounted with the well known standard of ‘Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights’ the whole preceeded by the Hero of Valparaiso [Chile], and cheered by their boatswain’s whistle, passed through this city [Washington] on their way to Baltimore”

Captain David Porter of the U.S. frigate Essex (out of Salem, Mass.) following an 18 month cruise to the Pacific had been paroled following his defeat off the coast of Valparaiso, Chile during an engagment with HM frigate Phobe and sloop Cherub on March 28th and were allowed to return to New York (arriving July 7) onboard the Essex Junior having captured British whalers in the Pacific.

Upon his arrival in Baltimore he and his crew were summoned back to New York to take command of the Demologos the new catamaran battery steamboat “to teach the doctrines of the cannon law,” though not having taken part in the Battle for Baltimore.

Source: Baltimore American & Commercial Daily Adv., September 9, 1814.

Published in: on August 14, 2012 at 11:55 pm  Comments Off on “Yo! Ho! “Free Trade and Sailor’s Rights” to Baltimore  

“ A Lost Opportunity”: Colonel Jacint Laval & the U.S. Light Dragoons at Bladensburg, August 1814.

In March 1814 Colonel Jacint Laval (1762-1822) took command of the reorganized 1st Regiment of U.S. Light Dragoons at Carlisle, Pa., Since taking command Colonel Lavall had organized, equipped, instructed and mounted his new recruits, some still without horses. On 20 July he was ordered with his two troops of horse (130 men) to Washington leaving Carlisle, Pa., on August 15.  

The two captains under his command were Captains James A. Burd and William M. Littlejohn.  They reached Montgomery Courthouse on August 18 and were ordered by US Brigadier General William Winder to report to Brigadier General Tobias Stansbury of Maryland’s 11th Brigade from Baltimore. On August 20 at 10 a.m., Laval moved across the Eastern Branch Bridge SW of Washington towards Woodyard and Nottingham, Maryland to reconnoiter the advancing British troops under Maj. Gen. Robert Ross.

With the British pressing forward inlarge numbers  Colonel Laval and his troop re-crossed the bridge on August 23 at 11 p.m., much fatigue from counter-movements, hunger and the horses needing water. Like General Stansbury brigade they were maneuvering constantly for three days until returning to Bladensburg only four hours before the battle began.

Laval’s Own Words, the Battle of Bladensburg on 24 August 1814 – “My command consisted of two troops, incomplete, & making in all about one hundred & thirty men, newly mounted. We arrived at Bladensburg nearly at the same time with the enemy, my orders were to report to the General Commanding [William H. Winder], nothing further. My troops were assigned a station in a ravine, which from its crooked situation and depth, it required my leaving to see the enemy. I came out and sat on my horse on the top of the front bank with one of my officers, Lieutenant Brahm, watching an opportunity to dispose of the men to the best advantage. Shortly after, a confusion took place throughout the field, during which one of my captains, his officers and eighty men were disposed or otherwise without my knowledge. So that when I expected to be supported by my whole command, I found it reduced to abut 50 men, with Captain [James A.] Burd and his officers, in a disappointment equal to my situation. What I had planned for 130 men, could not be affected with 50, they nearly all recruits and mounted about 10 days. What could have been done with such a force, under such circumstances, I leave an impartial public to decide. They army had left us, we retreated in order, and arrived at the Capitol where we found not the army as expected….”

So it was that Col. Laval’s two troops of horse were never brought to bear upon the British at a crucial period of the battle – a timely misjudgment on the part of the general staff on the field and an opportunity lost.

Afterwards Lavall followed the Stansbury’s brigade back to Baltimore in time to actually engaged the British in a rear guard action on September 14, 1814 following their removal from Baltimore capturing several soldiers. On 31 October 1814 Lt. Colonel Laval’s dragoons saw their last Maryland action at the skirmish of Kirby’s Windmill, Anne Arundel County on 31 October 1814 in which 300 British Marines and seamen were forced to return to their barges and pull out to the safety of their ships in the bay.

After the war Laval held the post of military storekeeper at the Harpers Ferry Armory, Virginia from May 1821 until his death in 1822. He is buried in Shepherdstown, Jefferson County, (West) Virginia.

Sources: Jacint Laval was born in France and later served as a Cornet of Dragoons in the French army under General Jean-Baptist Rochambeau, Marshal of France in 1780-81 during the American Revolution at Yorktown, Va. Soon thereafter he became an American citizen and enlisted in the U.S. Regiment of Light Dragoons then being organized; 3 May 1809, captain; 15 February 1809, Major; 7 June 1813, lieutenant colonel, and finally colonel on 1 August 1813; Daily National Intelligencer (D.C.), April 24, 1816; “Capture of the City of Washington,” American State Papers, Military Affairs, 23 September 1814, 569-571.


Published in: on August 13, 2012 at 1:49 am  Comments Off on “ A Lost Opportunity”: Colonel Jacint Laval & the U.S. Light Dragoons at Bladensburg, August 1814.  

Now Arriving in the Chesapeake – Admiral John Borlase Warren, 1812: “the character of the war is about to be changed.”

In August 1812, the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty appointed Admiral John Borlase Warren (1753-1822) Admiral of the Blue, to command the West Indies and North American Stations, thereby relieving Vice-Admiral Henry Sawyer (1783-1833) on September 17, 1812. The change of command was the result of the sudden “swarms of privateers’ heading out of the seaboard ports scouring the British Atlantic trades and recent US naval victories.

Olive Branch for Peace – In a letter dated September 30, 1812 to US Secretary of State James Monroe, Warren enclosed an Order-In-Council dated June 23, 1812 declaring the Orders-In-Council of January 7, 1807 and April 26, 1809 had “ceased to exist nearly at the same time the United States declared war against his Majesty.” These orders had been one of the foremost maritime grievances against Britain. However, upon the receipt in London of the US declaration of war a responding order-in-council was issued July 23, 1812 “for the embargo and detention of all American ships.” The olive branch of peace towards the US had been misplaced by only five days. Two more weeks of sail may have avoided war. By then it was too late, America had committed herself to war.

To War – In a letter dated October 5, 1812 to Secretary of the Admiralty John W. Croker, Warren stated that “this station is in a very induced state. The demand of Ships for Convoys and the protection of the Commerce, the State of War which seems to assume a new as well as more active and inveterate aspect than before…” Within three months after the US declaration upon England the US State Department had issued twenty letters of marque and reprisal in Baltimore alone and were the first to have privateers put out to sea. By end of 1812 a total of forty privateers had put to sea.

On December 29th five days after issuing a naval blockade of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, Warren again wrote to Croker; “The Swarms of Privateers and Letters of Marque, their numbers now amounting to 600, and the crews of several having landed at points of the coast of Nova Scotia and in the Leeward Islands, and cut out of the Harbours some vessels, render it necessary immediately to send out a strong addition of ships…or the Trade must inevitably suffer, If not be, utterly ruined and destroyed…”

 The situation at sea was not good news for the Royal Navy with three naval defeats with the Americans (19 August, HMS Guerriere vs. USS Constitution; 12 October, HMS Macedonian vs. USS United States, 29 December, HMS Java vs. USS Constitution. With these unprecedented naval victories along the with cruises of American privateers, the evitable solution was a large naval force blockading the ports of Boston, New York and the Chesapeake.

In January 1813, Secretary Croker, noting that the blockade forces currently were inadequate to enforce, informing Warren additional ships were to be sent. To enforce these points Warren divided his fleet into three squadrons, each having ships-of-the-line, frigates and brigs. On February 5, 1813, Admiral Warren arrived in the bay onboard his flagship San Domingo (80) with HMS Dragon (74), HM frigate Maidstone (38), HM frigate Junon (36), Statira (38), Belvidera (36) and Laurestinus (24). Three days later Captain George Burdett having taken the licensed Spanish ship San Francisco out of Baltimore bound for Havannah the following was inscribed on her register:

 “I do hereby certify that the Bay of the Chesapeake and ports therein are under strict and rigorous Blockade, and you must return to Baltimore, and upon no account whatever attempt quitting or going out of any of the said ports. Given under my hand, on board H.M. Ship Maidstone, the 8th day of February 1813, Geo. Burdett, Senior Officer.”

 On March 3rd Rear-Admiral George Cockburn arrived with two battalions (640 men each) of Royal Marines giving Warren a command of 11 ships-of-the-line, 34 frigates, two en-futes (transports), 38 sloops and 12 smaller rates – a total of 97 ships. The war of the Chesapeake had begun and would end on April 19, 1815 when the last British ship, HM frigate Menelaus, left the Chesapeake. On June 4, 1814 Warren was promoted to Admiral of the White.

Resources: Admiral John Warren to John W. Croker, October 5, 1812, Adm. 1.5435 National Archives, London. Printed in The Naval History of the War of 1812: A Documentary History, vol. 1 (Naval Historical Center, 1985), 507-508; Norfolk Gazette (Va.), December 7, 1812; Daily National Intelligencer, February 16, 1813.

Published in: on August 11, 2012 at 1:33 am  Comments Off on Now Arriving in the Chesapeake – Admiral John Borlase Warren, 1812: “the character of the war is about to be changed.”  

Notes: Maryland Armory Book, John Shaw, Armorer, 1813-1820

The following 8 entries of the 351 in all concern the defenses and State House of Annapolis from 1813 – 1820. John Shaw (1745-1829) was the superintendent of the State House and grounds as well as the Annapolis Armorer and well known cabinetmaker. His Armory Ledger Book (74 pages) lists company commanders and the disbursements of war materials obtained for their companies during the War of 1812. It is an indispensible archival resource for the period.

“October 18, 1813 –“Delivered to Captain Pinkney by verbal order of the Governor, 17  9-pounders blank cartridges for a feu de joy for [Major] Gen’l [Henry H.] Harrison’s Victory over [Major General Henry] Proctor – 50 lbs of [gun] powder.” 

“November 2, 1813 – Sent to Brigadier General William Madison’s camp at Herring Creek, the following articles of ammunitions, viz., 29 fixed Six Pdr. Cartridges / 9 fixed Six Pdr Cannister / Musket Cartridges, 6 Boxes of 6,000 and 1 Keg / 600 flints in the box with cartridges / 1 Barrel 90 pound Cannon Powder.”

General William Madison (1762-1843) was the younger brother of President James Madison. William commanded the 1st Virginia Regiment  (600 men) at the skirmish at Kirby’s Mill in Anne Arundel County on October 31, 1814. Nine barges of Royal Marines and seamen (200-300 men) came ashore in a raiding party. Captain Robert Barrie of  HMS Dragon (74 guns) wrote we had  “a little affair with Nathan the other day against at least six times our number…” Also present was Captain James Bird’s U.S. Light Dragoons (125 men) who charged the British three times and sent them returning to their barges.

August 27, 1814 – Delivered to Adjutant Duvall at Fort Madison, 28 muskets & 28 Cartridge boxes.” 

“February 8, 1815 – Delivered to Captain Wells for a salute on account of [Andrew] Jackson’s Victory the 8th of January – 18 cartridges, 75 lbs. of [gun] powder.”

“February 22, 1815 -“Fired the guns & Illuminated the State House on account of General Washington’s Birthday & the confirmation of Peace – 75 lbs of [gun] powder.”

“May 29, 1818 – Fired a Salute of 20 guns for the Arrival of the President of the United States [James Monroe] last night in this city.”

December 6, 1818 – Rigged out a flagstaff on the State House to hoist the Colours on the Halyards on the top being broke.”

“July 4, 1819 – Fired a Salute of 21 guns in Honor of the Day & Hoisted the Flag – used 1 keg of [gun] powder.”

Source: Records of the War Department, Post Revolutionary War Records, Office of the Adjutant General, National Archives. (NA RWD AGO MABK 1813-1820).

Published in: on August 8, 2012 at 7:24 pm  Comments Off on Notes: Maryland Armory Book, John Shaw, Armorer, 1813-1820  

A Letter from Benedict, Maryland, August 1814, signed, Maj. General James Wilkinson

Maj. General James Wilkinson (1752-1825) was born on Hunting Creek in Calvert County, Maryland and was engaged in two failed campaigns, the Battle of Chrysler’s Farm ( November 11, 1813) and the second Battle of Lacolle Mills (March 30, 1814) in Upper Canada. He was then relieved from active service, but was cleared by a military inquiry. While awaiting trial at home he informed former Maryland Governor Robert Bowie of the British landing at Benedict, Md., on August 19, 1814.

“Twenty-seven sail, up as high as Taney’s (about three miles above Benedict…) commenced landing troops…No doubt they are for the City of Washington and will be there by Sunday…On Friday, a part of the squdron anchored before Benedict, at at Noon commenced debarking troops. Barges continued to ply between the ships and the shore during the remainder of the day…Piquets being stationed at the various passes near Benedict, all travelers are made prisoners and sent into the town…By the division of the forces on both sides of the Patuxent there can be no doubt that Barney’s flotilla is the first object of attack, and will of course be destroyed as no adeqate defence can be made against such numbers… If Washington is the next object, several days must elapse before so considerable an army can be marched over the ground between Benedict and the city…

Source: Poulson’s American Daily Adv.,( Philadelphia), August 24, 1814. He later wrote his Memoirs of My Own Times (1816) in hopes of clearing his name.


Published in: on August 8, 2012 at 3:42 am  Comments Off on A Letter from Benedict, Maryland, August 1814, signed, Maj. General James Wilkinson  

August-September 1814: Lieutenant-General Rowland Hill (1772-1842)

General Rowland Hill

By August of 1814 there were numerous reports of additional 8-15,000 fresh regiments on their way to America, destined as rumors spread, for the Chesapeake to join Major General Robert Ross. To command was to be Lieutenant-General Rowland Hill, the Duke of Wellington’s most trusted officer and like General Ross veteran of the Peninsula campaigns. Hill was held in high esteem by his officer corps as well as the soldiers.

At a London dinner General Hill suggested such a command would be “sufficient to chastise the Yankees, and bring the war to a speedy termination.” Hill though had not desired the appointment “though it will be politic to keep up the idea of a large force going to America.” On 10 August Earl Bathurst, Secretary of State in London informed Hill that it was not to be. However before news would arrive in America the Battle of Bladensburg would have been fought and an attack on Baltimore eminent. The Niles Weekly Register informed its readers on 24 August that Lord Hill was to have “more fresh regiments on the way.”

Baltimore, fearful for a second assault, despite the repulse of the British on 14 September made preparations for a British military reinforcement expedition that never came to be. By 17 September Admiral Cochrane was still expecting reinforcements. Writing to Lord Melville “…the ball is at our feet, – and give me but Six thousand Men – Including a Rifle and Cavalry Regt., and I will engage to master every Town South of Philadelphia and keep the Whole Coast in such a State of Alarm, as soon to bring the Most Obstinate upon their Marrow bones.”  Such were the rumors of the day. Smith kept the militia at Baltimore until 15 November just in case.

Sources: The Life of Lord Hill, G.C.B. Late Commander of the Forces by Edwin Sidney (London: John Murray, 1845); Baltimore Patriot, October 15, 26, 1814.

Published in: on January 15, 2012 at 11:46 pm  Comments Off on August-September 1814: Lieutenant-General Rowland Hill (1772-1842)  

Westminster Abbey Monument to Sir Captain Peter Parker of HMS Menelaus


The following inscription is to be found on the monument to Sir Peter Parker at Westminster Abbey. His remains are interred at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminister, London.



In the pious hope of a glorious resurrection,

Pursued thro’ virtue, faith and valor,


Aged 28 years,

Captain of his Majesty’s ship Menelaus.

An accomplished officer & seaman.

Who after landing with part of his crew,

on the coast of America.

Defeated an enemy, supported by cavalry

and artillery, THREE TIMES the

number of his own force,

And, in the moment of victory, received a

mortal wound,

Under which he continued to cheer his

Men to follow up their triumph,

Until, sinking under its fatal result,

He fell into the arms of the companions of

His glory, and surrendered, on

The field of battle.

His own gallant spirit to the mercy of


He closed his career August 30, 1814.




As a testimony of their grief for his loss, and respect for his character

And merits.

Published in: on January 3, 2012 at 6:12 pm  Comments Off on Westminster Abbey Monument to Sir Captain Peter Parker of HMS Menelaus  

Legends: A “Jug Wasps” Nest

Wasp nestFrom Crisfield on Maryland’s Eastern Shore  comes a story that a British gunboat lying offshore near Matthews County, Va.,  a young half-witted boy found a nest of these wasp papermakers and cut it from the limb from which it hung, then plugged up the entrance hole with mud. He took it down to the shore and showed it to the British sailors who asked what was in it. “A humminging bird’s nest,” said the boy. “Don’t you hear them inside?”

The  sailors listened while the boy left the nest with them. The British took out the mud plug and at once the escaping wasps “proceeded to business.”  They never stopped their work until they had made everyone of the British sailors jump into the water to escape. The boy must of had a joyful frolic with his boyish adventure of mischief.

Source: The Sun, January 11, 1898

Published in: on December 29, 2011 at 11:22 pm  Comments Off on Legends: A “Jug Wasps” Nest  

Maryland Militia in the Defense of St. Michael’s, August 1813

On August 10 and 26, 1813 British naval and military forces attacked St.Michael’s on Maryland ‘s Eastern Shore. The militia that defended this small ship building port were the following all under the command of Brigadier General Perry Benson, 12th Brigade, 2nd Division, Maryland Militia.

26th MARYLAND REGIMENT  – Lt. Colonel Hugh Auld

St. Michael’s Patriotic Blues,- Captain Joseph Kemp

Miles River Neck Company, – Captain William Jordan

Bayside Company, – Captain John Carroll

Miles River Company, – Captain William Ray

Bayside Company, -Captain Oakley Haddaway

Wye Landing Company, Captain Jonathan Spencer

Bayside Company, Captain John Seth

Hearts of Oak Company – Captain Thomas Weyman

4th Maryland Regiment – Lt. Colonel William B. Smyth

Volunteer Artillery, Captain Clement Vickers

Light Infantry Blues, Captain George W. Smith

Trappe Company, Captain Samuel Stevens

Chapel District Company, Captain Thomas Henrix

The Easton Fencibles, Captain John L. Keer

9th Cavalry District (Queen Annes & Talbot Counties) –

Independent Light Dragoons, Captain Robert H. Goldsborough

Troop of Horse Militia, Trappe, Captain Isaac Bowdle

The Patriotic Blues, Troop of Horse, Captain Robert Banning

Published in: on December 22, 2011 at 3:16 am  Comments Off on Maryland Militia in the Defense of St. Michael’s, August 1813  

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