During the War of 1812, Nottingham served as the home port for the Chesapeake Flotilla, which consisted of 17 gun-boats under the command of Joshua Barney. In the summer of 1814, the British fleet landed at Benedict in Charles County, then camped in Nottingham on August 21. When the British fleet arrived they found Nottingham abandoned.
"We found this place (a town or a large village, capable of containing from a thousand to fifteen hundred inhabitants) completely deserted. Not an individual was to be seen in the streets, or remained in the homes...whilst in some places the very bread left in the ovens, showed that it had been evacuated in great haste, and immediately before our arrival ... the houses are not such as indicate the existence of much wealth or grandeur among the owners, being in general built of wood, and little superior to cottages, but around the villate farm-houses, a species of mansion very common in the United States. For miles in every direction, the country was in a state of high cultivation; though, instead of the maize and wheat we had hitherto seen, the fields were covered in a luxuriant and abundant crop of tobacco."
(G.R. Gleig, The Campaigns of the British Army at Washington and New Orleans, 1814-1815, London, 1861)
As the British approached and the townspeople fled, Commodore Barney took his flotilla upriver to Pig Point, where he set fire to the entire fleet to prevent the boats from falling into the British hands. The British marched from Nottingham to Marlborough where soldiers could hear the explosions from the burning flotilla. With the American forces vanquished and in full retreat, the British marched to Bladensburg, and eventually Washington, D.C., where they sacked and burned significant portions of the city, including the Capitol and the White House.