British Attacks on the Patuxent
During the War of 1812, the British entered the Chesapeake Bay and threatened towns, plantations, and the cities of Washington and Baltimore. To counter this threat, Congress ordered the creation of the Chesapeake Flotilla under the command of Commodore Joshua Barney.
With 18 row barges and sail-powered gunboats, the Chesapeake Flotilla was a small force compared to the powerful British Navy. In its first battle in June 1814, the flotilla was forced to retreat and was trapped in St. Leonard's Creek on the lower Patuxent River. Finally after numerous skirmishes, Barney and his flotilla escaped and fled upriver. The British continued their assaults through the summer.
The Flames of War
On August 22, 1814, to avoid the capture of his flotilla, Barney set it aflame as British Rear Admiral George Cockburn watched from Mount Calvert. Barney and his men marched to Washington, collected reinforcements, and put up a heroic fight at the Battle of Bladensburg. The British prevailed and marched on to Washington where they burned the Capitol, White House, and other federal buildings.