The Battle of Bladensburg
— August 24, 1814 —
War of 1812
This Monument Stands as
A Tribute to the American
Soldiers, Sailors, and
Marines who fought and
Died here defending their
This monument depicts Commodore Joshua Barney of the U.S. Navy a moment after being wounded by approaching British troops. Barney is assisted by Charles Ball, former slave and flotillaman of the U.S. Navy, and by a U.S. Marine, part of a force of nearly 500 troops who refused to retreat until ordered to by their commander, and stood "Undaunted in Battle" in defense of Washington, D.C.
On August 19, 1814, Approximately 4500 British troops under the command of Major General Robert Ross landed in Southern Maryland and marched to Upper Marlboro. The British convened a council of war and marched toward Washington, intent on attacking the capital. They arrived in Bladensburg on August 24, 1814.
The American force, numbering nearly 6000 and composed largely of militia units together with U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine regulars, occupied the ground across the river from Bladensburg. The British troops, who arrived at noon, crossed the bridge and engaged the American forces on the far bank. The British fired Congreve Rockets whose sound and "red glare" distracted and confused the Americans. The screeching rockets were new but relatively harmless weapon that left billowing smoke trails and caused panic in the ranks of U.S. troops.
American riflemen and artillery inflicted significant causalities as the British soldiers crossed the bridge. A separate British contingent forded the river to the north and outflanked a militia artillery regiment from Baltimore. U.S. Army General William Winder, commander of the American forces, ordered the troops to fall back, which led to confusion and a full-fledged retreat of the untrained militia.
Although the battle was lost and nearly over, an epic moment is still remembered with pride — Commodore Barney's final stand. Armed with muskets, boarding pikes, and cutlasses, with support from heavy cannon, Barney's men engaged the British troops with vigor and made several counter-attacks. Barney's courageous an undaunted efforts delayed the British and provided valuable time for the evacuation of the Nation's Capital.
While rallying his troops and directing cannon fire at the British, Barney was severely wounded in his right thigh by a musket ball. Beset on all sides by overwhelming number, Barney, unable to stand, ordered his troops to withdraw without him. Barney was captured soon thereafter.
The victorious British commander General Ross recognized the valor and resolute spirit of Commodore Barney and his Marines and flotillamen. He received Commodore Barney's surrender with respect and magnanimity, and immediately paroled him.
Accompanied by Rear Admiral George Cockburn, the British forces marched into Washington, then torched and burned many government buildings, including the Capitol and the White House.
While marching back to their ships, the British arrested Dr. William Beanes of Upper Marlboro. Beanes had angered the British by capturing and jailing British stragglers. Beanes was held on board as a prisoner while the British sailed toward Baltimore.
Francis Scott Key, a Maryland-born Georgetown attorney, came aboard the British ship, seeking the release of Dr. Beanes. On the night of September 13, 1814, after returning to an American flag of truce ship in Baltimore harbor. Key witnessed the unsuccessful naval bombardment of Fort McHenry. He was inspired to pen the "The Star-Spangled Banner" which later became the National Anthem.
Prior to the bombardment of Fort McHenry, the British had landed at North Point, near Baltimore. During a skirmish, General Ross, the victor at Bladensburg, was killed in action.
Unable to take Fort McHenry or advance on Baltimore, the British withdrew their forces and eventually left the Chesapeake Bay.
This interpretive panel has been financed in part with State funds from the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission.