Benedict—Charles County, MD
—Site of the First Foreign Invasion of the United States of America —
War of 1812
Great Britain had been at war with France since 1793 and imposed several trade restrictions that the newly formed United States of America found unbearable.
On June 18, 1812, the United States of America declared War on Great Britain based in part on the impressment of America soldiers into the British Navy, restraints on neutral trade, and anger at British support of American Indians.
President James Madison thought attacking Canada would compel Britain to change her policies. Neither country was prepared for war, as Britain had been fighting France, and the United States had only a 20 years old Navy with just 12 vessels to fight the largest Navy in the world at the time.
The War of 1812 was fought on many fronts from the defeat at Toronto, to the last battle in New Orleans in 1815. The Treaty of Ghent was ratified February 17, 1815. Little had changed, except this war gave the United States a greater status on the world stage. it has been called the Second War of Independence.
In a summer heat wave, on August 19, 1814, British Rear Admiral Cockburn, under the command of Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane, debarked 4,500 troops on the shores of the Patuxent River at Benedict, MD. The troops camped on about 3 miles of shoreline and legend holds that British officers
may have occupied nearby Maxwell Hall. On the 20th, with General Ross, British troops began their march to Washington,shadowed by Cockburn's fleets sailing upstream. Successfully engaging the Americans at Bladensburg, the British marched into a deserted capital and proceeded to burn the city. After burning the city and being surprised by a horrific summer storm, the troops marched back to Benedict and set sail for Baltimore, their next target.
The Chesapeake Campaign
The Delaware River and the Chesapeake Bay were declared in a state of blockade on December 16, 1812. The strategic location of the Bay to the Capital City made it a prime target. Beginning in March 1813, British Read Admiral George Cockburn blockaded the Bay and raided town and farms up and down the shores and rivers.
On July 4, 1813, Joshua Barney, a decorated Revolutionary War hero, finally convinced the United States Navy to build a Chesapeake Flotilla. Twenty ships were built and while successful in harassing Cockburn's fleet, they could not hold back the British invasion.
Barney's Flotilla withdrew up the Patuxent River but in the face of capture were ordered by the secretary of the navy to scuttle their fleet to keep it out of the hands of the enemy. Barney and his flotillamen then marched to Bladensburg to reinforce American troops and fought valiantly but in vain.
& white image of James Madison)
President James Madison
On June 1, 1812, Madison asked Congress for a Declaration of War against the British. At the time, the U.S. was ill-prepared for war and suffered initial defeats.
(Color image of James Monroe)
Secretary of State James Monroe
Monroe rides to Benedict with an escort of cavalrymen. His mission is to count the British ships and soldiers. He warns President Monroe that 4,500 British troops are preparing to march on the Capital.
(Color image of Joshua Barney)
Commodore Joshua Barney
Commander of a flying squadron of thirty-six barges, whose mission was to defend the Chesapeake Bay against British attack.
(Color image of flotilla)
Barney's Barges in action at St. Leonard's Creek—10 June 1814.
(Map of Chesapeake Bay shows British military activity.)
(Color image of U.S. Capitol)
Smoke and scorch marked U.S. Capital
Torched by British troops
—24 August 1814
(Black & white image of boats)
Barge sketch made by Joshua Barney—4 July, 1813.
(Color image of Robert Ross)
Major General Robert Ross
After his invasion of Washington, Ross's orders were to take Baltimore. En route, just prior to the Battle of North Point, Ross was morally wounded by American sniper fire.
(Black and white image of Alexander Cochrane)
British Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane
Later responsible for the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, the event which gave rise to Francis Scott Key's poem which became the "Star Spangled Banner".
(Black and white image of George Cockburn)
British Rear Admiral George Cockburn
Relentlessly cruised up and down the Chesapeake Bay in 1813-1814, seizing American shipping, disrupting commerce and raiding local ports.