Oxon Cove Park
"It was indeed a day and night of horrors, the fleet ? lay directly before our house.
" Mary DeButts, writing to her sister Millicent on March 18, 1815.
From this farm, Mary DeButts saw a small fleet on the Potomac River on August 29, 1814. On that day during the War of 1812, the British Navy Capt. James Gordon accepted the surrender of Alexandria - without firing a shot. From here, you can see the Alexandria wharves and some of the same buildings.
About two weeks earlier, the British commander had started his seven ships up the Potomac to distract American soldiers and militia from the land attack on Washington. The British chased the American defenders from Fort Washington on the Maryland shore. Then nothing stood between Gordon's ships and Alexandria, the busiest port city on the Potomac.
Gordon anchored his ships off the Alexandria wharf and promised to spare the city as long as no one fired on his sailors and marines. Over the next five days, the British took roughly 16,000 barrels of flour, 1,000 hogsheads of tobacco, 150 bales of cotton, several ships, and much else. Fearing a counterattack, Gordon gave orders to heave anchor and sail back down the river on September 3.
[Chart of the "Potomack" River above Great Hunting Creek] Alexandria, Virginia in 1798. Courtesy of Library of Congress
Dennis Griffith, Map of the State of Maryland 1794
, Maryland State Law Library, MdHR G 1213-356 [tracing the] British feint up the Potomac River and their advance on the City of Washington across Prince George's County in August 1814 - with "Mount Welby" highlighted.
[Contemporary cartoon, "Johnny Bull and the Alexandrians"] The citizens of Alexandria were ridiculed in cartoons like this for surrendering to a small British fleet without firing a shot, even though the city's militia was fighting elsewhere at the time.
[Portrait] Admiral Sir James Gordon, 1860s. Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.