1814 - Defensive preparations at Washington

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1814 Boat Attacks, &c. in Chesapeake Bay 305

again landed within St.-Mary's creek; but found, in the different parts of the country, the same quiet and submissive conduct on the part of the inhabitants, as in the places visited on the 12th.

Some hints thrown out by the British commissioners at the conference at Ghent, coupled with the rumoured destination of British troops shipping in the ports of France, induced the American commissioners to intimate to their government, that an attack upon the federal city would probably be made in the course of the summer of 1814. This notice reached Mr. Madison on the 26th of June; and, on the 1st of July, he submitted to his council a plan for immediately calling 2000 or 3000 men into the field, and holding 10,000 or 12,000 militia and volunteers, of the neighbouring states, in readiness to reinforce that corps. On the next day he created into a military district, the whole state of Maryland, the district of Columbia, and that part of Virginia north of the Rappahannock river, embracing an exposed coast of nearly 1000 miles ; vulnerable at every point, and intersected by many large rivers, and by the Chesapeake bay. On the 4th of July, as a further defensive preparation, the president made a requisition to the several states of the union, for 93,500 militia, as authorized by law ; designating their respective quota, and requesting the executive magistrates of each state, to detach and hold them in readiness for immediate service. Of these 93,500 militia, 15,000 were to be drawn from the tenth military district, or that surrounding the metropolis, for whose defence they were intended.

On the 2d of June the British 74-gun ship Royal-Oak, Rear-admiral Pulteney Malcolm, Captain Edward Dix, accompanied by three frigates, three sloops, two bomb-vessels, five ships armed en flûte, and three transports, having on board a body of troops under Major-general Ross, sailed from Verdon road at the mouth of the Gironde. On the 24th of July the squadron arrived at Bermuda, and there joined Vice-admiral Cochrane, in the 80-gun ship Tonnant. On the 2d of August, having received on board the Tonnant Major-general Ross and his staff, Sir Alexander sailed, in company with the 18-pounder 36-gun frigate Euryalus, Captain Charles Napier, for Chesapeake bay ; and on the 14th of August arrived, and joined the Albion, Rear-admiral Cockburn, off the mouth of the Potomac. * On the next day Major-general Ross accompanied by Rear-admiral Cockburn, went on shore to reconnoitre.

The rear-admiral's knowledge of the country, as well as the excellent plan he adopted to prevent surprise, enabled the two officers to penetrate further than would otherwise have been prudent. The thick woods that skirt, and the numerous ravines that intersect, the different roads about Washington, offer important advantages to an ambushing enemy. Rear-admiral Cockburn, therefore, in his frequent walks through the country,

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