1814 - Attack on Baltimore


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1814 Attack on Baltimore 317

themselves, sustained a loss of not more than two or three men killed and wounded.

At the head of a narrow bay or inlet of the Patapsco river, and distant from its confluence with the Chesapeake about 14 miles, stands the city of Baltimore, containing about 50,000 inhabitants. It is nearly surrounded by detached hills ; one of which, Clinkapin hill, situated on its eastern side, commands the city itself, as well as the approach to it by land, from the Chesapeake. Its water approach is defended by a strong fortification, named Fort M'Henry, situated at the distance of about two miles from the city, upon the point of the peninsula that forms the south side of the bay or harbour; which, at its entrance, is scarcely a quarter of a mile in width. As an additional security, the Patapsco is not navigable for vessels drawing more than 18 feet water; and, just within the harbour, is a 14 or a 15 feet bar.

The arrival of troops in the Chesapeake, and the subsequent operations of the British in the Patuxent and Potomac rivers, could not do otherwise than cause serious alarm at Baltimore, distant from Washington but 35 miles. The panic-struck inhabitants believed that the British troops would march across the country, and attack them in the rear, while the squadron was cannonading them in front. The numbers of the British on shore were too small to warrant such an enterprise ; but, had it been risked, and had the fleet made a simultaneous movement up the bay, there is little doubt that Baltimore would have capitulated. Fortunately for the city, the military and naval forces within it were becoming hourly more powerful ; and, far from desponding, the generals and commodores used their utmost exertions, in strengthening the defences and improving the natural advantages of the position. Upon the hills to the eastward and northward of the city, a chain of palisadoed redoubts, connected by breastworks, with ditches in front, and well supplied with artillery, was constructed ; and works were thrown up and guns mounted at every spot from which an invading force, either by land or water, could meet with annoyance. The Java frigate, of 60 guns, and two new sloops of war, of 22 guns each, the Erie and Ontario, were equipping at Baltimore. There were also in the harbour several gun-boats, armed each with a long French 36-pounder, besides a carronade ; as well as several private armed vessels. So that the Americans, including their field and regular battery guns, had an immense train of artillery to put in operation against an enemy. As to troops, exclusively of the 16,300 militia, regulars, and flotilla-men, which General Winder had been authorized to assemble for the defence of the 10th military district, volunteers were flocking in from Pennsylvania; and the


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