The Defense and Burning of Washington in 1814: Naval Documents of the War of 1812
Naval Preparations for the Defense of Washington
- Secretary of the Navy Jones to Commodore John Rodgers, 19 August 1814
- Secretary of the Navy Jones to Captain David Porter, 19 August 1814
- Secretary of the Navy Jones to Master Commandant John O. Creighton, 22 August 1814
- Commodore John Rodgers to Secretary of the Navy Jones, 23 August 1814
- Secretary of the Navy Jones to Commodore John Rodgers, 23 August 1814
- Captain's Clerk Mordecai Booth to Commodore Thomas Tingey, 22-23 August 1814
Battle of Bladensburg and the Attack on Washington, 24-25 August 1814
Secretary of the Navy Jones to Master Commandant John O. Creighton, 24 August 1814
Captain Joshua Barney, Flotilla Service, to Secretary of the Navy Jones, 29 August 1814
Captain's Clerk Mordecai Booth to Commodore Thomas Tingey, 24 August 1814
Memorandum of Secretary of the Navy Jones, 24 August 1814
Commodore Thomas Tingey to Secretary of the Navy Jones, 27 August 1814
Rear Admiral George Cockburn, R.N., to Vice Admiral Sir Alexander F. I. Cochrane, RN., 27 August 1814
Major General Robert Ross, British Army, to Secretary of State for War and the Colonies Earl Bathurst, 30 August 1814
Vice Admiral Sir Alexander F. I. Cochrane, RN., to First Secretary of the Admiralty John W. Croker, 2 September 1814
Investigation into the Burning of Washington
Secretary of the Navy Jones to Congressman Richard M. Johnson, 3 October 1814
Commodore Thomas Tingey to Secretary of the Navy Jones, 18 October 1814
Commodore Thomas Tingey to Secretary of the Navy Jones, 9 November 1814
Commodore Thomas Tingey to Secretary of the Navy Jones, 12 November 1814
Secretary of the Navy Jones to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, 27 October 1814
Clerk Benjamin Homans report, 5 November 1814
Naval Preparations for the Defense of Washington
Washington was ill prepared for the invasion force that sailed up the Patuxent River on 19 August 1814. Seeing no strategic advantage the British could gain by attacking the capital, Secretary of War Armstrong denied any need to defend it. Brigadier General Winder, the newly appointed commander of the just-formed Tenth Military District, energetically undertook Washington's defense, but after six weeks had accomplished little due to his own lack of organizational skills and Armstrong's inertia. Secretary of the Navy Jones, as with most of Madison's cabinet, but not the president himself, did not consider Washington threatened. When faced with imminent peril, however, Jones acted quickly and decisively. He immediately enlisted the assistance of three of his illustrious naval captains, John Rodgers, David Porter, and Oliver H. Perry, and promised them glory in defending the capital. At the Washington Navy Yard, the secretary engaged Master Commandant John O. Creighton to reconnoiter the British squadron progressing up the Potomac. Meanwhile, the commandant of the yard, Thomas Tingey, responding to an oral order from Jones, employed the yard's clerk, Mordecai Booth, to secure wagons for transporting supplies to troops in the area. Booth's eyewitness account portrays the confused, panic-stricken state of the city in the days before the invasion.
SECRETARY OF THE NAVY JONES TO COMMODORE JOHN RODGERS
Navy Department Augt. 19. 1814
The enemy has entered the Patuxent with a very large force indicating a design upon this place which may be real, or it may serve to mask his design upon Baltimore
In either case it is exceedingly desirable to collect in our vicinity all the disposable force within reach as soon as possible.
You will therefore with the least possible delay proceed to Baltimore with about three hundred men (including officers) of the force under your command and also order on the detachment of marines from Cecil furnace to meet you at Baltimore where the further orders of the Department will await you I am respectfully Your Obdt. Servt.
Commodore John Rodgers
US. Ship Guerriere Philada.
SECRETARY OF THE NAVY JONES TO CAPTAIN DAVID PORTER
|Capt: David Porter
U.S. Navy New-York
August 19th. 1814
The Enemy has entered the Patuxent with a very strong force indicating a rapid movement upon this city.-- The court of Enquiry will therefore be suspended and you will proceed without delay to this place, with as many of your late officers & Crew as you can collect and any others you may be enabled to engage, as well for the defence of the U.S. new Ship Essex destined for your command as for that of the national Capital, and its important establishments.-- I am respectfully &c
SECRETARY OF THE NAVY JONES TO MASTER COMMANDANT JOHN O. CREIGHTON
|Capt: John O. Creighton
U.S. Navy, Present
August 22d: 1814
The reports from the vicinity of Cedar point yesterday, state that six ships of the enemy either had passed, or were at that time passing the Kettle Bottoms and ascending the Potomac.-- What the nature of his force is, or whether accompanied with transports or troops is quite uncertain.--
It is desirable to ascertain by the discriminating eye of a naval officer the real extent & nature of this force as well as its probable object; whether it be to ascend the river, to act in conjunction with the invading army, or to create a diversion of our force from that army.-- You will therefore apply to Como: Tingey, who will furnish you with a fast gig & crew with which you will proceed down the river & carefully reconnoitre the enemy, watching his movements & penetrating if possible his designs, which you will report to me by a trusty express over land, or in any other safe & expeditious manner,-- when you have completed your observations & satisfied yourself as far as may be practicable you will this city & report the result to this Department.-- I am respectfully &c.
COMMODORE JOHN RODGERS TO SECRETARY OF THE NAVY JONES
New Castle Aug 23d. 1814 (at Sun rise)
Last night at 11 P.m. between Chester & Phila. returning from Reedy Island where I had been to inspect the Flotilla, I recd. your Letter of the 19th Inst.-- I immediately got into my Boat and Arrived here this moment.--
The Signal has been made for the Flotilla & answered; and I shall leave here for Balto. in compliance with your Orders as soon as the Men can be debarked, and be assured, Sir, I shall loose no time in getting them.--
Owing to some shameful irregularity in the Post Office, your Letter, altho' it is dated the 19th. Inst., was not delivered until ten OClock yesterday morning.-- With great respect I have the honor to be Sir Yr Obt Servt.
SECRETARY OF THE NAVY JONES TO COMMODORE JOHN RODGERS
Camp. Old Fields.
9 Miles East of Washington City.
Augt. 23d. 1814. 1/2 past 8. AM
Presuming that if circumstances have been favorable to your progress you will reach Baltimore this evening in pursuance of my order of the 20th.--I have now to direct that with the utmost possible celerity you will move on with the seamen and marines under your command to Bladensburg and endeavour to have as early a communication with General Winder who commands in this district and afford to him all the cooperation in your power advising the Department of your movements in order that the most efficient means may be employed to aid in the common effort to preserve the national capital and its invaluable establishments from the ruthless hands of our vengeful foe. The President calculates with confidence and pleasure on the influence of your zeal and patriotism in giving the best effect to the exertions of your brave seamen who on all occasions and on either element are ready to prove their devotion to the sacred cause of their country.
You will arm them with muskets, and on your arrival in this vicinity as many field pieces as you can conveniently fight Will be added. Mr. Beatty will comply with your requisitions for Baggage and provision waggons with cooking utensils and whatever else may be necessary for the service
The effort will be but for a few days and I anticipate with pleasure the full share of glory our gallant naval officers and seamen will acquire on this occasion. The President of the U States and heads of Departments are now in this camp, The enemy were last night at upper Marlbro', from which it is probable they will advance to day toward Bladensburg. Our force is fast accumulating and we shall now retard and ultimately repel if not destroy the forces of the enemy whose numbers are various estimated but I believe does not exceed at most 5.000. I am respectfully your Obdt. Servt.
P S. Lieut. Solomon Rutter of the U S. Flotilla at Baltimore will report himself to you with about 250. men which you will combine with your own force
please send me a copy of this letter
CAPTAIN'S CLERK MORDECAI BOOTH TO COMMODORE THOMAS TINGEY
Navy Yard Washtn. Monday 22nd: Augst: 1814.
In pursuance to your instructions to me of this day, to procure Waggons to remove the powder from the Naval Magazine--I proceeded fourthwith, to the execution of your order, After borrowing the Horse of Thomas Murray Master Cooper of the Yard, in consequence of your, regret, at my being obliged to ride one of the public Horses of the yard, then so much wanted. (Murrays Horse was borrowed of his Wife).--
I was aware of the demand for Waggons,--from the alarm then created by the removal of Public, as well as, private property--and my direction was, to the Turnpike road leading into the City from Baltimore.-- I met with no waggons, but left directions at Longs Hotel on Capitol hill, that from four to five Waggons should be directed to the Navy Yard to you, Should that number pass, that would be disposed to engage in public employment. I then proceeded with an intention of going to Alexandria, but seeing a Waggon on the Pensylvania Avenue, I soon overtook it, it was driven by a black Man who called himself William Barnett, say'd he was a free man, and the team of five horses (which was a very good one). was his own, that he was from Baltimore, and loaded in part with Tea for R. Monroe of Geo: town, some Boxes for the City--Molasses for Alexa. and 25 boxes Candles.-- The Tea for Monroe, I made him lodge at Mc,Keowins Tavern, deliver his boxes for the City-- Gave him a Certificate of having employed him for the service of the Navy Department, & permitted him to proceed to Alexa. to deliver his Molasses &c: ordered his the Navy Yard--where he arrived in the evening, deposited the Candles for safe keeping, not having found the owner, reported himself, and regularly received into Service.--
Understanding several Waggons had passed on to Geo: town, and wishing to inform Mr. Monroe of the deposit of his Tea--I shaped my Course thither, On my Way, I overtook the Honbl. Wm: Jones, Secretary of the Navy-- he enquired where I was going-- I informed him of your Order, and was on my way to Geo: town in pursuit of waggons-- he asked me if you had waggons to dispatch provisions to Comdr. Barney, I replyed I did not believe you had-- he then ordered me to impress all I could get. I very soon met with the Waggons of George Vallandingham-- he plead he was engaged to Mr. Nourse to remove public papers-- he had nothing to shew to that effect--and I impressed him, and gave him a Certificate; at the moment I did it, Mrs. Nourse came to me, and claimed the waggon as being engaged by Mr. Nourse-- The Secretary at the time drove up, when an appeal was maid to him and on Mrs. Nourse pledging her Word, it was for the public service--was instructed by the Secretary, to release it--(tho Vallandingham promised he would me, as soon as he delivered the load.) The Secretary then directed me to respect only, Waggons that was engaged for the public, and to impress all others I could.-- I very Soon met with two Waggons in Geo: town from Baltimore, belonging to Virginia-- them I impressed and put under charge of Nicholas Queen-- I then impressed John Anderson from Winchester Virginia, who was engaged to Daniel Renner, of the firm of Renner and Heath for the purpose of removing their Cordage-- The younger Mr. Renner appeared in a violent passion on the occasion, but Renner the Partner of Heath, behaved most politely, he regreted the occurence--but Observed, private considerations must give way to the public good-- I gave Anderson a Certificate of impressment-- He soon unloaded, and went on to you-- I have Since been informed by you and himself, that he took a load of Provisions in--and reached the Camp that Night-- I could find no other Waggon in the town except one of three horses--that was engaged by the Bank of Columbia--and the Driver missing-- Mr. Wm: Whan Cashier, Assured me,--that Waggon, would expressly take papers that the Government were particularly interested in; as that Bank, did a large proportion of the public Business--of course, I left it--and proceeding into the City--met with the Waggon of Richd. Love; it was taking in a load of furniture-- A Black man was with it, who told me, he was loading for Doctr. Sims-- the waggon was a little distance from the Doctrs. House-- I went to see the Doctr. to have the load put out-- he was from home, his Lady was at the door-- her distress was great indeed-- I returned to the Waggon to do my duty, when on examining the Waggon, I found one of the tire broke, and the Wheel ready to break down-- Mr. Renner was passing-- he examined the Waggon, and with myself concluded, it was not fit for use--consequently left it-- I soon met with another and taking it in charge, was proceeding by the Navy Department where I found the two Waggons impressed in Geo: town, and put under Charge of Mr. Queen-- they had been stop'd by Thos: Turner Esqr. Acctnt. of the Navy Deptnt. who advised me they would be wanted to remove papers of the Department--and spoke to the Secretary for his concurrance-- before he gave his assent--he enquired of me, how many Waggons I had got, on observing--three others; Then Sir, (he Say'd) let the two remain, and the three can load in the provisions; and get as many more as you can-- on returning to the opposite Side of the house--the waggon I had left, had run-- I mounted my Horse to persue it-- in passing around the Presidents Wall, I met with Seven Waggons loaded for Geo: town, from Baltimore, two only were impressed, they by Mr. Washington Booie-- the Other five I impressed-- and finding I might run the risque of loosing them, to persue the one that had run thought it the better way to go to Geo: town, and hurry their unloading.-- While they were discharging their loads, I rode through the Streets, and found three Waggons loading in private property--One of them for Rigs and Badon-- A White man was with the Waggon--who refused at the instance of Rigs, to tell his name, [n]or could lern it, the waggon was drove by a Black man-- I told the white man, I impressed the Waggon for and on account of the Navy Department--on which Rigs swore, I should not take it, at the risque of his life--
Wm. Ridgley was on the pavement, who also made use of language, Justifying & incourageing Rigs to opposition They went into the Store, I dismounted and followed them in-- When they made use of such language, as was degrading to gentlemen--I had no one with me to inforce the detention of the Waggon-- And it was hurried off, in opposition to my positive command to the contrary-- and except I had used violence, could not have prevented it--in which, I did not think myself justified.-- The second Waggon, was without a driver, he being absent--and while I was hunting him, the waggon was hurried off.-- The third, I gave a regular Certificate of impressment to, but the Waggon being without a Cover--and the Waggoner assuring me, he was only to carry the load a few miles into the Country; and as he could get his tent, & feed, by going home, and would be at the Navy Yard the Next day, by ten O'Clock; I consented to his going-- he you have since informed me, never reported himself.-- His Name is Michael Conley, and lives in Mt,Gomery County, not far from George Town. The five Waggons, to wit Thomas Wade, three Negroes under his Charge, & Thomas Cowthon, I arrived with, a little before sun set-at the Yard.--
Tuesday 23rd. To day I was in the yard before sun-rise--and proceeded to have the Teams appraised &c: and as Soon as practicable, got off Thos: Cowthon and Wm. Barnett with provisions for Commdr. Barney.-- The Other four--Wade and the three Negroes--I caused to go to the Magazine, where they were loaded with one hundred and twenty four Barrels, and two quarter Casks of Powder. Being without a Horse--and having to attend to the Securing the Powder, and understanding that Murry had objected to his Wife's lending his horse-and finding him in his Stable, I impressed him, with a Saddle and Bridle.-- Before I left the City, I impressed the Waggon & team of four horses, of John Bair an old Dutchman--to whom I gave a Certificate of impressment, and got him into the Yard. I then followed the Waggons with the powder, and overtook them before they cross'd the Potomac Bridge. On the South side, and as I was about to ascend the ridge from the Causeway, I met Colo. Minors Redgment of Fairfax Militia-- The Colo. recommended six persons as a competent guard to take charge of the powder, and that night, I reached Wrens tavern at the falls Church, late at night, within one mile of the farm of Daniel Dulany Esqr. where the powder was to be deposited.This Night a little before day, Captn. Smallwood & family, with my Daughters and Son.--reached Wrens-- The Acct: given me of the retreat of our troops, and the advance of the British, and the consternation of the Citizens--was to me truly distressing; but the Seeing my Children out of the reach of a ferocious and vandal enemy--was delight indeed.-- And Now Sir! Permit me to pause--Untill I return you the warmest thanks of a grateful Heart, for the attention you paid to my unprotected Children in my absence--on public duty.-- To your goodness, they owe their escape from a Sceen, the Most to be regreted of my life.-- you can never be rewarded, beyond, the Sensations of a pure heart, and a sound mind--the Attribute of an all wise being, so bounteously bestowed on you.-- ....
Battle of Bladensburg and the Attack on Washington, 24-25 August 1814
After receiving Secretary Jones's letter of 20 August, ordering him to leave a skeleton crew with the flotilla's ill-fated vessels, Joshua Barney left Nottingham on 21 August with about 400 of the flotillamen. This force joined with the army and militia to resist the British threat. From Washington, Jones sent a contingent of marines under Captain Samuel Miller to serve under Barney. Experienced military men were now more important than vessels in opposing the British onslaught. No one knew where the British would strike next. While the American army marched around the Maryland countryside, first in pursuit and then in retreat of the enemy, the British army under Major General Ross left Nottingham on 22 August for Upper Marlborough, but their momentary detour down the Woodyard Road (which led to Washington) frightened the Americans. The latter retreated to the Long Old Fields. After arriving in Upper Marlborough on 23 August, Ross and Cockburn conferred about whether to attack Washington, sixteen miles away, or to the fleet. Brigadier General Winder had proposed assembling his forces from a twenty-mile radius and assaulting the British at Upper Marlborough, but was stymied when Ross took the offensive first by breaking camp at Upper Marlborough, marching west a few miles, and then stopping to bivouac just three miles from the Long Old Fields where the Americans were camped.
Winder was in a quandary. After considering all the places that the British could attack (Annapolis, Fort Washington, Bladensburg, and Washington via the bridges on the Eastern Branch), Winder opted to retreat to the capital. On the evening of 23 August, as the American forces poured across the Eastern Branch bridges to a camp near the Washington Navy Yard, the initiative had devolved to the British.
After a peripatetic night conferring about strategic matters, and with little sleep, Winder arose at sunrise on 24 August still undecided where to assemble his troops. Meanwhile, the British broke camp about 5:00 A.M. and, after a feint toward Washington, marched to Bladensburg. Conflicting intelligence reports paralyzed American reaction until 10:00 A.M. when Winder finally accepted that the British were heading to Washington from the north. All American forces were ordered to Bladensburg to stand and repulse the British. However, Barney's flotillamen and marines, who had retreated with the army to Washington on the evening of 23 August, were delegated to blow up the bridge nearest the navy yard when the enemy approached. Recognizing that this was an inefficient use of his manpower, Barney persuaded the cabinet to detail a smaller force for this task, thus permitting his men to join the army and militia at Bladensburg. Although the Americans held numerical superiority, their last minute arrival at the battle site precluded a coordinated defense against the disciplined and battle-tested British. The naval and marine contingent under Barney alone stood its ground.
In the days before the invasion, Secretary Jones was intimately involved with preparations for the capital's defense and joined President Madison and other cabinet members in conferences at the military encampments in Maryland and near the navy yard. After the British army broke through the American lines at Bladensburg on the afternoon of 24 August, Ross stopped to refresh his troops before proceeding on to the capital. Meanwhile, the Americans fled in all directions--to Baltimore, the Capitol, Georgetown, or their homes. Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard Thomas Tingey had no military force to guard the yard and by late afternoon he received an oral report from Secretary Armstrong that the army could not protect the yard. Under orders to destroy the yard's vessels and stores, rather than allow them to be captured by the British, Tingey delayed to the very last moment setting the yard on fire. Navy yard clerk Mordecai Booth and Master Commandant John O. Creighton diligently plied the streets of Washington to gather intelligence about the British for Tingey. On the evening of the 24th, they encountered some British regulars on Capitol Hill. They rushed to the navy yard with the news and Tingey set the fires just before escaping to Alexandria in his gig.
SECRETARY OF THE NAVY JONES TO MASTER COMMANDANT JOHN O. CREIGHTON
|Capt: Jno: O. Creighton
U.S. Navy, Present,
August 24th: 1814
Commodore Barney, who was charged with the defence or destruction of the Bridge over the Eastern Branch, having by direction of the President, been ordered to join Genl: Winder at Bladensburg, you are specially charged with the eventual destruction of that Bridge, for which purpose a Serjeants guard of Marines, has been detailed & placed under your command.-- You will see that sufficient combustibles are properly placed so as to explode & destroy the Bridge effectually on the instant the Enemy may approach its vicinity, which you will determine by a good look out or by such information as you may deem satisfactory.-- This object is of vital importance, & I rely with confidence upon your vigilance.-- Having performed this duty you will unite with Como: Tingey in preparing for the destruction of such vessels, magazines & Public Stores, as cannot be removed.-- I am respectfully &c.
CAPTAIN JOSHUA BARNEY, FLOTILLA SERVICE, TO SECRETARY OF THE NAVY JONES
Farm at Elk ridge. Augt. 29th. 1814
This is the first moment I have had it in my power to make a report of the proceedings of the forces under my command since I had the honor of seeing you on Tuesday the 23d. inst. at the Camp at the "Old fields," on the afternoon of that day we were informed that the Enemy was advancing upon us, The Army was put into order of battle and our positions taken, my forces were on the right, flanked by the two Battaln. of the 36 & 38th. Regiments where we remained some hours, The enemy did not however make his appearance. A little before sun set, General Winder came to me and recommended that the heavy Artillery should be withdrawn with the exception of one 12 lb. to cover the retreat; We took up our line of march and in the night entered Washington by the Eastern branch Bridge, I marched my Men &c to the Marine Barracks and took up Quarters for the night, myself sleeping at Comr. Tingeys at the Navy yard, About 2 OClock. Genrl. Winder came to my Quarters and we made some arrangements. In the morning I recd. a note from Genrl. Winder and waited upon him, he requested me to take command, and place my Artillery to defend the passage of the Bridge on the Eastern Branch as the enemy was approaching the City in that direction, I immediately put my guns in Position, leaving the Marines & the rest of my men at the Barracks to wait further orders. I was in this situation when I had the honor to meet you, with the President, & heads of Departments, when it was determined I should draw off my Guns & men and proceed towards Bladensburgh, which was Immediately put into execution; on our way I was informed the enemy was within a mile of Bladensburgh we hurried on, The day was hot, and my men very much crippled from the severe marches we had experienced the preceding days before, many of them being without shoes, which I had replaced that morning, I preceded the men and when I arrived at the line which separates the District from Maryland the Battle began, I sent an officer back to hurry on my men, they came up in a trot, we took our position on the rising ground, put the pieces in Battery, posted the Marines under Capt. Miller and the flotilla men who were to act as Infantry under their own officers, on my right to support the pieces, and waited the approach of the Enemy, during this period the engagement continued the enemy advancing,-- our own Army retreating before them apparently in much disorder, at length the enemy made his appearance on the main road, in force, and in front of my Battery, and on seeing us made a halt, I reserved our fire, in a few minutes the enemy again advanced, when I ordered an 18 lb. to be fired, which compleatly cleared the road, shortly after a second and a third attempt was made by the enemy to come forward but all were distroyed, The enemy then crossed over into an Open field and attempted to flank our right, he was there met by three twelve pounders, the Marines under Capt. Miller and my men acting as Infantry, and again was totally cut up, by this time not a Vestige of the American Army remained except a body of 5 or 600 posted on a height on my right from whom I expected much support, from their fine situation, The Enemy from this period never appeared in force in front of us, they pushed forward their sharp shooters, one of which shot my horse under me, who fell dead between two of my Guns; The enemy who had been kept in check by our fire for nearly half an hour now began to out flank us on the right, our guns were turned that way, he pushed up the Hill, about 2 or 300 towards the Corps of Americans station'd as above described, who, to my great mortification made no resistance, giving a fire or two and retired, in this situation we had the whole army of the Enemy to contend with; Our Ammunition was expended, and unfortunately the drivers of my Ammunition Waggons had gone off in the General Panic, at this time I received a severe wound in my thigh, Capt. Miller, was Wounded, Sailing Master Warner Killed, actg. sailing Master Martin Killed, & sailing Master Martin wounded, but to the honour of my officers & men, as fast as their Companions & mess mates fell at the guns they were instantly replaced from the Infantry, Finding the enemy now compleatly in our rear, and no means of defence I gave orders to my officers and men to retire-- Three of my officers assisted me to get off a Short distance but the great loss of blood occasioned such a weakness that I was compelled to lie down, I requested my officers to leave me, which they obstinately refused, but upon being Ordered they obeyed, one only remained. In a short time I observed a British soldier and had him called, and directed him to seek an officer, in a few minutes an officer came, on learning who I was, brought General Ross & Admiral Cockburn to me, Those officers behaved to me with the most marked Attention, respect, and Politeness, had a Surgeon brought and my wound dressed immediately. After a few minutes conversation the Generl. Informed me, (after paying me a handsome compliment) that I was paroled and at liberty to proceed to Washington or Bladensburgh, as also Mr. Huffington who had remained with me, offering me every assistance in his power, giving orders for a litter to be brought in which I was carried to Bladensburgh; Capt Wainwright first Capt. to Admiral Cochrane remained with me and behaved to me as if I was a brother--
During the stay of the enemy at Bladensburgh I received the most polite attention from the officers of the Navy & Army.
My wound is deep, but I flatter myself not dangerous, the Ball is not yet extracted, I fondly hope a few weeks will restore me to health, and that an exchange will take place, that I may resume my Command or any other, that you and the President may think proper to honour me with, yours respectfully
CAPTAIN'S CLERK MORDECAI BOOTH TO COMMODORE THOMAS TINGEY
Wednesday 24th.--Desireous of having the powder delivered and under a guard, I was on my horse at the dawn of day, and ordered the waggons to geer up, and follow me; on geting to the Farm, I found Seventy five barrels of Powder had been deposited--the Barn in which it was Open, and much out of order-- I went to the House of Mr. Dosier Bennett a respectable Citizen, recommended by Colo. Minor, in whoom I might confide, for its care; he Agreed to have my orders attended to, and to have collected, a competent guard; on my stipulating to Allow him, two dollars Pr. day for his services, and one & a half dollars, for each person employed to aid him; untill I could relieve them, by sending a guard over; which Colo: Wharton had promised me should be done-- As soon as I had completed my orders, and directed the Waggons to hasten their the City--I set out to attend you.-- On reaching the Navy Yard, I was told you had gone in the direction of the lower Eastern branch Bridge.-- I found on reaching the Commons, the rear of the Army in motion, but was ignorant of its Movements-- On geting in view of the door of the house lately Occupied by the Revd: A: Hunter; I saw the Gig of the Secretary of the Navy, a number of horses, and several horsemen.-- Thinking I might find you there, as from appearances the assemblage was, the heads of Departments and General Officers &c: I rode up-- I saw the President of the U:S. through the Window. I inquired for you, an officer requested my name--and went in to see if you were there, he returned & informed me, you were not, & I went on to the bridge; on reaching it--saw you on it; I dismounted, and in approaching you, Met Commodore Barney and Captn. Creighton-- receiving your orders to have the Waggons again loaded with powder, I returned to the Yard--prepaired some certificates for the Waggons--left the Office, and went to your house, to know your Commands, if you wished me to attend to any thing particularly-- The Secretary of the Navy was then in his Gig at your door-- You had no order for me, and I passed on, to get my dinner-- While Dining, was told an action was pending-- the first intimation, that one was expected-- I was scarcely up from the table, before the four Waggons arrived--And I was giving them orders to proceed direct to the Magazine, when the retreat of our Army was pronounced.--and in the direction to the Potomac Bridge; Waggons and Men; were seen flying in the utmost confusion-- those receiving my orders, waited not a moment; but fled with all precipitation-- I went to my house lock'd my doors, and ran to the Yard, where I found you, and tendered my Services-- What was my astonishment! on being informed by you, that, in the event of a retreat, or defeat, and the Yard could not be defended--You had orders to fire it.-- And as you was left without defence--I could remain & assist in the execution of the order-- I had put my Horse in the Stable, and determining he should not be lost, I went to the Stable & Saddled him, on bringing him out, I saw Mr. A: Thornton (overseer of laborers) who appeared to be leaving the yard-- to him I intended giving the charge of the Horse; but, reflecting that, my horse was a good one (before he had taken him) and thinking I might be useful in reconnoitreing; and not knowing you had received any communication from the Secretary of War, I proposed going in Serch of intelligence; At which you appeared well pleased.-- Then Colo. Wharton and Captn. Crab were in the Yard-- The British Army were momently expected--and as I mounted my horse, was told that the whistling of the balls, had been distinctly heard at the Marine Barracks; Which you heard, as well as myself-- I passed the commons, and to the turn-pike Gate; commanding a View of the Hills beyond the Gate, I saw not the Appearance of an Englishman-- But Oh! my Country--And I blush Sir! to tell you--I saw the Commons Covered with the fugitive Soldiery of our Army--runing, hobling, Creaping, & appearently pannick struck--One solitary company Only, (a) that was formed-- I was told the Army had rallied at the Capitol-- thither I intreated all I passed, that could point a Bayonet, to haste. Finding there was no persuing Army, I confess, I did believe, and that belief expressed to you, on my you--That there had not been a General defeat, but that, some gallent spirits had sustained the Action, and had checked our foe-- With this impression--I received your order to go to the Capitol, for intelligence.-- I went but found only men who had been dispersed, resting--Principally I concieved, Barneys Flotilla Men-- The Citizen-Militia had Chiefly taken refuge at their houses--as I saw Officers, as well as men at their doors-- It did not appear to me, that any Officer ranking a Captain, was at the Capitol; or more than from 250 to 300 Men. Captn. Bacon of Marines, and Captn. Gohagan of Barneys flotilla, were the only Officers I knew-- they seemed to be setling which should command. I was told the Army had gone to the hights of Geo: town, this I could not credit; it had in appearance, Something too dastardly, to be believed by me--And I again went in view of the turn pike Gate, and Commanding a view of the hights in every direction-- No enemy had yet Approached--and my belief being strengthened by that circumstance; that we were not entirely driven; and our Army, or that Part of it, that deserved the Name of Soldiers, was Still between the City and Bladensburg, I again returned to you to make my report.-- When on my way, I saw a portion of the Eastern Branch Bridge Blown, into Splintery fragments, in the Air-- At the Moment of my you, I heard a Communication Made by a Young Officer, that the British Army was in full force in the City.-- And that, they had reached the Capitol, or were approaching it-- this I knew to be incorrect, and indignant at the Communication--and my ardour and Zeal, alive to the public Good--And fearing you would fire the Yard, prematurely--Was induced to express myself in language, few Considerations but, my Countrys Honour and Welfair would have prompted me to.--- And Now Sir! be assured, it was not from disrespect to You; But from my Knowledge of you-- Which I now unhesitateingly declare in my Opinion to be, devotedly and truly attached to this, Your Country. Possessing undaunted bravery, and a Mind cooly deliberate--I can but believe that, had you been left entirely to the "Suggestions of your own Mind" and could have had the ordering the troops--or at least a part of them, the result of this Unfortunate 24th. Augst: would have been far different. Unfortunately "the Navy Yard could not be covered"-- It had not been recollected that, in the event of a retreat--Barneys Flotilla Men, could be useful in the Yard-- it was forgotten that the Argus &c: &c: had their guns expressly Mounted for the protection of this desireable depot of Public property & Wealth-- Thither they had not been ordered to repair and rally-- NO Sir! Fate had decreed that--with the Capitol it should be an Additional Monument of our Countrys disgrace and dishonour--And Alike, to exhibit one general Chaos of tumbling ruins.-- Wheather it was for want of Military Means, or military Sience and knowledge in the Commanding General--Or miscreant treachery in designing its fall, time may Never develope-- This all will agree in--that the Stain can never be blotted from the recollection of Americans.--
But to return--On offering to reconnoitre the British Army--(after giving way to my feelings) that confidence which you appeared to repose in me, by the declaration that, you would depend on the intelligence I gave you; that you would pospone the execution of your Order to the last moment--and that your life and reputation should rest on the correctness of that intelligence, induced me to determine at the hazard of my life, to assertain, where the British Army was, to assertain to a Certainty if they had not been checked--or where the American Army was, and if likely to make a stand by which the City might be saved. I had left the Yard but a few minutes before I was in view of the Turnpike Road leading from Bladensburg--(I had passed Colo. Tatum)--and scarcely in view before I saw a Man on horseback coming over the hill beyond the gate--in full speed-- A Waggon had been left about half way down the hill-- the Man came as far as the Waggon--then turned, rode to the top of the hill, and turned to the left in the Woods, I saw no other person, and pushed on, passed the gate, and at Some distance saw John Davis (brother of Shadrack) & Mr. Ivie, in the field to the right, but at the fence-- They had Seen no British pass the hill--and enquired where I was going-- as I reply'd, we saw a man pass the hill in full Speed, he was whiping his Horse at every jump-- I galloped on & met him-- he stoped and told me he had seen the British Army & where they were; that he was from Geo: town, was a Butcher, & had gone voluntarily to gain information for the People of his Town-- he Offered to turn about, and Shew me where they were--and did.-- On geting on the top of the hill, he took me along a blind road to the left, the way he had before gone into A field--(for he was the Man I had seen come over the hill to the Waggon) The ground was open for a great distance--and on a Hill to the left of the Road beyond the Farm House of Serjant-Major Forrest, he Shewed me a Column of Men--They Appeared to me to be dressed in Blue or dark cloaths-- I saw distinctly many red Coats--But took them for the drummers and fifers-- Tho Miller (for that was the name of the man with me) insisted they were the Officers-- I proposed to him to keep the ridge untill the sun, then near siting, might more distinctly favor our view, on proceeding some distance, I believed them to be American troops-- Having seen a Company file off, that I took to be the Geo: town Rifle-Men-- The Circumstance Alone of not having seen persons conveying intelligence of the Check--(if checked) of the British, made me doubt at all-- However, I determined to gain a hight that I think was within 300 Yards of them, where I expected also, to have had a distinct view of the advancing Company-- I had to pass a fence before I reached the hill, on geting to it, there was a gap, the rails scattered in every direction, Miller got down & opened it.-- I bid him remain there-- before I had reached the top of the hill, he called to me, I heard him, & looking round, he beckoned Several times; I still went on, he Mounted his Horse and Strained after me--and hallooing told me, he had seen several men run off into some bushes, that he expected, designed to pick me off-- I had gained the summit of the hill, but a Corn field being between the Hill and Road, I could See nothing of the Company that had filed off-- I saw the Men as they left the bushes, runing towards me, but Galloping off--before they Gained the hill, I was (I thought) pretty well out of their reach, I saw two assend it, and of them, one only, fired. Miller then asked me, if I did not think that proof? And thinking the Company that appeared to be advancing, might interupt our return, we kept the field, passed down the meadows, at the head of the Tiber, through Mrs. Casinaves plantation, and out near the Capitol, and then went in View of the Turnpike gate-- The British had not passed the hill, then Sundown--as I passed on, I again Saw Davis & Ivey, coming in-- I found you at the Navy Yard Gate--and told you I would make my report, if it met your approbation, before Colo. Wharton-- my reason was, that, you and the Colo. hearing My Report, if you fired the Yard, you might be justified-- The Colo. was not with you, and you having Sent Sergeant Stickney to look for him.--He returned and reported the Colo. had left the Yard.-- Captn. Haraden being present, I reported as here Stated-- You Observed that, every thing was ready--but as Captn. Creighton had gone out to assertain where the Army was, you would wait his Return-- Miller had assured me, they had passed through Geo: town--
Desireous of knowing positively myself, I proposed to you, my going as far as the Presidents House, where I expected, were the Executive--by which I might assertain by some one to be relied on, what was the fact, and if any thing was to be done--or could meet Captn. Creighton-- you assented--and when I reached the Jersey Avinue below Mr. Carrols; I met Mr. Walter Cox--Cornet in Coldwells troop of horse-- He told me he had left the Army at Tenley town--And I informed him where the British were-- he went with me as far as the Presidents House-- A Horseman in Uniform, appearantly a field officer, was at the Steps-- I ask'd him his Name-- He Seem'd much Agitated, was About to draw a pistol from his holster--when on observing--I perceived he was an American as well as myself, and requesting him, not to be flurried--that my object was to gain correct information of our Army; he informed me his Name was Tatum (who I recognized, to have seen in the evening, near the Turn-pike gate) and he returned his Pistol, on my mentioning, my wanting information to convey to you.
On Mr. Cox's coming up, (who was behind, having stop'd on meeting some acquaintance) and asking if any person was within--The Colo. reply'd he expected not; for he had Called John, and was not answered-- Mr. Cox desired his Servant to dismount and ring the Bell-- The Colo. made the Servt. hold his Horse, Dismounted--went up the steps, pulled the Bell several times with much violence--Knocked at the Door, and called John-- But all was as silent as a Church.--
Colo. Tatum made some observations of having had it in his power, to have taken the British General, got hold of Mr. Coxes hand, and wished to detain him in conversation, but on my observing we must not be detained; he left the Colo. and we wrode off.-- Then, and not untill then, was my mind fully impressed that, the Matropelis of our Country was abandoned to it's horrid fate. We had not proceeded far on the Pensylvania Avinue, before we Overtook Captn. Creighton, when I lernt that, no further Opposition was to be expected. At the Tiber Bridge we met William Smith of Coldwells Troop; Mr. Cox turned him back, on telling him, they would gether to the Camp; after going to the Navy Yard. Mr. Cox proposed on our geting to Capitol hill, to pass to the North end of the Capitol, that we might see if anyone was there; we saw not One Soul. We went on in the direction of Tomblinsons Hotel--When about midway between that and Longs, Mr. Cox (we being in front) laid himself on his horses neck (it being sometime in the Night) as if observing something; I thought, he was looking at, what I took to be Cows; He observed he saw the Cows, but he also saw men advancing: they were riseing from the Hollow direct in front of Longs-- we advanced untill within forty yards or less, when they began to display-- I gave the reins to my Horse, and Captn. Creighton followed me-- Cox & Smith & Cox's Servant, came to the right about-- We were fired on by the party-- I passed Carrols long row of Buildings--turned by the Revd. A: M'Cormicks--and with the Jersey Avenue, to the Virginia Avenue & to the Navy Yard--Captn. Creighton keeping with Me-- We Made a report Accordingly You then determined to fire the Yard--And Asked Captn. Creighton and Myself, if we would keep our horses, or take a Seat with you in your Boat-- Captn. Creighton determined on going with you-- My Horse was too good a One to be lost, I obtained your permission to relye on him When you told me to take care of Myself & horse, and bade me farewell; turned yourself to the Lanthorn, drew out your watch, & observed it was Twenty minutes after eight.-- I left you only to my Children-- I passed from the Yard by the 20 Buildings, and by Mrs. Younge to the Potomac Bridge-- The South draw was up-- I had it put down--and was scarcely over, before I saw the flames of the Yard--and had but reached the levil beyond the Causeway, before I saw a Considerable explosion, which I conceived was the Ordnance Store-- But possibly, was the one at Greenleafs Point--as I Saw very Soon after the flames at the Fort, at that Place-and by the time I reached the Hill which did not exceed fifteen Minutes--I saw the Capitol in flames--(tho I had seen lights within, while on the Bridge.) This I had no doubt, was the work of the British.-- A sight, so repugnant to my feelings, so dishonourable; so degrading to the American Character, and at the Same time, so Awful--Almost palsied my facultyes.--
Finding many of the Citizens at Owin's on the hill, of Which a large portion were Women and Children--I remained from--two and a half, to three hours--viewing the tumbling Ruins--and about Midnight reach'd Wren-- where I found my Children-- ....
MEMORANDUM OF SECRETARY OF THE NAVY JONES
[August 24, 1814]
On Wednesday the 24th. Augt. 1814 the President and heads of Departments from 10 AM to 2 PM or after, were at and around Genl. Winders quarters when it was understood the enemy were advancing towards the Eastern Branch Bridge Commodore Barneys artillery being planted on the the hill in front of the Bridge and Materials placed under the Bridge ready to explode and destroy it should the enemy approach. Information being received that the enemy had pursued the road to Bladensburg to which place Genl. Winder with the military force had gone leaving Com Barneys force at the Branch Bridge for the purpose of destroying it and defending the passage over the river. It was determined after consultation among the members of the Cabinet that Commodore Barney should immediately proceed to join the army at Bladensburgh and Captain Creighton should be left to explode the Bridge
I took occasion to State to the President and Secretary of War particularly and in the presence I think of Mr. Campbell and perhaps Mr. Rush that besides the new frigate Sloop of War and several small vessels, at the Navy yard there were large quantities of provisions and naval & military Stores of all kinds, at the Navy yard which ought to be destroyed in the event of the enemy getting possession of the City as those vessels provisions and Stores would be to him extremely important and valuable and there could be no doubt that after emptying the buildings of their contents and removing the vessels that were afloat he would destroy all the buildings and the frigate on the ways unless indeed he should launch her which as she was entirely caulked and her launching ways principally prepared he could with the force he would command from the approaching squadron accomplish in three or four days. It was agreed by the President and Secretary of War that every thing that could be useful or valuable to the enemy should be destroyed in the event of his repulsing our army and entering the City. The Secretary at War proceeded to join the army at Bladensburg and since that time after the President & Secretary of State followed. I then went to the marine Barracks to give some necessary directions there and to Captain Creighton relative to the exploding of the Bridge in the event of the enemy getting possession of the City in order to prevent his passage over the eastern branch for the purpose of attacking fort Warburton in the rear. From the Marine barracks I went to the Navy yard accompanied by Mr. Edward Duval one of the clerks in the Navy Depmt. and in front of Commodore Tingeys house in the presence of Mr. Duval at about three oclock gave him the following verbal order "you will make the necessary preparations for destroying the public shipping and all the Naval and Military Stores and provisions at the Navy yard including every thing that may be valuable and useful to the enemy, and after removing to a place of Safety all that may be found practicable of the most valuable articles, and having satisfactorily ascertained that the enemy has driven our army and entered the City you will Set fire to the trains and retire in your Gig."
I left the Navy yard at about half past three Oclock accompanied by Mr. Duval and not long after learned that our army was rapidly retreating and that of the enemy advancing rapidly. We proceeded to Georgetown where I met my family and that of the Presidents at the house of Charles Carrol Esqr. of Bellevue and received a message from the President requesting that I would join him at Foxalls Works. at about 5 Oclock I set out in company with the family of the President, of Mr. Carrols and my own with Mr. Duval and proceeded through Georgetown to join the President but found he had crossed at masons ferry.
COMMODORE THOMAS TINGEY TO SECRETARY OF THE NAVY JONES
Navy Yard Washn 27th. Augst 1814
After receiving your orders of 24th directing the public Shipping, Stores &c: at this Establishment, to be destroy'd, in case of the success of the enemy, over our Army--no time was lost, in making the necessary arrangements, for firing the whole, and preparing boats for departing from the yard, as you had suggested.
About 4 PM: I rece'd a message by an officer from the Secretary of War--with information that, he "could protect me no longer"-- Soon after this, I was inform'd that the conflagration of the Eastern branch bridge had commenc'd and, in a few minutes the explosion announc'd the blowing up of that part, near the "draw," as had been arranged in the morning.
It had been promulgated, as much as in my power, among the inhabitants of the vicinity; the intended fate of the yard, in order that, they might take every possible precaution for the safety of themselves, families and property.
Immediately, several individuals came in succession, endeavoring to prevail on me to deviate from my instructions--which they were invariably inform'd was unavailing unless they could bring me your instructions in writing, countermanding those previously given.
A deputation also of the most respectable women, came on the same errand--when I found myself painfully necessitated to inform them, that, any farther importunities would cause the matches to be instantly applied to the trains--with assurance however that, if left at peace; I would delay the execution of the orders, as long as I could feel the least shadow of justification. Captain Creighton's arrival at the yard, with the men who had been with him at the bridge (probably about 5 o'clock) would have justified me in instant operation--but he also, was strenuous in the desire to obviate the intended destruction---and volunteer'd to ride out, and gain me positive information, as to the position of the enemy--under the hope that, our Army might have rallied and repulsed them-- I was myself indeed, desirous of delay, for the reason that, the wind was then blowing fresh from the SSW, which would most probably, have caused the destruction of all the private property, north and east of the yard, in it's neighbourhood, when, I was of opinion that, the close of the evening would bring with it a calm, in which happily, we were not disappointed--- Other gentlemen well mounted, volunteer'd as Captn. Creighton had done, to go out and bring me positive intelligence of the enemy's situation, if possible to obtain it.
The evening came, and I waited with much anxiety the return of Captn. C--, having almost continual information that, the enemy were in the neighbourhood of the Marine barracks--at the Capitol hill--and that their "advance" was near George town-- I therefore determined to wait only until 1/2 past 8 oClock, to commence the execution of my orders--becoming apprehensive that Cap tn. C-- had, from his long stay, fallen into the hands of the enemy.
During this delay, I ordered a few Marines, and other persons who were then near me, to go off in one of the small gallies, which was done and she is saved. Colnl. Wharton had been furnish'd with a light boat, with which he left the yard, probably between 7 & 8 o'clock.
At 20 minutes past 8 Captn. Creighton return'd, he was still extremely averse to the destruction of the property, but having inform'd him that your orders to me were imperative; the proper disposition of the boats being made, the matches were applied, and in a few moments the whole was in a state of irretrievable conflagration.
When about leaving the wharf, I observed the fire had also commenc'd at the works at Greenleafs point, and in the way out of the branch, we observed the Capitol on fire. It had been my intention, not to leave the vicinity of the yard with my boat, during the night, but having Captn. Creighton, and other gentlemen with me, she was too much encumbered and overladen, to render that determination proper. We therefore proceeded to Alexandria, in the vicinity of which I rested till the morning of the 25th. when, having also refreshed the Gigs crew, we left Alexandria at 1/2 past 7 oClock, and proceeded again up to the yard, where I landed unmolested about a 1/4 before nine
The Schooner Lynx had laid along-side the burning wharf, still unhurt--hoping therefore to save her, we hauled her to the quarter of the hulk of the New York, which had also escaped the ravages of the flames
The detail issuing store, of the Navy store keeper, had remain'd safe from the fire during the night; which the Enemy (being in force in the yard) about 8 oclock set fire to, and it was speedily consumed. It appear'd that they had left the yard, about 1/2 a hour when we arrived. I found my dwelling house, and that of Lieutnt. Haraden untouch'd by fire--but some of the people of the neighbourhood had commenc'd plundering them-- therefore, hastily collecting a few persons known to me, I got some of my most valuable materials moved to neighbours houses, out of the yard, who tender'd me their offers to receive them, the enemy's officers having declared private property sacred-- Could I have stayed another hour, I had probably saved all my furniture and stores but being advised by some friends that I was not safe, they believeng that, the Admiral was by that time, or would very speedily, be inform'd of my being in the yard, he having expres'd an anxious desire to make me captive--but had said that the Officers dwellings in the yard, should not be destroy'd--I therefore again embark'd in the gig--taking along out of the Branch, one of the new launches, which lay safe, although along-side of a floating-stage envelop'd in flames-- I had no sooner gone, than such a scene of devastation and plunder took place in the houses (by the people of the neighbourhood) as is disgraceful to relate--not a moveable article from the cellars to the garrets has been left us--and even some of the fixtures, and the locks off the doors, have been shamefully pillaged; some of the perpetrators however have been made known to me.
From the number and movements of the enemy, it would have appear'd rash temerity, to have attempted returning again that day--though my inclination strongly urged it, therefore reconnoitring their motions, as well as could be effected at a convenient distance in the Gig until evening, I again proceeded to Alexandria for the night. Yester'morn the 26th. it was impossible to form (from the various and contradictory reports at Alexandria) any sort of probable conjecture, either of the proceedings & situation of our Army--or that of the Enemy. Determining therefore to have a positive knowledge of some part thereof, from occular demonstration, I again embark'd in the gig, proceeding with due caution to the yard--where I learned with chagrin the devastation and pillage before mentioned--and found also to my surprize that the old Gunboat, which had been loaded with provisions, and had grounded in endeavoring to get out of the Branch, on the evening of the 24th. was nearly discharged of her cargo, by a number of our people, without connexion with each other.
Having landed in the yard, I soon ascertain'd that the Enemy had left the city--excepting only a serjeants guard, for the security of the sick and wounded. Finding it impracticable to stop the scene of plunder that had commenc'd, I determin'd instantly on repossessing the yard, with all the force at my command repairing therefore immediately to Alexandria; lieutnt. Haraden, the ordinary men and the few marines there, were ordered directly up, following myself, and got full possession again at evening.
I am now collecting the scattered purloined provisions ready for your orders, presuming they will now become very scarce indeed-- the quantity saved you shall be inform'd when known to me
The Lynx is safe, except her foremast being carried away in the storm of the 25th. about 4 PM-- We have also another of the Gunboats with about 100 barrels of powder; and one of the large yard-cutters, nearly full with the filled cylinders, for our different guns previously mounted--the powder of those however is probably much wetted by the storm. I would most willingly have an interview with you, but deem it improper to leave my station without some justifiable cause, or in pursuance of your instructions--under which I am ready to proceed wherever my services may be thought useful. I have the honor to be very respectfully Sir Your Obdt. Servt.
P S: Sunday morn'g 28th. After terminating the foregoing last even'g I had scarcely laid down my pen, when a smart cannonading commenc'd at, or from fort Washington, which continued from heavy Cannon till after 7 o'clock, during which it appear'd as if two or three severe explosions had taken place. No doubt that it was between the enemy's frigates and the fort--but as to the result I am entirely without information--nor have I at command the means of obtaining it, the wind blowing too fresh up the river, for a light boat to make any progress down.
I shall hire sufficient hands, as soon as practicable and collect all the materials, unhurt by the fire--which shall be suitably deposited and protected
REAR ADMIRAL GEORGE COCKBURN, R.N., TO
VICE ADMIRAL SIR ALEXANDER F. I. COCHRANE, R.N.
His Majesty's Sloop Manly off
Nottingham Patuxent 27 August 1814
I have the honor to inform you that agreeably to the Intentions I notified to you in my Letter of the 22nd. Instant, I proceeded by Land on the Morning of the 23rd. to Upper Marlborough, to meet and confer with Major General Ross as to our further operations against the Enemy, and we were not long in agreeing on the propriety of making an immediate attempt on the City of Washington.
In Conformity therefore with the wishes of the General, I instantly sent orders for our Marine and Naval Forces at Pig Point, to be forthwith moved over to Mount Calvert, and for the Marines, Marine Artillery, and a Proportion of the Seamen to be there landed and with the utmost possible expedition to join the Army, which I also most readily agreed to accompany.
The Major General then made his Dispositions, and arranged that Captain Robyns with the Marines of the Ships should retain possession of Upper Marlborough, and that the Marine Artillery and Seamen should follow the Army to the Ground it was to occupy for the Night, The Army then moved on, and bivouacked before dark about five Miles nearer Washington.
In the night Captain Palmer of the Hebrus, and Captain Money of the Trave, joined us with the Seamen, and with the Marine artillery under Captain Harrison-- Captain Wainwright of the Tonnant had accompanied me the day before, as had also Lieutenant James Scott (acting 1st. Lieutenant) of the Albion.
At Daylight the morning of the 24th. the Major General again put the Army in Motion directing his March upon Bladensburg, on reaching which place, with the advanced Brigade, the Enemy was discovered drawn up in Force on a rising Ground beyond the Town, and by the Fire he soon opened on us as we entered the Place, gave us to understand he was well protected with Artillery; General Ross however did not hesitate in immediately advancing to attack him, although our Troops were almost exhausted with the Fatigue of the March they had just made, and but a small proportion of our little Army had yet got up; this dashing Measure was however, I am happy to add, crowned with the Success it merited, for in Spite of the galling Fire of the Enemy our Troops advanced steadily on both his Flanks and in his Front, and as soon as they arrived on even ground with him he fled in every direction, leaving behind him Ten Pieces of Cannon and a considerable Number of killed and wounded, amongst the latter Commodore Barney and Several other Officers, Some other Prisoners were also taken, tho' not many, owing to the Swiftness with which the Enemy went off, and the Fatigues our Army had previously undergone.
It would Sir be deemed presumption in me to attempt to give you particular details respecting the nature of this Battle, I shall therefore only remark generally that the Enemy, Eight thousand Strong, on Ground he had chosen as best adapted for him to defend, where he had had time to erect his Batteries and concert all his measures, was dislodged as Soon as reached, and a Victory gained over him by a Division of the British Army not amounting to more than Fifteen hundred Men headed by our Gallant General whose brilliant atchievement of this day it is beyond my Power to do justice to, and indeed no possible Comment could enhance.
The Seamen with the Guns were to their great mortification with the Rear Division during this Short but decisive action, those however attached to the Rocket Brigade were in the Battle, and I remarked with much pleasure the precision with which the Rockets were thrown by them under the Direction of 1st. Lieutenant Lawrence of the Marine artillery-- Mr. Jeremh. McDaniel Masters Mate of Tonnant a very fine young man who has passed and who was attached to this party being Severely wounded, I beg permission to recommend him to your favorable Consideration-- The Company of Marines I have on so many occasions had cause to mention to you, Commanded by 1st. Lieutenant Stephens, was also in the action, as were the Colonial Marines under the Temporary Command of Captain Reed of the 6th. West India Regiment, (these Companies being attached to the Light Brigade), and they respectively behaved with their accoustomed Zeal and Bravery-- None other of the Naval Department were fortunate enough to arrive up in Time to take their share in this Battle, excepting Captain Palmer of the Hebrus, with his Aid-de-Camp Mr. Arthur Wakefield Midshipman of that Ship, and Lieutenant James Scott 1st. of the Albion, who acted as my aid-de-Camp and remained with me during the whole Time.
The Contest being Completely ended and the Enemy having retired from the Field, the General gave the Army about two hours rest, when he again moved forward on Washington; It was however dark before we reached that City, and on the General, myself and some officers advancing a short way past the first Houses of the Town without being accompanied by the Troops, the Enemy opened upon us a heavy fire of Musquetry from the Capitol and two other houses, these were therefore almost immediately Stormed by our People, taken possession of, and set on fire, after which the Town submitted without further resistance.
The Enemy himself on our entering the Town set Fire to the Navy Yard, (filled with Naval Stores) a Frigate of the largest class almost ready for Launching, and a Sloop of War laying off it, as he also did to the Fort which protected the Sea approach to Washington.
On taking Possession of the City we also set fire to the Presidents Palace, the Treasury, and the War Office, and in the morning Captain Wainwright went with a Party to see that the Destruction in the Navy Yard was Complete, when he destroyed whatever Stores and Buildings had escaped the Flames of the preceeding Night-- A large quantity of Ammunition and ordnance Stores were likewise destroyed by us in the Arsenal, as were about Two hundred pieces of Artillery of different Calibres, as well as a Vast quantity of small Arms. Two Rope Walks of a very extensive Nature, full of Tar, Rope &c. Situated at a considerable distance from the Yard were likewise set Fire to and consumed, in short Sir I do not believe a Vestage of Public Property, or a Store of any kind which could be converted to the use of the Government, escaped Destruction; the Bridges across the Eastern Branch and the Potowmac were likewise destroyed.
This general Devastation being completed during the day of the 25th. we marched again at Nine that night on our Return by Bladensburg to upper Marlborough. We arrived yesterday Evening at the latter without molestation of any sort, indeed without a Single Musket having been fired, and this Morning we moved on to this place where I have found His Majesty's Sloop Manly, the Tenders, and the Boats, and I have hoisted my Flag pro tempore in the former-- The Troops will probably march to morrow or the next day at farthest to Benedict for re-embarkation, and this Flotilla will of course join you at the same time.
In closing Sir my Statement to you of the Arduous and highly important operations of this last week, I have a most pleasing duty to perform in assuring You of the good conduct of the Officers and Men who have been Serving under me-- I have been particularly indebted whilst on this Service to Captain Wainwright of the Tonnant for the assistance he has invariably afforded me, and to Captains Palmer and Money for their Exertions during the March to and from Washington-
To Captain Nourse who has Commanded the Flotilla during my absence, my acknowledgements are also most justly due, as well as to Captains Sullivan, Badcock, Somerville, Ramsay and Bruce who have acted in it under him.
Lieutenant James Scott now 1st. Lieutenant of the Albion has on this occasion Rendered me essential Services, and as I have had reason so often of late to mention to you the Gallant and Meritorious Conduct of this Officer, I trust you will permit me to seize this opportunity of recommending him particularly to your favorable Notice and Consideration.
Captain Robyns (the Senior Officer of Marines with the Fleet) who has had during these operations the Marines of the Ships united under his Orders, has executed ably and zealously the Several Services with which he has been entrusted, and is entitled to my best acknowledgements accordingly, as is also Captain Harrison of the Marine Artillery who with the Officers and Men attached to him accompanied the Army to and from Washington
Mr. Dobie Surgeon of the Melpomene volunteered his professional Services on this occasion and rendered much assistance to the wounded on the Field of Battle, as well as to many of the Men taken ill on the line of March.
One Colonial Marine killed, One Master's Mate, Two Serjeants and Three Colonial Marines wounded, are the Casualties sustained by the Naval Department-- A general List of the Killed and wounded of the whole Army will of course accompany the Reports of the Major General. I have the Honor to be Sir Your very faithful and Most Obledt. humble Servant
(signed) G: Cockburn Rear Admiral.
Two long Six pounder Guns intended for a Battery at Nottingham were taken off and put on board the Brune and one taken at Upper Marlborough was destroyed.
MAJOR GENERAL ROBERT ROSS, BRITISH ARMY, TO
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR AND THE COLONIES EARL BATHURST
Tonnant in the Patuxent 30th August 1814.
I have the honour to Communicate to your Lordship that on the night of the 24th Instant after Defeating the Army of the United States on that day the Troops under my Command entered and took possession of the City of Washington.--
In compliance with Your Lordships Instructions to attract the attention of the Government of the United States and to cause a Diversion in favour of the Army in Canada it was determined between Sir Alexr. Cochrane and myself to disembark the Army at the Village of Benedict on the Right Bank of the Patuxent with the intention of co-operating with Rear Admiral Cockburn in an Attack upon a Flotilla of the Enemy's Gun Boats under the Command of Commodore Barney. On the 20th. Instant the Army commenced its March having landed the previous day without opposition, on the 21st it reached Nottingham and on the 22nd. moved on to Upper Marlborough a few Miles distant from Pig Point on the Patuxent where Admiral Cockburn fell in with and defeated the Flotilla taking and destroying the whole. Having advanced to within Sixteen Miles of Washington and ascertaining the Force of the Enemy to be such as might authorize an attempt at carrying his Capital I determined to make it and accordingly put the Troops in Movement on the Evening of the 23rd. A Corps of about Twelve hundred Men appeared to oppose us but retired after firing a few Shots.-- On the 24th. the Troops resumed their March and reached Bladensberg a Village situated on the Left Bank of the Eastern Branch of the Potowmack about five Miles from Washington
On the opposite side of that River the Enemy was discovered strongly posted on very Commanding Heights formed in two Lines his Advance occupying a fortified House which with Artillery covered the Bridge over the Eastern Branch across which the British Troops had to pass. A Broad and streight Road leading from the Bridge to Washington ran through the Enemy's Position which was carefully defended by Artillery and Riflemen.--
The Disposition for the attack being made it was commenced with so much Impetuosity by the Light Brigade consisting of the 85th Light Infantry and the Light Infantry Companies of the Army under the Command of Colonel Thornton, that the Fortified House was shortly carried the Enemy retiring to the Higher Grounds.--
In support of the Light Brigade I ordered up a Brigade under the Command of Colonel Brooke who with the 44th. Regiment attacked the Enemy's Left, the 4th. Regiment pressing his Right with such effect as to cause him to abandon his Guns:-- His First Line giving way was driven on the Second which yielding to the irresistable attack of the Bayonet and the well directed Discharge of Rockets got into confusion and fled leaving the British Masters of the Field. The rapid flight of the Enemy and his knowledge of the Country precluded the possibility of many Prisoners being taken more particularly as the Troops had during the Day undergone considerable fatigue.--
The Enemy's Army amounting to 8. or 9,000 Men with 3 or 400 Cavalry was under the Command of General Winder being formed of Troops drawn from Baltimore and Pensilvania.-- His Artillery, ten pieces of which fell into our Hands was Commanded by Commodore Barney who was wounded and taken Prisoner. The Artillery I directed to be destroyed.--
Having Halted the Army for a short time I determined to March upon Washington and reached that City at 8. O'Clock that Night.-- Judging it of consequence to complete the Destruction of the Public Buildings with the least possible delay so that the Army might retire without Loss of time the following Building were set Fire to and consumed--the Capital including the Senate House and House of Representation, the Arsenal the Dock Yard, Treasury, War Office, Presidents Palace, Rope Walk and the Great Bridge across the Potowmack, in the Dock Yard a Frigate nearly ready to be Launched and a Sloop of War were consumed.-- The two B[r]idges leading to Washington over the Eastern Branch had been destroyed by the Enemy who apprehended an Attack from that Quarter. The Object of the Expedition being accomplished I determined before any greater Force of the Enemy could be assembled to withdraw the Troops and accordingly commenced retiring on the Night of the 25th; on the evening of the 29th. we reached Benedict and re-embarked the following day.--
In the performance of the operations I have detailed it is with the utmost satisfaction I observe to Your Lordship that Cheerfulness in undergoing fatigue and anxiety for the Accomplishment of the Object were conspicuous in all Ranks.--
To Sir Alexander Cochrane my Thanks are due for his ready Compliance with every wish connected with the welfare of the Troops and the Success of the Expedition.--
To Rear Admiral Cockburn who suggested the attack upon Washington and who accompanied the Army I confess the greatest obligation for his Cordial cooperation and advice
Colonel Thornton who led the attack is entittled to every Praise for the noble Example he set which was so well followed by Lieut. Colonel Wood and the 85th. Light Infantry and by Major Jones of the 4th. Foot with the Light Companies attached to the Light Brigade.-- I have to express my approbation of the spirited conduct of Colonel Brooke and of his Brigade, the 44th. Regiment which he led distinguished itself under the Command of Lieut. Colonel Mullens, the Gallantry of the 4th. Foot under the Command of Major Faunce being equally conspicuous.-- The exertions of Captain Mitche[ll] of the Royal Artilley in bringing the guns into Action were unremitting to him and to the Detachment under his Command including Captain Deacons Rocket Brigade and the Marine Rocket Corps I feel every obligation.-- Serious disadvantage being experienced from the want of Cavalry Capt. Lempriere of the Royal Artillery mounted a small Detachment of the Artillery Drivers which proved of great utility.--
The assistance afforded by Captain Blanchard of the Royal Engineers in the Duties of his Department was of great advantage. To the zealous exertions of Captains Wainwright, Palmer and Money of the Royal Navy and to those of the Officers and Seamen who landed with them the Service is highly indebted, the latter Captain Money had charge of the Seamen attached to the Marine Artillery.-- To Captain McDougall of the 85th. Foot who acted as my Aid de Camp in consequence of the Indisposition of my Aide de Camp Captain Falls, and to the Officers of my Staff I feel much indebted.--
I must beg leave to call your Lordships attention to the zeal and indefatigable exertions of Lieut. Evans Acting Depy. Qr. Master General. The Intelligence displayed by that Officer in circumstances of considerable difficulty induces me to hope he will meet with some distinguished Mark of approbation.-- I have reason to be satisfied with the Arrangements of Ast. Comy. Genl. Lawrence.--
An Attack upon an Enemy so strongly posted could not be effected without Loss. I have to lament that the wounds received by Colonel Thornton and the other Officers and Soldiers left at Bladensberg were such as prevented their removal.-- As many of the wounded as could be brought off were removed the others being left with Medical care and attendants;-- The arrangements made by Staff Surgeon Baxter for their Accomodation have been as satisfactory as circumstances would admit of.-- The Agent for British Prisoners of War very fortunately residing at Bladensberg I have recommended the wounded Officers and Men to his particular attention and trust to his being able to effect their Exchange when sufficiently recovered.--
Captain Smith Asst. Adjutant General to the Troops who will have the honour to deliver this Dispatch I beg leave to recommend to Your Lordships Protection as an Officer of much Merit and great Promise and capable of affording any farther information that may be required
Sanguine in hoping for the approbation of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent and of His Majesty's Government as to the conduct of the Troops under my Command.-- I have the honor to be My Lord Your Lordships most Obedient humble Servant
Robt. Ross Major Genl
VICE ADMIRAL SIR ALEXANDER F. I.
COCHRANE, R.N., TO
FIRST SECRETARY OF THE ADMIRALTY JOHN W. CROKER
Tonnant, in the Patuxent, 2nd. September 1814.
I have the honor to acquaint you, for the information of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, of the proceedings of His Majestys combined Sea and Land forces since my arrival with the Fleet within the Capes of Virginia, and I beg leave to offer my congratulations to their Lordships upon the successful termination of an Expedition in which the whole of the Enemy's Flotilla under Commodore Barney has been captured or destroyed--his Army, tho' greatly superior in number and strongly posted with Cannon, defeated at Bladensburg-- the City of Washington taken--the Capitol with all the public buildings, Military Arsenals, Dock Yard and the rest of their Naval Establishment, together with a vast quantity of Naval and Military Stores, a Frigate of the largest Class, ready to launch, and a Sloop of War afloat, either blown up or reduced to Ashes.
Such a series of Successes in the centre of an Enemy's Country, surrounded by a numerous population, could not be acquired without loss and we have to lament the fall of some valuable Officers and Men; but considering the difficulties the Forces had to contend with, the extreme heat of the Climate and their coming into Action at the end of a long march, our Casualties are astonishingly few.
My Letter No. 77 of the 11th August will have acquainted their Lordships of my waiting in the Chesapeake for the arrival of Rear Admiral Malcolm with the Expedition from Bermuda.
The Rear Admiral joined me on the 17th. and as I had gained information from Rear Admiral Cockburn, whom I found in the Potowmac, that Commodore Barney with the Baltimore Flotilla had taken shelter, at the head of the Patuxent, that afforded a pretext for ascending that River to attack him near its source, above Pig point, while the ultimate destination of the combined Force was Washington, should it be found that the attempt might be made with any prospect of Success. To give their Lordships a more correct idea of the plan of attack I send a Sketch of the Country upon which the movements of the Army and Navy are portrayed. By it their Lordships will observe that the best approach to Washington is by Port Tobacco upon the Potowmac and Benedict upon the Patuxent, from both of which are direct and good Roads to that City, and their distances nearly alike: the Roads from Benedict divide about five Miles inland--the one by Piscataway and Bladensburg, the other following the course of the River although at some distance from it, owing to the Creeks that run up the Country: this last passes through the Towns of Nottingham and Marlborough to Bladensburg, at which Town the River called the Eastern branch that bounds Washington to the eastward is fordable and the distance about five Miles. There are two Bridges over this River at the City, but it was not to be expected that the Enemy would leave them accessable to an invading Army.
Previously to my entering the Patuxent I detached Captain Gordon of His Majesty's Ship Seahorse, with that Ship and the Ships and Bombs named in the Margin, up the Potowmac, to bombard Fort Washington (which is situated on the left bank of that River about ten or twelve miles below the City) with a view of destroying that Fort and opening a free communication above, as well as to cover the retreat of the Army should its return by the Bladensburg Road be found too hazardous from the accession of Strength the Enemy might obtain from Baltimore. It was also reasonable to expect that the Militia from the Country to the northward and westward would flock in, so soon as it should be known that their Capital was threatened.
Captain Sir Peter Parker in the Menelaus with some small Vessels was sent up the Chesapeake above Baltimore to divert the attention of the Enemy in that quarter and I proceeded with the remainder of the Naval force and the Troops up this River and landed the Army upon the 19th. and 20th. at Benedict.
So soon as the necessary Provisions and Stores could be assembled and arranged Major General Ross with his Army moved on towards Nottingham while our Flotilla, consisting of the armed Launches, Pinnaces, Barges and other Boats of the Fleet, under the command of Rear Admiral Cockburn passed up the River: being instructed to keep upon the right flank of the Army, for the double purpose of supplying it with Provisions and, if necessary, to pass it over to the left bank of the River into Calvert County, which secured a safe retreat to the Ships should it be judged necessary.
The Army reached Nottingham upon the 21st. and on the following day arrived at Marlborough; the Flotilla continued advancing towards the Station of Commodore Barney, about three Miles above Pig point, who, altho' much superior in Force to that sent against him, did not wait an attack, but at the appearance of our Boats set fire to his Flotilla, and the whole of his Vessels, excepting one, were blown up.
For the particulars of this well executed Service I must refer their Lordships to Rear Admiral Cockburn's Report No. 1, who, on the same Evening conveyed to me an account of his success and intimation from Major General Ross of his intention to proceed to the City of Washington, considering, from the information he had received, that it might be assailed if done with alacrity; and in consequence had determined to march that Evening upon Bladensburg. The remaining Boats of the Fleet were immediately employed in conveying up the River Supplies of Provisions for the Forces upon their Nottingham, agreeably to an arrangement made by the Rear Admiral, who proceeded on in company with the Army.
The Report No.2 of Rear Admiral Cockburn will inform their Lordships of the brilliant successes of the Forces after their departure from Marlborough, where they returned upon the 26th, and having reached Benedict upon the 29th., the Expedition was reimbarked in good order.
On combined Services, such as we have been engaged in, it gives me the greatest pleasure to find myself united with so able and experienced an Officer as Major General Ross, in whom are blended those qualities so essential to promote success where co-operation between the two Services becomes necessary; and I have much satisfaction in noticing the unanimity that prevailed between the Army and Navy as I have also in stating to their Lordships that Major General Ross has expressed his full approbation of the conduct of the Officers, Seamen and Marines acting with the Army.
I have before had occasion to speak of the unremitting zeal and exertions of Rear Admiral Cockburn during the time he commanded in the Chesapeake under my Orders---the interest and ability which he has manifested throughout this late arduous Service justly entitle him to my best thanks, and to the acknowledgements of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.
Rear Admiral Malcolm upon every occasion and particularly in his arrangement for the speedy re-embarkation of the Troops rendered me essential assistance, and to him as well as to Rear Admiral Codrington, Captain of the Fleet, I am indebted, for the alacrity and order with which the laborious duties in the conveying of Supplies to the Army were conducted.
For the conduct of the Captains and Officers of the Squadron employed in the Flotilla and with the Army I must beg leave to refer their Lordships to the Reports of Rear Admiral Cockburn, and to call their favorable consideration to those whom the Rear Admiral has had occasion to particularly notice. While employed immediately under my eye, I had every reason to be perfectly satisfied with their zealous emulation, as well as that of every Seaman and Marine, to promote the Service in which they were engaged.
Captain Wainwright of His Majesty's Ship Tonnant will have the honor to deliver this Dispatch to you and as he was actively employed both with the Flotilla and the Army, in the whole of their proceedings, I beg leave to refer their Lordships to him for any farther particulars.
I have not yet received any Returns from the Ships employed in the Potowmac, the winds having been unfavorable to their coming down; but by the information I gain from the Country people--they have comple[tely] succeeded in the capture and destruction of Fort Washington, which has been blown up. I have the honor to be, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant
Vice Admiral and Commander in Chief
Investigation into the Burning of Washington
Congress reconvened on 19 September 1814, almost a month after the British burned the Capitol. The House of Representatives quickly established a committee to inquire into the "causes of the success of the enemy in his recent enterprises against this metropolis, and the neighboring town of Alexandria." Committee Chairman Richard M. Johnson requested that the department heads provide detailed reports of the enemy's incursion and in particular an accounting of the public buildings destroyed. Secretary Jones dutifully communicated the Navy Department's role in the events and Thomas Tingey enumerated the destruction incurred at the Washington Navy Yard. On 29 November Congress ordered that all the findings be printed, but chose not to issue any opinion regarding them.*
*For a printed version of the full report, see American State Papers: Military Affairs. Vol. 1 (Washington, DC: Gales and Seaton, 1832): 524-99.
Secretary of the Navy Jones to Congressman Richard M. Johnson
Octr. 3d. 1814.
In compliance with your letter of the 26th. instant, as Chairman of the Committee appointed by the Honorable House of Representatives, "to enquire into the causes of the success of the enemy in his enterprises against this Metropolis, and the neighbouring town of Alexandria, and into the manner in which the Public buildings and property were destroyed, and the amount thereof"; and with your request "for such information on the subject, as may be in my power, and more particularly in relation to the destruction of the Navy Yard; and the amount of Public property destroyed," I have the honour to present the following Report of the measures adopted by this Department, and of the facts, within my knowledge, in relation to the objects of the enquiry.
In obedience to the general instructions and early solicitude of the President, in anticipation of the probable designs of the enemy to harass the country in this vicinity, and to attempt the invasion of this Metropolis, I directed, in the month of May last, three 12 pounders to be mounted on field Carriages, by the Mechanics of the Navy Yard, and completely equipped and furnished for field Service. To these the marines at Head Quarters were trained, under the command of Captain Miller, and prepared to act, either as Artillerists or Infantry, as the Service might require. A short time previous to the reinforcement of the enemy in the Patuxent, I caused two long 18 pounders to be mounted on field Carriages, and prepared, in like manner, for field Service; ready to be attached to the command of Commodore Barney, should the enemy, at any time, compel him to abandon the Flotilla, under his command, on the Patuxent, and the emergency call for the aid of his force, in defence of the Capital or of Baltimore.
For this eventual Service that Officer was instructed to prepare; and by his zeal and activity, his men acquired the expert use of their Muskets; and a capacity, as well as an ardent disposition, to be useful to their country on either element.
On the 26th. July, in consequence of the menacing movements of the enemy, near the Kettle Bottoms in the Potomac, which it was said they were sounding and buoying off, the letter A was written; but, on account of information received on the same day, the letter B, countermanding the former was written.
The enemy, in the Patuxent, was occupied in depredating upon its shores, until large reinforcements arrived at the Mouth of that River on the 18th. of August, the account of which was communicated on the 19th. to the Department by Commodore Barney, in the letter C, with a list of the Naval Force of the Enemy annexed.
On the morning of the 19th. information was received at the Department from Captain Gordon, Commanding the U. S. Naval Force at Norfolk, that, on the morning of the 16th. came in from Sea, and proceeded up the Bay, 22 sail of enemy's vessels; viz. two 74's, one 64, one Razee, 7 Frigates, 7 Transports, and two or three Brigs or Schooners; which, it appears by the letter C, joined the Force at the Mouth of the Patuxent on the 18th; the whole of which ascended the Patuxent, near to Benedict, on the 18th. and 19th. and commenced debarking the Troops. The letter marked D was immediately written to Commodore Barney; the letter E to Commodore Rodgers, and the letter F to Captain Porter, urging the two latter to repair with their forces, towards this City, with the utmost expedition.
Commodore Rodgers had previously made the most judicious arrangements, to transport, with celerity, the Marines, and the principal part of the Seamen, under his command on the Delaware Station, to the Head waters of the Chesapeake, or to Baltimore, upon any sudden emergency, and had organized and disciplined his men with a view to such service. It appears, however, by his letters G and H, that, with every possible exertion. he did not reach Baltimore until the 25th. consequently too late to participate in the defence of the Metropolis, against a force, the greater part of which came in from Sea on the 16th. was first known to the Department to have arrived on the 19th. marched from Benedict on the 20th. and entered the Capital on the 24th.
Having sent to General Winder on the 19th. a copy of letter C, on the 20th, I called on him, at his Quarters at McKeowins, to show him the letter I, just received from Commodore Barney, and my order to that officer to join and cooperate with the force under his command, (see letter K,) also to point out those Volunteer Corps, in his Army, that comprised the mechanicks of the Navy Yard, who, being excellent Axemen, would act with great effect as Pioneers. As it was understood that a strong Squadron of the Enemy's Ships, in cooperation with his land force had passed the principal obstacle in the Potomac, and was only retarded in its ascent by contrary winds, against which it was warping with great exertion; I expressed to him my solicitude for the defence of Fort Washington, and proposed to throw the Marines, who had been trained to Artillery exercise, and a part of the Seamen into that Fort for its defence.
The General did not conceive the state of his force such as to warrant the abstraction of so efficient a part, as that of the Marines and Seamen, from the main body, which was to oppose the direct advance of the enemy's Army, on the City, and indeed his objection appeared to have weight.-- He did not, however, consider Fort Washington as tenable.
On the 21st. the letter L was received from Commodore Barney, and a Detachment of about 110 Marines, with three 12's, and two 18 pounders, under the command of Captain Miller, marched from Head Quarters to join Commodore Barney, and reached the Wood Yard that evening.
In the course of this day and the following, I visited the Navy Yard, and enquired of the Commandant, what were the means of transportation, and what assistance he had in the Yard? He stated that all the Mechanics of the Yard were, and had been with the Army from the first alarm; that no persons remained but the Officers of the Yard, three besides himself, and a very few of the Ordinary, chiefly Blacks; that two of the old Gun Boats were the only craft for transportation; that all the Waggons in the District had been hired or impressed for the Army; and that those Blacks, who were usually to be had for hire, were employed on the Works at Bladensburg.
I directed him to employ all the means he had or could procure; to load the Gun Boats with provisions and powder, and send them up to the Little Falls; employ as many Waggons as could be either hired or impressed, and convey as much of the Navy powder, as possible, from the Magazine on the Eastern Branch, to Mr. Dulany's Barn, on the Virginia side of the Potomac, about nine miles above the City; to direct Messrs. Grayson, Stull and Williams, to transport the Public powder from their Works to the same place; and to continue transporting the most valuable and portable articles, from the Yard to any place of safety, with all the means he could command.
The Public Vessels, afloat at the Navy Yard, were the New Sloop of War Argus, with her Guns mounted, her Topmasts launched, and her sails, and detached equipments, complete, on shore in store; the New Schooner Lynx, and three New Barges, one of the First, and two of the Second class, completely equipped; with the two Gun Boats before mentioned.
On the Slip was the New Frigate Columbia, of the largest Class; caulked, ready for coppering, and nearly so for Launching. Her masts, Spars, Tops, &c. almost finished in the Mast House;-- Gun Carriages nearly completed;-- her Sails, made and in the Loft; her rigging fitted;-- Blocks all made; and her Equipments, generally, in great forwardness.
Besides the Buildings, Engines, Fixtures, and Shop Furniture of the several Mechanical branches in the Navy Yard, there were about 100 Tons of Cordage, some Canvas, a considerable quantity of Saltpetre, Copper, Iron, Lead, Block Tin, Blocks, Ship Chandlery, Naval and Ordnance Stores, implements and fixed ammunition, with a variety of manufactured articles in all the Branches; 1743 barrels of Beef and Pork, 279 barrels of Whiskey, and a moderate Stock of Plank and Timber.
Had there been a prospect of transporting the Sloop of War Argus, to a place of safety, the representations of the Commandant will show, that he had not the means of transporting her, and there appeared to be no situation in which she could be placed, in which she would not fall into the hands of the enemy, in the event of his getting possession of the City. It therefore only remained to endeavour to save all the Stores, that could be transported, and the smaller Vessels, particularly the Barges, if practicable, by running them up to the Little Falls--This was directed to be done.On the 22nd. the letter M was received from Commodore Barney. In the evening of that day I accompanied the President to General Winder's Camp, at the Old Fields, and passed the night in Commodore Barney's tent;-- the Army of the enemy at Upper Marlborough eight miles distant; On the morning of the 23d. reviewed the Seamen and Marines, whose appearance and preparation for battle, promised all that could be expected from cool intrepidity, and a high state of discipline.
In the hope that Commodore Rodgers might arrive, that evening, at Baltimore, and not doubting that the enemy would be retarded on his march, by obstacles and annoyance, until the Seamen from Baltimore could reach Bladensburg, I wrote to Commodore Rodgers the letter marked N, and sent it by a Vidette.
About 2 OClock P.M. I accompanied the President, on his the City, and, in the course of the evening, was informed of the sudden retreat of our Army, from the Old Fields to the City, over the Eastern Branch Bridge.
On the morning of the 24th. I proceeded to General Winder's Quarters, at Doctor Hunter's house, near the Eastern Branch Bridge, where the President, and Secretaries of War, State, and Treasury soon after arrived.
I found Commodore Barney employed, by order of the General, in planting his Battery on the Hill, near the head of the Bridge. He was charged to defend that pass and to destroy the Bridge, on the appearance of the Enemy; for which purpose scows and Boats, with combustible materials, were placed under the Bridge ready to explode. At this time the enemy was apparently advancing on the road to the Bridge; but shortly after advice was received that he had turned off on the road towards Bladensburg, about six miles from that place;-- General Winder set off for Bladensburg, leaving Commodore Barney, with his Seamen and Marines in charge of the Bridge.
It was soon observed that a very efficient part of the force had been left to destroy the Eastern Branch Bridge, which could as well be done by half a dozen men, as by five hundred. The subject was discussed by the President, Heads of Departments, and Com. Barney, which resulted in the order for his immediate and rapid march, to join the Army near Bladensburg, which he reached, just in time to form his men for Battle.-- Captain Creighton was left in charge of the Bridge, to destroy it on the near approach of the enemy.
I here presented, for consideration, the subject of the Navy Yard, to the view of the President and Secretary of War, in the presence of the Secretaries of State and of the Treasury. I described the situation of the Public vessels, and the nature of the public property at that Establishment; the vast importance of the Supplies, and of the Shipping to the Enemy, particularly as there appeared to be no doubt of his Squadron forming a junction with his Army, should it succeed in the conquest of the Capital; (General Winder, having distinctly stated, on the same morning, that Fort Washington could not be defended;) and as, in this event, nothing could be more clear than that he would first plunder, and then destroy the Buildings and Improvements; or if unable to carry off the plunder, and the Shipping, he would destroy the whole. And if the junction should be formed, it would be a strong inducement to the enemy to remain, in order to launch the New Frigate, which the force at his command would accomplish in four or five days. He would then carry off the whole of the Public Stores and Shipping, and destroy the Establishment; and, in the mean time, greatly extend the field of his plunder and devastation-- Thus, in either case, whether the junction was formed, or whether the Army alone entered the City, the loss or destruction of the whole of the public property at the Navy Yard was certain.
It was, therefore, distinctly agreed and determined, as the result of this consultation, that the Public Shipping and Naval and Military Stores and Provisions, at the navy yard should be destroyed, in the event of the Enemy's obtaining Possession of the City.-- I went to the Navy Yard about 2 OClock, and ordered the Commandant to prepare the necessary trains, for the destruction of the Public Shipping, and of the Naval and Military Stores and provisions in the Navy Yard; and to destroy the same, so soon as he should ascertain that the enemy had taken possession of the City; first removing such articles of most value, as might be found practicable, particularly the New Barges, if possible, and then to retire in his Gig.
Subsequent events prove the justness of these conclusions, if indeed further evidence had been at all wanting.
The only legitimate objects of the enterprise of the enemy, to this place, were the Public Shipping and the Naval and Military Establishments and none can believe, that these would have escaped the torch of the Destroyer of our Civil Edifices, of Private Rope Walks and of every thing, in the most remote degree, connected with Navigation; but above all with the American Navy.
The order for the destruction of the Public Shipping and property, at the Navy Yard, was not issued without serious deliberation, and great pain, by him, under whose auspices and direction those noble Ships had been constructed, and a degree of activity, usefulness, and reputation, imparted to the Establishment, which it had never known before. It was given under the strongest obligations of duty. It is conceived that no Military maxim is better established, nor duty better understood, than that which enjoins the destruction of Public Ships, Arsenals, Naval, and Military Stores, and provisions, when they can be no longer defended, or prevented from falling into the hands of the enemy; and that this duty becomes the more imperative, as the ratio of the value of the objects is enhanced to the enemy.-- To defend the Shipping or Navy Yard was out of the question;-- All the mechanics and labourers of the Yard, as well as all the Seamen and Marines in the District, were with the Army.
The Commandant of the Navy Yard is a Captain in the Navy; the vessels and property were under his charge and command; and if no special order from the Department had been issued, and he had suffered the Public Shipping and property to have fallen into the hands of the enemy, he would have committed a high Military crime, for which he would have been amenable before a Court Martial. The objects which it was proper to destroy, in order to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy, could not be separated from those which might have been left for his destruction. They were in Store, or in the midst of other combustible materials, and the fire from one would necessarily communicate to the other. Indeed the whole surface of the Yard was covered with Chips, Timber, Pitch, Tar, and other combustible matter, that to set fire to anyone object, must produce the successive conflagration of the whole.
On returning from the Navy Yard, towards the Western part of the City I learned that our Army had retreated by the road to Tinley town, and that of the enemy was rapidly advancing towards the City. I soon after received a Message from the President, by Mr. Tench Ringgold, at Mr. Charles Carroll's, informing me that he had proceeded to cross the River, and requested that I would follow and meet him on the other side.I returned to the City, on the morning of the 28th. immediately on hearing of the retreat of the enemy, and wrote the letter O, to Commodore Rodgers.
The paper P, is a copy of the detailed Report of the Commandant of the Navy Yard, of the manner in which he carried into execution the order I had given.
The Barge, he states to have been saved, was sent to Alexandria, and it appears remained there until the enemy took possession of her.
One Gun Boat was sunk near Foxall's, laden with Salted provisions, and has since been recovered. The other was laden with provisions and Gun powder, but ran aground in the Eastern Branch, in attempting to transport her to the Little Falls, and was plundered by the Inhabitants near the Navy Yard;-- the powder, and part of the provisions, have since been recovered.
The New Schooner Lynx escaped the flames, in an extraordinary manner, and remains entire.
The Metallic articles have nearly all been saved, including a vast quantity of Iron work, which, with little labour, will answer the original purpose. The Timber that was in Dock is saved; and a great deal of that which was partially consumed, will still be useful. Almost the whole of the Machinery of the Steam Engine, is reported to be in good condition;-- the Boiler is perfect.
The Buildings, with the exception of the Houses of the Commandant and Lieutenant of the Yard, the Guard Houses, and Gateway, and one other Building, have been destroyed. The Walls of some appear to be entire, and but little injured; of others they are destroyed. The Monument was but slightly injured.
Paper Q is a list of the Cannon remaining perfect in the yard, and of those which were injured by the Enemy.
The Issuing Store of the Yard, and its contents, which had escaped the original conflagration, were totally destroyed by the Enemy.
Orders have been issued to the Officers of the Yard to prepare their Statements and Estimates of the value of the public property destroyed, which shall be furnished as soon as possible.
With the circumstances attending the abandonment and destruction of Fort Washington, and the fate of Alexandria, I am no otherwise acquainted, than by the accounts which have been published.
After the Capitulation of Alexandria to the enemy's Squadron, a considerable force, in Seamen was ordered from Baltimore, (see letter R,) under the command of Commodore Rodgers, with Captains Porter, Perry, and Creighton. The former attacked and annoyed the enemy in his rear, in Boats and with Fire Vessels, whilst the other Commanders planted their Batteries on White House Point, and Indian Head.
Those measures precipitated the departure of the enemy, and greatly annoyed him, in descending the River; but there was not time sufficient to prepare the means to render that annoyance effectual.-- All that the limited means employed, could possibly effect, was accomplished, by the Gallantry, Skill, and Patriotism of those distinguished. Officers, and the brave Seamen, Marines, and Volunteers, under thcir command.
The measures, pursued by this Depamnent, in order to cooperate in the defence of the Metropolis, were not, in their nature, strictly sanctioned by the Regulations and usages of the naval service; but were adopted with an ardent desire that they might prove effectual; with a certain knowledge that the zeal and patriotism of the Naval Corps, would induce them to seek the enemy with equal vigour and cheerfulness, in the field, as on the Main; and a conviction, that the emergency fully justified any step, which could contribute to the defence of the National Capital.
Whether more or less has been done, than duty required, is cheerfully and respectfully submitted. I have the honour to be very respectfully Sir your Obdt. Servt
Commodore Thomas Tingey to Secretary of the Navy Jones
Navy Yard Washtn: 18th Octr: 1814
On a review of the consequences which emanated from the retreat of our Army, and the entrance of that of the enemy into this city, on the 24th: of August last; so far as relates to this Establishment--I respectfully submit the following general statement.
After receiving repeated contradictory reports relative to the strength and position of the enemy, during the afternoon and evening of that day--at 20 minutes past 8 PM I received incontestible proof (by Captn. Creighton and Mr. M: Booth, my clerk, both of whom had been voluntarily active to obtain me positive information) that, the enemy was in complete possession of the city; having themselves been within the range of, and exposed to the fire of his musketry.
The boats for our conveyance from the yard, being stationed according to order, we immediately repaired down the yard; applying fire to the trains leading to the storehouses--the principal of which were almost instantly in irresistable flame.
Advancing toward the boats, those to the new frigate Essex, and to the Sloop of War Argus were touched, and they also immediately enveloped in a sheet of inextinguishable fire.
From a momentary impulse, and faint hope, of recovering the new schooner Lynx, I directed her not to be fired, and have the satisfaction to say that, by an almost miraculous escape she is still "ours."
The frigate Essex's hull, in the shipwright's department was very near complete, her bottom ready for coppering, and she could have been launched in ten days; her masts and spars were nearly finished--with timber sufficient on the wharf to complete them--all her blocks, dead-eyes, and the major part of her gun carriages ready-- Two suits of her heavy sails, and nearly the same quantity of her others were finished in the sail-loft ready for bending her standing rigging &c; fitted in the rigging-loft, and sufficient running rigging in store, for her complete equipment, her largest boats nearly ready for launching all her water casks and every material of cooper-work ready to go on board.
The Sloop of War Argus, lay at the wharf, with all her armament and equipment on board--except her sails which were in the sail-loft, and her provisions in the stores, and therein consumed--and except her powder which had not been shipped.
A large quantity of timber, plank, knees &c, were in different parts of the yard, and the seventy-four gun-ship timber, stored in the appropriate sheds, all fell a prey to the devouring element. Also, one large and one smaller row galley--both arm'd, rigged and prepared for service; and three heavy armed scows, with their guns &c, on board also ready.
The buildings destroyed, by the fire from the frigate &c were, the Mast-shed, and timber-shed, the joiners & boat-builders shops, and mould loft--all the Offices--the medical store--the plumbers and smiths shops, and block-makers shop--the saw-mill & block mill, with their whole apparatus, tools and machinery--the building for the steam engine, and all the combustible parts of it's machinery and materials; the rigging loft--the apartments for the master, and the boatswain of the yard, with all their furniture--the gun carriage makers and painters shops, with all the materials and tools therein at the time: also the hulls of the old frigates Boston, New York and General Greene.
The store-houses first fired were the Provision stores Gunners' & Ordnance store--Cordage store and sail [loft] which with all their perishable contents were cons[ume]d.
The Navy Storekeeper's detail issuing store, containing in its different apartments, a large quantity of new canvas, twine, lines, bunting and colours--together with all our stocks of mathematical instruments, and nautical apparatus appertaining to navigation--ship chandlery tools, nails, oils, paints &c: had escaped through the night the effect of the fire but was fired by the Enemy on the succeeding morning the 25th: and entirely consumed with all it's contents--as were also the coopers shop, two small frame timber sheds--and that in which our tar, pitch, rozin &c, were deposited.
The general loss of our papers, prevents the possibility of forming a just estimate of the loss in the mechanical departments, heretofore enumerated. Of that, relative to the stores on hand, in the Navy store keepers peculiar charge, it is presumed a tolerably accurate estimate may be form'd; and will be the subject of a future communication, which shall be transmitted, as soon as it is possible to effect.
In my the yard on the 26th: I had the mortification to observe that, the provisions which had been laded on board the old gun-boat No: 140 (and with which she had grounded, in endeavoring to get out of the branch on the 24th) had become a prey to numerous unauthorized persons, some of whom however instantly offered to deliver up all in their possession, which was subsequently done--but several barrels are yet to be accounted for.
A subject of still greater regret is, the loss of upward of 200 barrels of powder, which were wantonly & unauthorizedly taken out of the Magazine, and chiefly thrown into the water--the cause of which however, being under investigation, by a Court Martial on the Corporal of the Marine-guard then there; I forbear to enlarge on the subject as my feelings would dictate. I have the honor to be very respectfully Sir Your Obedt. Servt.
Commodore Thomas Tingey to Secretary of the Navy Jones
Navy Yard Washtn: 9th: Novr: 1814.
I have the honor to transmit you herewith, a general statement of the moveable articles at this Establishment on the 24th: of August last, previous to the entrance of the enemy into this city; together with the cost or estimated value of those materials at that time--the value of those recovered since the fire of the yard--and a statement of the real loss, resulting therefrom.
This business has been much delayed, from the want of data, to ascertain all the particulars lost, and from the daily difference by accumulation, in collecting the incombustible articles from the ruins of the warehouses &c: from whence more is expected to be obtained yet, which will be instantly reported when ascertain'd, together with any omissions, which it is probable have been made; though it is believed, if any, only to an inconsiderable amount.
I am not yet in possession of the calculations of the Artist, who was referred to, for the value of the wood and interior work of the several buildings destroyed, and therefore defer any report on the damage of the brick or stone work, and of all other immoveable matter, until I have that most material information, as it respects the buildings. I have the honor to be very respectfully Sir Yr. Obedt. Servt.
|Recapitulation||Cost or Estimated value||Real loss|
|No. 1. Frigate Columbia||$116,123.05||$10,432.--||$105,691.05|
|" 2. Sloop of War Argus||75,000.--||10,186.55||64,813.45|
|" 3. One large Row Galley||4,500.--||1,477.47||3,022.53|
|" 4. Two smaller Ditto||6,000.--||722.80||5,277.20|
|" 5. One armed Scow||1,610.54||955.87||654.67|
|" 6. One ditto do.||1,096.27||586.67||509.60|
|" 7. Gun Boats, row boats &c||6,553.34||5,773.34||780.--|
|" 8. Boat-builders shop||2,962.98||" " "||2,962.98|
|" 9. Blacksmiths & Plumbers do.||4,532.80||1,969.50||2,563.30|
|" 10. Coopers shop &c||7,689.75||2,854.04||4,835.71|
|" 11. Gun carriage makers do.||525.--||" " "||525.--|
|" 12. Painters shop||869.97||15.--||854.97|
|" 13. Blockmakers shop||1,610.--||" " "||1,610.--|
|" 14. Medical store||2,679.84||" " "||2,679.84|
|" 15. Ordnance stores &c||18,769.90||" " "||18,769.90|
|" 16. Naval stores, cordage &c||78,262.25||" " "||78,262.25|
|" 17. Copper, Iron, Lead &c||49,965.27||42,522.40||7,442.87|
|" 18. Navy Storekeepers stores||20,431.77||2,921.89||17,509.88|
|" 19. Ordnance, small arms &c||173,284.97||162,926.22||10,358.75|
|" 20. Provisions & Contingencies||46,962.04||4,071.44||42,890.60|
|" 21. Timber, Plank, Knees &c||45,000.--||" " "||45,000.--|
|" 22. Anchors||12,400.94||12,400.94||" " "|
|" 23. Miscellaneous articles||1,380.03||648.85||731.18|
Commodore Thomas Tingey to Secretary of the Navy Jones
Navy Yard Washtn: 12th Novr: 1814
I have the honor to transmit you herewith, an estimate of the damage sustain'd in the buildings of this yard, by the fire of the 24th & 25th of August last with that of the materials and value of the parts saved-- so an estimate of the cost of rebuilding such particulars, as in my judgement may be necessary for future operations; offering such observations thereon, as have appeared to me forcibly applicable--leaving to your better judgement, whether the whole may be necessary at this time, or which shall be first commenc'd on, in the event of the repairs being ordered: the whole is most respectfully submitted. I have the honor to be very respectfully Sir Your Obedt. Servt.
|Recapitulation||Estimated value||Real loss|
|No. 1. Detail issuing store||$6,972.80||$252.--||$6,720.80|
|" 2. Cordage store & sail loft||12,780.81||312.--||12,468.81|
|" 3. Ordnance Store &c.||16,664.10||820.--||15,844.10|
|" 4. Timber shed, Mould loft &c.||23,776.94||2000.--||21,776.94|
|" 5. Rigging loft, guncarriage shop &c.||15,279.35||6480.--||8,799.35|
|" 6. Blacksmiths shop &c &c.||16,210.81||5102.--||11,108.81|
|" 7. Sawmill, Enginehouse &c.||17,850.52||5010.--||12,840.52|
|" 8. Blockmakers shop.||2,091.40||482.--||1,609.40|
|" 9. Coopers shop, and old buildings||3,756.80||" " "||3,756.80|
|Thus the aggregate amount of damage to the buildings
by the fire, would appear to be
|From which, the amount of the following enumerated
incombustible particulars being saved, may justly
be deducted vizt.
|Iron straps, and bolts to the Girders,
and roofs, of the several buildings--not less than
|Hinges &c: and sheet iron for roofing Ditto||1500.--||3,500.--|
|Making the real loss, sustain'd in the buildings||$91,425.53|
NOTE: RN = Royal Navy.
Source: Crawford, Michael J., Christine F. Hughes, Charles E. Brodine, Jr., and Carolyn M. Stallings eds. The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History, Vol. III, 1814-1815, Chesapeake Bay, Northern Lakes, and Pacific Ocean. (Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center, 2002): 205-228, 311-323.