Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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The Battle of Baltimore

The Battle of Baltimore was a sea/land battle fought on September 13 1814. American forces repulsed sea and land invasions off the port city of Baltimore, Maryland. The combatants first met at the Battle of North Point. Though the Americans retreated, the battle was a successful delaying action that inflicted heavy casualties on the British, halted their advance and, consequently, allowed the defenders at Baltimore to prepare for an attack.

The next attack came at Hampstead Hill. Commodore John Rodgers assembled and commanded the defenses.  It was the centerpiece of 3-mile-wide earthworks from the outer harbor in Canton, north to Belair Road, in order to defend the eastern approach to Baltimore. At dawn on September 13 1814, the day after the Battle of North Point, some 4,300 British troops advanced north on North Point Road, then west along the Philadelphia Road toward Baltimore, forcing the U.S. troops to retreat to the main defensive line around the city. British commander Col. Arthur Brooke established his new headquarters at the Sterret House on Surrey Farm, about two miles east-northeast of Hampstead Hill.

The British began probing actions on Baltimore's inner defenses.  100 cannons and more than 10,000 regular troops defended the American line. The defenses were far stronger than the British anticipated. The U.S. defenders at Fort McHenry successfully stopped British naval forces but a few ships were still able to provide artillery support. Once the British had taken the outer defenses, the inner defenses became the priority. The British infantry had not anticipated how well defended the city would be, so the first attack was a failure. After a discussion with lower ranking officers, Brooke decided that the British should bombard the fort instead of risk a frontal assault and ordered the British troops to return to the ships.

Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland had some 1,000 soldiers under the command of Major George Armistead. They waited for the British under command of Alexander Inglis Cochrane to begin the naval bombardment. The Americans in the fort were helped in the defense by the sinking of a line of American merchant ships at the entrance to Baltimore Harbor to hamper passage of the British ships.

The attack began when the British fleet of some nineteen ships began bombarding the fort with rockets and mortar shells. This continued for the next 27 hours. At the end of barrage, damage to the fort was light.

On the morning of September 14, the American flag was raised over Fort McHenry.  It replaced the tattered storm flag, which had flown during battle. The oversized flag was used every morning for reveille, as was the case on the morning of September 14.

Brooke was instructed not to attack the American positions around Baltimore unless he was certain that there were less than 2,000 men in the fort. Because of his orders, Brooke withdrew from his positions and returned to the fleet to set sail for New Orleans.