Lieutenant Newcomb summarizes British attack on Baltimore

September 18, 1814

Lieutenant Newcomb’s summary of events at Baltimore 


Saturday Sep. 10th 10 P.M. received information that the enemy were coming up the Bay, in force,
Sunday 11th About Thirty sail hove in sight, Receiving orders to take command of Fort Covington with a detachment of seamen— the soldiers are sick with the fever & ague— At noon light airs from the Sd.—the headmost ships of war at anchor above Sparrow Point—the transports & smaller vessels several
miles below—
Monday 12th Light airs from the Sd. & pleasant— No visible alteration during the night— the barges & small vessels very busy thru the day— 2.P.M. The ships of war got under way & came to about 6 miles below Fort McHenry—
Tuesday 13th At 6 A.M—5 Bomb Ship and () Ships of war got under way & took their station in a line abreast Fort McHenry, distant 2(?)% miles & 3 miles from F. Covington— 8 A.M—moderate breezes from the Sd. & Ed. … The enemy commenced the Bombardment of F. McHenry, which was returned with shells & shot, but as they all fell short, the fort discontinued firing, while the enemy continued to throw their shells with great precision & effect; 2.P.M—Wind at the Nd. & Ed.—with heavy showers of rain— 3 P.M—Fort McHenry recommenced firing and by taking out the beds & coins. Threw the shot so well among the Bomb Ships that three of them got under way & run out of gunshot & bombarded the fort more furiously than before— 10 P.M. the enemies barges all in motion— Weather thick & hazy with frequent showers of rain—
Wednesday 14th.— The enemies small vessels & barges were discovered by their lights moving up the S.W. Branch—the headmost abreast of F. Covington— Commenced firing—which was immediately returned with shot—shells & rockets—Fort Babcock, (or the Six gun battery) now opened— The darkness prevented our accurately distinguishing their force— One Bomb Vessel was this side the Point—a schooner about half way between her & F. Covington—& the barges, (number unknown, Throwing 12. 18 & 24 Ib. Shot—) abreast of us— Our fire was directed at the headmost— A few broadsides checked their advance, when they concentrated nearly abreast of us, & continued their attack on the batteries— The decided superiority of our fire compelled them to retreat, when They were met by a fire from F. McHenry—which, however, from the darkness of the night was soon discontinued— Col. Taylor's regiment of Militia was posted in our rear— How judicious his arrangements were I shall leave to those to say who are more competent to judge & whose duty it is to decide— The Shells & rockets were thrown with little intermission till daylight—but with very little effect— The officers with me were attentive & active— …
 The seamen were extremely indignant that the enemy fought no longer—
H. S. Newcomb
Fort Covington
Sept. 18th. 1814


Letter from Issac Monroe, editor of the Baltimore Patriot to editor of the (Boston) Yankee

September 17, 1814

Three days after the bombardment of Fort McHenry, Isaac Monroe, editor of the Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser, and a private in the Baltimore U.S. volunteers, the Baltimore Fencibles, wrote a letter to a fellow editor of The [Boston] Yankee. In these extracts from his letter, Monroe described the attack on Fort McHenry as he witnessed it:
“I will give you an account of the approach of the enemy before this place, so far as it came under my observation…while we were marching to town, the enemy tacked about, and just at dusk were seen under press of sail, with a fair wind, approaching the town. There movements were closely watched at the fort…We were all immediately rallied, and arrived at the Fort before 12, although the rain poured down in torrents. On our arrival we found the matches burning, the furnaces heated and vomiting red hot shot, and everything ready for a gallant defense…Tuesday morning, at which time they had advanced to within two and a half mile of the Fort, arranged in most elegant order, all at anchor, forming a half circle, with four bomb vessels and a rocket ship…
…two of their headmost frigates opened upon us, but finding their shot not reaching us, they ceased and advanced up a little nearer. The moment they had taken their position, Major Armistead mounted the parapet and ordered a battery of 24 pounders to be opened upon them; immediately after a battery of 42′s followed, when the whole fort let drive at them. We could see the shot strike the frigates in several instances, when every heart was gladdened, and we gave three cheers, the music playing Yankee Doodle….
…The bomb vessels advanced a little, and commenced a tremendous bombardment, which lasted all day and all night…the most tremendous bombardment ever known in this country, without means of resisting it, upwards of 1500 bombs having fallen in and around the Fort…”
“…till dawn of day [on September 14], when they appeared to be disposed to decline the unprofitable contest. At this time, our morning gun was fired, the flag hoisted, Yankee Doodle played, and we all appeared in full view [upon the ramparts] of a formidable and mortified enemy, who calculated upon our surrender in 20 minutes after the commencement of the action.”

Admiral Cochrane reports on the attack on Baltimore

September 17, 1814
Extracts of two different letters from Admiral Cochrane to his superiors describing the British attack on Baltimore; the second is a private letter.


His Majesty’s Ship Tonnant Chesapeake,
17th Sept. 1814
…Major General Ross and myself resolved to occupy the intermediate time to advantage, by making a demonstration upon the City of Baltimore; which might be converted into a real attack should circumstances appear to justify it; and as our arrangements were Soon made I proceeded up this River and anchored off the mouth of the Patapsco on the 11th … when the Frigates and Smaller Vessels entered to a convenient distance for landing the Troops.
At an early hour the next morning the disembarkation of the Army was effected, without opposition having attached to it a Brigade of Six hundred Seamen, under Captain Edward Crofton (late of the Leopard) the Second Battalion of Marines, the Marines of the Squadron and the Colonial Black Marines; Rear Admiral Cockburn accompanied the General to advise and arrange as might be deemed necessary for our combined efforts. So Soon as the Army moved forward I hoisted my Flag in the Surprise, and with the remainder of the Frigates, Bombs, Sloops, and the Rocket Ship passed further up the River to render what co-operation could be found practicable. While the Bomb Vessels were working up in order that we might open our Fire upon the Enemy's Forts at daybreak the next morning, an account was brought to me that Major General Ross when reconnoitering the Enemy had received a mortal wound…

The Skirmish which had deprived the Army of its brave General was a prelude to a most decisive Victory over the flower of the Enemy's Troops. Colonel Brook on whom the Command devolved having pushed forward our Force to within five Miles of Baltimore, where the Enemy, about Six or Seven thousand, had taken up an advanced position Strengthened by Field Pieces, and where he had disposed himself apparently with the intention of making a determined resistance, fell upon the Enemy with Such impetuosity that he was obliged Soon to give way and fly in every direction, leaving on the field of Battle a considerable number of Killed and wounded and two pieces of Cannon. …

 At day break the next morning the Bombs having taken their Stations within Shell range Supported by the Surprise with the other Frigates and Sloops, opened their Fire upon the Fort that protected the entrance of the Harbor; and I had now an opportunity of observing the strength and the preparations of the Enemy—The approach to the Town on the Land Side was defended by commanding heights upon which was constructed a chain of Redoubts connected by a Breast Work, with a Ditch in front, an extensive train of Artillery and a Show of Force that was reported to be from fifteen to twenty thousand Men. The entrance by Sea, within which the Town is retired nearly three Miles, was entirely obstructed by a barrier of Vessels Sunk at the mouth of the Harbor, defended inside by Gun Boats, flanked on the right by a strong and regular fortification and on the left by a Battery of Several heavy Guns—

These preparations rendering it impracticable to afford any essential cooperation by Sea I considered that an attack on the Enemy's strong position by the Army only, with such disparity of Force, tho confident of success, might risk a greater loss than the possession of the Town would compensate for, while holding in view the ulterior operations of this force in the contemplation of His Majesty's Government. And therefore, as the primary object of our movement had been already fully accomplished I communicated my observations to Colonel Brook, who coinciding with me in opinion, it was mutually agreed that we should withdraw.

The following morning the Army began leisurely to Retire; and so Salutary was the affect produced on the Enemy by the defeat he had experienced, that notwithstanding every opportunity was offered for his repeating the Conflict with an infinite Superiority, our Troops reembarked without molestation, the Ships of War having dropped down as the Army retired—

The result of this demonstration had been the defeat of the Army of the Enemy: the destruction by themselves of a quantity of Shipping, the burning of an extensive Rope Walk and other public Erections, the causing of them to remove their Property from the City, and above all—the collecting and harassing of his armed Inhabitants from the Surrounding country, producing a total Stagnation of their Commerce and heaping upon them considerable expenses, at the same time effectually drawing off their attention and Support from other important quarters—…

I have the honor to be Sir your most obedient humble Servant
Alexander Cochrane
Vice Admiral and Commander in Chief-
Second letter:
(private) Tonnant off Baltimore
17 Sept 1814
My dear Lord

Your Lordship will see by My public letter that we have made an Essay at Baltimore, an attempt Contrary to My Opinion, but extremely urged by the General to which I reluctantly consented, but to preserve Unanimity between the two services; 

I have not stated My Objections to the measure in My letter to the Admiralty. I now exceedingly regret My deviation from My Original plan, Although the events that took place have been highly creditable to his Majesty’s Arms which in My Opinion could have been employed with greater Advantage Against Rhode Island, by Attracting the Attention of the Northern States from the Canadas, The Valuable life of the General would have been preserved; and his services continued to his Country, there never fell a More Gallant Man nor a better Officer The only Fault was that of exposing his own Person more than was necessary for a General to do…Colonel Brook his Successor is a Steady Good officer—but from his Rank I conclude that a general officer will be sent out— in a proper Selection will depend the Success or failure of our future Enterprises against the Enemy, …

I need not recapitulate what Your Lordship will find in My public letter I have no doubt that we might have had the Command of the City of Baltimore but not without a loss beyond what our little Army could bear and be in a state to preserve its Superiority over the Enemy.— 

With Two Thousand Additional Troops the Enemy’s Works might have been Turned but with the force we had this measure could not have been attempted without risking the retreat of the Army being Cut off which from the Numerous Militia the Enemy had Assembled they could have done, and still keep Their Lines in a state of defence,
The two Regiments that went to Halifax, when we left Bermuda would have fully answered this purpose and Baltimore either laid in Ashes or Under a heavy Contribution From the Side the Town was attacked. The Forts Could not be assailed nor could we without that Secure the Command of the Harbour.— If Attacked Again, I have seen sufficient of the harbor and Adjoining Country to make me prefer the Opposite or Western Side by it. You have immediate Access to the City and to a hill that Commands the fort at a distance not in my Opinion beyond point Blank range and I am told that the side of the Fort towards the Land is only defended by a Brick Wall fourteen feet high.

We labour and the Want of Many essentials, to place us upon a par with the Enemy in the style of Warfare they pursue. We have neither Cavalry nor rifle Men while they have Abundance of both. The Enemy we have seen will never stand a charge, when Closed in upon they Fly and take up New Ground. Then would be the time for Cavalry to Act, the Other day with 300 Horse, hardly A Man would have returned to Baltimore, and the Same at Bladensburg. Rifles we have none and for want of Troops I am obliged to bring My Seamen into the Line, The Enemy Use Three Buck Shot in Addition to the Ball in each Cartridge, we ought to do the Same but I am for adding a fourth placed on the top of the Three—and these Never to be Used until Close to the Enemy Each Soldier having about Twenty in his pouch to load with when at the proper distance I send your Lordship two (by Capt. Crofton.) that used by the Americans is Marked N 1—that I prepare N 2.— and I beg that A Quantity May be sent out without delay; 

Also the Necessaries demanded for the Troops by frigates so as they may be here early in December—
There is no carrying on any war without the Necessary Means and Government must not expect more from Us than they enable Us to Accomplish, from what I can see the Ball is at Our feet,— and give me but Six thousand Men—Including a Rifle and Cavalry Regt., and I will engage to master every Town South of Philadelphia and keep the Whole Coast in such a State of Alarm, as soon to bring the Most Obstinate, upon their Marrow bones… Our Loss at Washington and the other day, inclusive may be rated at 600 Men. This of Course is A Considerable reduction from our Original Numbers. Nothing could be more Brilliant than the Manner in which Our Troops Routed the American Army drawn up under Cover of A Wood having a strong force in their front and supported by a numerous Artillery— 

The Attack was obliged to be made Across Clear Ground and Contrary to the European System of Warfare, the Troops are freed to fire as they Advance Without Which the Enemy could Suffer but little as they make a Rule to turn tail the Moment they are likely to be charged, when within Fifty Yards Their whole Line Gave way and Fled in all directions—then was the time for Cavalry to Act. As it was they suffered Severely. Their fifth Regt. Composed of the Gentlemen of the Town are said to be totally destroyed. Another has Nearly shared the same fate The Force the Enemy had At Baltimore Consisted of 2000 Seamen and from 15 to 20,000 of Militia but few Regulars Our little Army consisted of Only of 2500 Troops when they landed, to which was Added about 1350—Marines, and 600—Seamen making all say 4000. ……

One of the American Field Officers in the late affair Was Shot upon a Tree rather a Strange place for a Commander of a Regt. but I understand he went there to direct his men how to fire with Most effect, but staying there rather too long he was brought down by a Soldier—

I am sorry to say that the Gallant Conduct of the Seamen here has not been unique— two wretches Attempted to desert to the Enemy who have been Condemned and Will Suffer tomorrow, except them I know of no species of Impropriety having been Committed except such as always follows Military
I ever am My dear Lord Most faithfully and Sincerely Yours
Alexander Cochrane
I enclose for your Lordship a Sketch of our proceedings at Baltimore—in care of Capt. Crofton.


Letter to Andrew Jackson from Moses T. Hoagland

Fort Jackson
16th September 1814


      I wrote you on the 13th Inst. which I hope you have received--I returned last night from Fort Decater I found on hand at that place about eighteen days beef and One hundred & thirty barrels of flour and sufficiency of Whiskey, soap & Candles Mr. Bowen U.S. Storekeeper informed me that he had received information from the Quarter Master Genl that no more provisions would be sent on to that post from the sixth Military District and that he had also received information from the Indian Agent that no provison would be Issued to the Indians at that post in future that had crops of Corn agrowing; but would Issue to the Indians in the service of the United States and to those who had given them selves up and had no crops agrowing, as these instructions was received the evening that I arrived he could not say what number of Indians would draw in future There has no instructions from the Indian Department yet arrived at this post.
      It is with regret that I have to inform you of the mutinous conduct of the troops at this post. last night about eight OClock the beat up and down the lines with the fife & Drum and collected between 100 & 200 men forced the chain of sentinals and proceded to the bake hose and tore it down broke the Oven took off what bread was baked and some flour & then set the house on fire, but was afterwards put out--On my arrival here Colo. Pipkins informed me that he expected that that greatest part of his men would Mutiny and go off he directed that I would not Issue but one days provision at a time altho he observed that he had made out a return for six days. the men then Observed if the Colo. Order was Obeyed that they would be compeled to pull down the Commissary Store take what provisions they wanted & would drive of the beef Cattle &c--I informed them that I had received written instructions from the commanding Officer of the post and should Obey them. As to the bread that they received here was mad out of new flour and the bread of a better quality than any that was Issued whilst you where here, the men yesterday morning complaind  that the bread was not weight--Mr. Ross told them there was Stilyards to weigh it the did so and found it full weight---They now state that they will start for Tennessee on the 20th Inst and I have no doubt if they do which they appear determind on, that they will break Open the Storehouse or pull it down & drive off as may Cattle as they may want--Capt. Strothers Company when the men broke by the sentinals remaind at there quarters the Capt. being the Officer of the day Orderd his rowl to be called and his men to fall out. immediately his men were all present Colo. Pipkis informed him or sent an Officer to do so that the number that had gone out was so large & they armed that it would be imprudent to force them back as there would be many lives lost. the men all returned in a half hour to there quartes--I can assure you that it is extremely unpleasant doing business with a mob--however am happy to state there is verry little Complaint as to provisions, except they regret much the want of Whiskey--
        Inclosed I forward you an account of the action of Genl. Gains--excuse this scrawls as the express waits--I am Respectfully your Obt. Huml. Sert

                                                                                              Moses T. Hoagland

I will thank the Genl. to let Mr. Henry know when the express returns     MTH        


Letter to Andrew Jackson from William Lawrence

Fort Bowyer
15 Septr 1814 12 oClock at Night


      After writing the enclosed I was prevented by the approach of the Enemy of sending it by an express. At Meridian they were under full Sail, with an easy and favourable breeze standing directly for the Fort and at 4 P.M. we opened our Battery, which was returned from two Ships, and Two Briggs; as they approached. The Action became General at about 20 Minutes past 4 and was continued without intermission on either side untill 7; when One Ship and Two Briggs were compelled to retire: The leading Ship supposed to be the Commodore Mounting 22. 32 Pound Carronades having Anchored nearest our Battery was so much disabled, her Cable being cut by our Shot that she drifted on shore within 600 Yards of the Battery, and the other Vessels having got out of our reach, we kept such a tremendous fire upon her, that she was set on fire, and abandoned by the few of the Crew who survived; at 10 P.M. we had the pleasure of witnessing the explosion of her Magazine. The loss of lives on board must have been immense as we are certain no boats left her except three which had previously gone to her assitance, & one of those I believe was sunk; in fact one of her boats was burned along side of her.
        The Brig that followed her I am certain was much damaged both in hull and Rigging. The other two did not approach near enough to be so much injured, but I am confident they did not escape, as a well directed fire was kept on them during the whole time.
        During the Action a Battery of a 12 Pounder and a Howitz, was opened on our rear, but without doing any execution and was silenced by a few Shot. Our loss is four privates killed, and five privates wounded. The Surgeon reports on Man lost: owing to the want of Surgical Instruments as he was compelled to amputate his arm with a Razor The Man shortly after expired.
       Towards the close of the Action the Flag Staff was Shot away but the Flag was immediately hoisted on a Sponge Staff over the Parrapett: while the Flag was down the Enemy kept up their most incessant, and tremendous fire, the Men were withdrawn from the Curtains & N.E. Bastion, as the Enemys own Shot completely protected our rear except the position they had closed for their Battery.
       Where all behave well, it [is] unnessary to discrimminate suffice it to say every Officer and Man did his duty, the whole behaved with that coolness & intrepidity which is Characterestic of the true American and which could scarcely have been expected from Men most of whom had never seen an Enemy, and were now for the first time exposed for nearly 3 Hours to a Force of nearly or quite 4 Guns to One.
       We fired during the Action between 4 & 5 hundred Guns most of them Double Shotted, and after the first half hour, but a few missed an effect.

Septr. 16th 11 oClock A.M.

    Upon an examination of our Battery this Morning, we find upwards of 300 Shot & Shot holes in the inside of N. and East curtains & N.E. Bastion, of all Callibres, from Musket ball to 32 pound Shot in the N. E. Bastion there were three Guns dismounted; one of which a four Pounder was broken off near the Trunnions by a 32 pound Shot and another much battered; I regret to say that both the 24 Pounders are cracked in such a manner as to render them unfit for service; & I trust Sir, the affair of Yesterday will point out the necessity of heavy Mettle at this Post.
    I am informed by two deserters from the Land force,  who have just arrived here, and whom I send for your disposal, that a reinforcement is expected when they will doubtless endeavor to wipe off the stain of Yesterday.
     I beg you Sir to send Vessels to take off the Sick and wounded, as there is no means of protecting them from the heat of the Sun & inclemency of the Weather; if left here they will certainly die as we have neither Medacines, Hospital Stores, or aid whatever; and if you will send the Amelia down, we may probably save most or all of the Ships Guns, as her Wreck is lying in 6 or 7 feet Water and some of them are just covered. They will not however answer for the Fort as they are too short.
       By the Deserters we learn that the Ship we have destroyed was the Hermas, but her Commander's name they did not recollect. It was the Comadore, and doubtless fell on his Quarter Deck, as we had a raking fire upon it about 200 Yards distance for some time.
       I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you hear shortly; when I think you will be convinced of the necessity of supplying with the Articles heretofore required.
       By Capt. Sands who will have the honor of handing you this dispatch I have sent a list of articles necessary to enable us to sustain a simular attack as the one of Yesterday, and I beg you to order such Articles in his Department as he may not have on hand to him. I also refer you for a more particular accounts of the movements of the Enemy than may be contained in my letters; his services both before and during the Action were of great importance, an I consider fully justify me in having detained him. Capt. Walsh and several Men were much burned by the accidental explosion of 2 or 3 Cartridges they are not included in the list of wounded heretofore given.
        The Enemies fleet this Morning at Day break were at anchor in the Channel about 4 miles from the Fort, shortly after it got under way and stood to Sea, After passing the Bar they hove too and Boats have been constantly passing between the disabled Brig & the others. I presume the former is so much injured as to render it necessary to lighten her. 15 Minutes after 1 P.M. The whole Fleet has this moment made Sail and are standing to Sea I have the honor to be very respectfully Sir Your Obt. Servt.

N.B. I hope you will pardon me for detaining Lt. Conway. as yet I cannot dispense with his services. In a few days I will send him with such information that I may have to communicate


Commodore Rodgers report to Sec'y of the Navy Jones on attack on Baltimore

September 14, 1814


Baltimore Weds 14th 1814
The enemy has been severely drubbed as well his Army as his Navy & is now retiring down the river after expending many rounds of shot from 1800 to 2000 shells & at least 7 or 8 hundred rockets.
With great respect I have the honor to be Sir 

Your obedient Servant
John Rodgers
I shall give you a more particular account as soon as I get a little rest
Genl Ross of the B Army is said to be mortally wounded—