Armistead reports on the attack on Fort Mc Henry

Fort McHenry 24th September 1814

A severe indisposition, the effect of great fatigue and exposure, has prevented me heretofore from presenting You with an account of the Attack on this Post—
On the night of Saturday the 10th inst. the British Fleet consisting of Ships of the line, heavy Frigates, and Bomb vessels, amounting in the whole to 30 Sail, appeared at the mouth of the River Patapsco, with every indication of an attempt on the City of Baltimore.
My own Force consisted of (list follows)… the total amounting to about one thousand Effective men—
On Monday Morning very early, it was perceived that the Enemy was landing troops on the East side of the Patapsco, distant about ten Miles—
During that day and the ensuing night He had brought Sixteen Ships (including five Bomb Ships) within about two Miles and an half of this Fort— …
On Tuesday Morning about Sun rise, the Enemy commenced the Attack from his five Bomb Vessels, at the distance of about two Miles, when finding that his Shells reached us. He anchored and kept up an incessant and well directed Bombardment—
We immediately opened Our Batteries and Kept up a brisk fire from Our Guns and Mortars, but unfortunately our Shot and Shells all fell considerably Short of him; this was to me a most distressing circumstance as it left Us exposed to a constant and tremendous Shower of Shells without the most remote possibility of our doing him the slightest injury.
It affords me the highest gratification to State, that although We were left thus exposed, and thus inactive, not a Man Shrunk from the conflict— About 2 O’clock P.M. one of the 24 pounders on the South West Bastion under the immediate command of Capt. Nicholson, was dismounted by a Shell, the explosion from which Killed his 2d Lieut. and wounded several of his Men; the bustle necessarily produced in removing the Wounded and remounting the Gun, probably induced the Enemy to suspect that We were in a state of confusion, as He brought in three of his Bomb Ships to what I believed to be good striking distance; I immediately ordered a fire to be opened, which was obeyed with alacrity through the whole Garrison, and in half an hour those intruders again sheltered themselves by withdrawing beyond our reach,
We gave three Cheers and again ceased firing— The Enemy continued throwing Shells with one or
two Slight intermissions, till one O’clock in the Morning of Wednesday, when it was discovered that He had availed himself of the darkness of the Night, and had thrown a considerable force above to our right; they had approached very near to Fort Covington, when they began to throw Rockets, intended I presume to give them an opportunity of examining the Shores, as I have since understood they had detached 1250 picked Men with Scaling ladders for the purpose of Storming this Fort— We once more had an opportunity of opening our Batteries and Kept up a continued blaze for nearly two Hours, which had the effect again to drive them off— In justice to Lieut. Newcomb of the U.S. Navy, who commanded at Fort Covington with a Detachment of Sailors and Lieut. Webster of the Flotilla who commanded the 6 Gun Battery near that Fort, I ought to State that during this time they Kept up an animated and I believe a very destructive fire, to which I am persuaded We are much indebted in repulsing the Enemy—
One of their sunken Barges has since been found with two dead men in it, others have been seen floating in the River. The only means we had of directing Our Guns was by the blaze of their Rockets and the flashes of their Guns, had they ventured to the same situation in the day time, not a Man would have escaped—
The Bombardment continued on the part of the Enemy until Seven O’clock on Wednesday Morning, when it ceased and about Nine they [their] Ships got under weigh and Stood down the River—
During the Bombardment which continued 25 Hours, (with two slight intermissions) from the best calculation I can make, from fifteen to Eighteen hundred Shells were [ thrown] by the Enemy, a few of these fell Short, a large proportion burst over Us, throwing their fragments among us and threatening destruction, many passed over, and about four hundred fell within the Works—two of the Public Buildings are materially injured, the others but slightly— I am happy to inform You (wonderful as it may appear) that our loss amounts only to four Men Killed and twenty four Wounded, the latter will all recover—
Among the Killed I have to lament the loss of Lieut. Clagett and Sergeant Clemm, both of Capt. Nicholson’s Volunteers, two Men whose fate is to be deplored, not only for their personal bravery, but for their high Standing, amiable Demeanor, and spotless integrity in private life—
Lieut. Russel of the Company under Lt. Pennington received early in the attack a severe contusion in the Heel, notwithstanding which He remained at his post during the whole Bombardment—
Was I to name any individuals who signalized themselves, it would be doing injustice to others, suffice it to say, that every Officer and Soldier under my Command did their duty to my entire satisfaction— I have the honor to remain respectfully
Your Ob Sent
G Armistead Lieut. Col U.S.A.

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