August 21, 1814
British soldier recounts events on the troops’ march from Nottingham to Marlborough, MD:
“In the course of this day’s march a little adventure occurred to myself, which in the illiberality of my heart, I could not but regard as strikingly characteristic of the character of the people to whom we were now opposed, and which, as at the time it had something in it truly comical, I cannot resist the inclination of repeating, though aware that its title to drollery must in a great measure be lost in the relation. Having been informed that in a certain part of the forest a company of riflemen had passed the night, I took with me a party of soldiers, and proceeded in the direction pointed out, with the hope of surprising them. On reaching the place I found that they had retired, but I thought I could perceive something like the glitter of arms a little farther towards the middle of the wood. ….I contrived to surround the spot, and then moving forward, I beheld two men dressed in black coats and armed with bright firelocks and bayonets, sitting under a tree; as soon as they observed me, they started up and took to their heels, but being hemmed in on all sides, they quickly…stood still…I heard the one say to the other, with a look of the most perfect simplicity, “Stop, John, till the gentlemen pass.” There was something so ludicrous in this speech and in the cast of countenance which accompanied it that I could not help laughing aloud; nor was my mirth diminished by their attempts to persuade me that they were quiet country people, come out for no other purpose than to shoot squirrels. When I desired to know whether they carried bayonets to charge the squirrels, as well as muskets to shoot them, they were rather at a loss for a reply; but they grumbled exceedingly when they found themselves prisoners…
to return to the principal narrative. The army had now advanced within a few miles of Nottingham ….when a smart firing in the wood upon the right of the road gave new life and energy to the soldiers. It was now confidently expected that the enemy would make a stand…but it proved to be no more than a reencounter between a party of American riflemen and the flank patrol. After firing a few shots, the enemy gave way, and our main body, which had continued to move on during the skirmish, came in without the slightest opposition to the town of Nottingham…we found this place (a town or large village, capable of containing from a thousand to fifteen hundred inhabitants) completely deserted. Not an individual was to be seen in the streets, or remained in the houses; whilst the appearance of the furniture and in some places the very bread left in the ovens, showed that it had been evacuated in great haste, and immediately before our arrival…..The houses are not such as indicate the existence of much wealth or grandeur...being…built of wood, and little superior to cottages; but around the village are others of a far better description,…substantial farm-houses, a species of mansion very common in the United states. For several miles in every direction the country was in a high state of cultivation; …instead of the maize and wheat….the fields were covered with an abundant and luxuriant crop of tobacco. This plant seems, indeed, to be at all times the staple commodity of that district….numerous barns filled with the remains of last year’s crop; the whole of which was, of course, seized in the name of His Majesty King George the Third. But in the main object of our pursuit we were disappointed. The flotilla, which had been stationed opposite to Nottingham, retired, on our approach, higher up the stream and we were consequently in the situation of a huntsman who sees his hounds at fault, and has every reason to apprehend that his game will escape.
…hesitation as to the course to be pursued….but, at last, the column set forward in the direction of Marlborough, another village about ten miles beyond Nottingham….(there was) the rear guard of a column of infantry evacuating Marlborough as our advance entered. There was, however, little or no skirmishing, and we were allowed to remain in the village all night without molestation. But if we were not harassed, we were at least startled on the march by several heavy explosions…..we soon learnt that (the explosions) were occasioned by the blowing up of the very squadron of which we were in pursuit, and which Commodore Barney, perceiving the impossibility of preserving, prudently destroyed, in order to prevent its falling into our hands.”