9.19.2014

Major General Smith reports to Sec'y of War Monroe on successful defense of Baltimore


September 19, 1814

James Monroe was now acting Secretary of War. (Armstrong resigned after Washington fell to the British). 

Major General Smith had worked for many months getting Baltimore ready in the event of its attack; The defense of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry inspired Francis Scott Key (who observed the fort’s bombardment from an enemy ship in the Baltimore harbor where he was negotiating a prisoner’s release) to write a poem that later became the “The Star Spangled Banner”. 

MAJOR GENERAL SAMUEL SMITH, MARYLAND MILITIA, TO ACTING SECRETARY OF WAR MONROE
Head Quarters Baltimore
19 September 1814—
Sir
In compliance with the promise contained in my letter of the 15th… I have now the honor of stating—that the Enemy landed between 7 and 8000men on Monday the 12th … at North Point, fourteen miles distant from this town. 

Anticipating this debarkation General Stricker had been detached on Sunday evening, with a portion of his Brigade on the North Point road. Major Randal of the Baltimore County Militia having under his command a light corps of riflemen & musketry taken from Gen. Stansbury's Brigade and the Pennsylvania volunteers, was detached to the mouth of Bear Creek, with orders to cooperate with General Stricker and to check any landing which the Enemy might attempt in that quarter. 

On Monday Brigadier General Stricker took a good position at the junction of the two roads leading from this place to North Point, having his right flanked by Bear Creek and his left by a marsh. He here awaited the approach of the Enemy, having sent on an advance corps under the command of Major Heath of the 5th Regiment. This advance was met by that of the Enemy and after some skirmishing it returned to the line, the main body of the Enemy being at a short distance in the rear of their advance. Between two & three o’clock the Enemy's whole force came up and commenced the battle by some discharges of rockets which were succeeded by the cannon from both sides and soon after the action became general along the line. General Stricker gallantly maintained his ground against a great superiority of numbers, during the space of an hour & twenty minutes, when the regiment on his left, (the 51st.) giving way, he was under the necessity of retiring to the ground in his rear where he had stationed one Regiment as a reserve. He here formed his Brigade—but the Enemy not thinking it advisable to pursue, he in compliance with previous arrangements fell back and took post on the left of my entrenchments and a half mile in advance of them. In this affair the citizen soldiers of Baltimore with the exception of the 51. Regt., have maintained the reputation they so deservedly acquired at Bladensburg…

About the time General Stricker had taken the ground just mentioned, he was joined by Brig: Gen: Winder who had been stationed on the west side of the City, but was now ordered to march with Gen. Douglass Brigade of Virginia militia and the U.S. Dragoons under Capt. Bird, and take post on the left of Gen. Stricker, during these movements the Brigades of Generals Stansbury & Foreman the seamen & marines under Commodore Rodgers—the Pennsylvania volunteers under Cols. Cobean & Findley, the Baltimore Artillery under Col. Harris and the marine Artillery under Capt. Stiles manned the trenches and the batteries— all prepared to receive the Enemy.
We remained in this situation during the night.

On Tuesday the Enemy appeared in front of my entrenchments at the distance of two miles, on the Philadelphia road—from whence he had a full view of our position. He maneuvered during the morning towards our left, as if with the intention of making a circuitous march and coming down on the Harford or York roads. 

Generals Winder & Stricker were ordered to adapt their movements to those of the Enemy so as to baffle this supposed intention. They executed this order with great skill & judgment by taking an advantageous position, stretching from my left across the country where the Enemy was likely to approach this quarter he seemed to threaten. This movement induced the Enemy to concentrate his forces (between one & two o'clock) in my front,  … showing an intention of attacking us that evening. 

I immediately drew Generals Winder & Strieker nearer to the left of my entrenchments and to the right of the Enemy, with the intention of their falling on his right or rear should he attack me, or if he declined it, of attacking him in the morning. To this movement and to the strength of my defenses which the Enemy had the fairest opportunity of observing, I am induced to attribute his retreat, which was commenced at half past one o'clock on Wednesday morning. In this, he was so favored by the extreme darkness and a continued rain, that we did not discover it until day light.

I consented to General Winder's pursuing with the Virginia Brigade and the U.S. Dragoons—at the same time Major Randal was dispatched with his light corps in pursuit on the Enemy's right, whilst the whole of the militia cavalry was put in motion for the same object. All the troops were however so worn out with a continued watching and with being under arms during three days & nights exposed the greater part of the time to very inclement weather, that it was found impracticable to do anything more than pick up a few stragglers. The Enemy commenced his embarkation that evening & completed it the next day at 1. o'clock. …

I have now the pleasure of calling your attention to the brave commander of Fort McHenry Major Armistead—and to the operations in that quarter. The Enemy made his approach by water at the same time that his army was advancing on the land, and commenced a discharge of bombs and rockets at the Fort as soon as he got within range of it. The situation of Major Armistead was peculiarly trying, the enemy having taken his position at such a distance as to render offensive operations on the part of the Fort entirely fruitless—whilst their bombs & rockets were every moment falling in and about it—the officers and men being at the same time entirely exposed. Two vessels however had the temerity to approach somewhat nearer—they were as soon compelled to withdraw. During the night whilst the enemy on land was retreating and whilst the bombardment was the most severe—two or three rocket vessels & barges succeeded in getting up the Ferry Branch—but they were soon compelled to retire, by the forts in that quarter commanded by Lieut. Newcomb of the Navy and Lieut. Webster of the Flotilla—the forts also destroyed one of the barges, with all on board. 

The Barges and Battery at the Lazzaretto under the command of Lieut. Rutter of the Flotilla kept up a brisk and it is believed, a successful fire during the hottest period of the bombardment. Major Armistead being severely ill in consequence of his continued exposure to the weather, has rendered it impossible for him to send in his report— it is not therefore in my power to do justice to those gallant individuals who partook with him the danger of a tremendous bombardment, without the ability of retorting and without that security, which in more regular fortifications is provided for such occasions.

The loss in the Fort is I understand, about 27 Killed and Wounded—…From General Stricker's Brigade, the return of the killed and wounded has not yet come in, it is supposed however to amount to about 150 among the former, this city has to regret the loss of its Representative in the State Legislature, James Lowry Donaldson Esq. adjutant of the 27th Regt. This Gentleman will ever be remembered by his constituents for his zeal & talents & by his corps, for his bravery & military knowledge.

I cannot conclude this report without informing you of the great aid I have derived from Comr. Rodgers. He was ever present & ever ready to afford his useful counsel and to render his important services. His presence with that of his gallant officers & seamen gave confidence to everyone.

The Enemy's loss in his attempt on Baltimore amounts as near as we can ascertain it to between 6 & 700 killed wounded & missing. General Ross was certainly killed. 

I have the honor to be with great respect Sir Your Obt Sent.
S. Smith
Major General Commanding

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