9.27.2014

Report of General Ross on the Battle of Bladensburg & burning of Washington


September 27, 1814
London Gazette Extraordinary
Downing Street Sept 27
Captain Smith arrived this morning with a Dispatch from General Ross, of which the following is a copy-
Tonnant, in the Patuxent, August 30
My Lord, - I have the honour to communicate to your Lordship, that on the night of the 24th inst. After defeating the army of the United States on that day, the troops under my command entered and took possession of the City of Washington.
It was determined between Sir A. Cochrane and myself, to disembark the army at the village of Benedict, on the right bank of the Patuxent, with the intention of cooperating with Rear-adm. Cockburn, in an attack upon a flotilla of the enemy’s gunboats, under the command of Commodore Barney. On the 20th inst. The army commenced its march, having landed the previous day without opposition: on the 21st it reached Nottingham, and on the 22nd moved on to Upper Marlborough, a few miles distant from Pig Point, on the Patuxent where Adm. Cockburn fell in with and defeated the flotilla, taking and destroying the whole. Having advanced to within 16 miles of Washington, and ascertaining the force of the Enemy to be such as might authorize an attempt at carrying his capital, I determined to make it, and accordingly put the troops in movement on the evening of the 23rd. A corps of about 1200 men appeared to oppose us, but retired after firing a few shots. On the 24th, the troops resumed their march, and reached Bladensburg, a village situation on the left bank of the Eastern branch of the Potowmack, about five miles from Washington. On the opposite side of that river the Enemy was discovered strongly posted on very commanding heights, formed in two lines, his advance occupying a fortified house, which, with artillery, covered the bridge over the Eastern branch, across which the British troops had to pass. A broad and straight road leading from the bridge to Washington, ran through the enemy’s position, which was carefully defended by artillery and riflemen. – The disposition for the attack being made, it was commenced with so much impetuosity by the light brigade, consisting of the 85th light infantry and the light infantry companies of the army under the command of Col. Thornton, that the fortified house was shortly carried, the Enemy retiring to the higher grounds.- ……..attacked the Enemy’s left, …with such as effect as to cause him to abandon his guns. His first line giving way, was driven on the second, which, yielding to the irresistible attack of the bayonet, and the well-directed discharge of rockets, got into confusion and fled, leaving the British masters of the field……His artillery, 10 pieces of which fell into our hands, was commanded by Commodore Barney, who was wounded and taken prisoner. …. I determined to march upon Washington, and reached that city at eight o’clock that night. Judging it of consequence to complete the destruction of the public buildings with the least possible delay, so that the army might retire without loss of time, the following buildings were set fire to and consumed – the Capital, including the Senate house and House of Representation, the Arsenal, the Dock-yard, Treasury, war office, President’s Palace, Rope Walk, and in the dock yard a frigate nearly ready to be launched, and a sloop of war were consumed……On the evening of the 29th we reached Benedict, and reembarked the following day. In the performance of the operation I have detailed, it is with the utmost satisfaction I observe to your Lordship , that cheerfulness in undergoing fatigue, and anxiety for the accomplishment of the object, were conspicuous in all ranks. – to Sir A. Cochrane my thanks are due , for his ready compliance with every wish connected with the welfare of the troops and the success of the expedition. – To Rear- adm Cockburn, who suggested the attack upon Washington and who accompanied the army, I confess the greatest obligation for his cordial cooperation and advice……………. As many of the wounded as could be brought off were removed, the others being left with medical care and attendants……The agent for British prisoners of war very fortunately residing at Bladensburg, I have recommended the wounded officers and men to his particular attention, …..The navy yard and arsenal having been set on fire by the enemy before they retired, an immense quantity of stores of every description was destroyed, of which no account could be taken; seven or eight very heavy explosions during the night denoted that there had been large magazines of powder. N.B. The remains of near 20,000 stand of arms were discovered which had been destroyed by the enemy.

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