Craig W. Barrett, Hughesville, REALTOR (r)
Hughesville, MD Real Estate
The proposed Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail is the route used by the British and American soldiers during the 1814 Chesapeake Campaign of the War of 1812. The trail extends through parts of Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
The sites along the proposed Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail would mark some of the most important events of the War of 1812, often referred to as America’s “second war for independence.” The trail, commemorating the only combined naval and land attack on the United States, begins with the June 1814 battles between the British Navy and the American Chesapeake Flotilla in St. Leonard's Creek in Calvert County, includes the British landing at Benedict in Charles County and their march through Prince George’s County to Washington, and ends at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, site of the composition of our national anthem, and the ultimate defeat of the British.
The British Land March from Benedict to Bladensburg to Washington, DC and their Withdrawal
After landing in Benedict, the British marched on to Bladensburg via Nottingham and Upper Marlboro. Advance pickets and flanking squads ensured the safety of the main troops as they advanced inland. Shallow draft British vessels paralleled the land troops along the Patuxent River as far as Mount Calvert, providing flanking protection and quick escape for the land forces if necessary. At Mount Calvert, Rear Admiral Cockburn disembarked some of his seamen to join the land troops on their march on Washington. Just north, across the Patuxent above Pig Point, the Americans destroyed their own Chesapeake Flotilla in order to keep it out of British hands.
On August 20, Secretary of State James Monroe stood on a hill near Aquasco Mills, overlooking Benedict, reconnoitering the British fleet and troop strength. Monroe ordered dragoons (heavily armed mounted troops) to be placed every 12 miles between Aquasco Mills and Washington to expedite military-governmental communication of the British activities.
The British continued north along Croom Station Road and encamped near Upper Marlborough on their march to and during their return from Washington, August 22-23 and August 26-27, respectively. The Chesapeake flotilla men also assembled here after abandoning the flotilla and marched to defend Washington and Bladensburg.
As the land forces marched toward Washington from Benedict, their Commander, Major General Robert Ross, twice conducted feints. The first was near Bellefields, where the roads from Upper Marlborough and the Woodyard joined. It was believed that if the British advance went right (north toward Upper Marlborough), they were headed to the flotilla and possibly north to Baltimore; if they turned left (west), they were probably headed toward Fort Washington and the capital. As the British approached this fork, at about 8:30 a.m. on August 22, they saw American horsemen and swung left to attack. The Americans withdrew toward their camp at Long Old Fields.
General Ross halted his troops and then reversed his course and marched to Upper Marlborough. This confused the Americans, who thought the British were heading west toward Fort Washington and/or the capital via that route. As the British marched past the crossroads at Long Old Fields, only evacuated by the Americans a few hours earlier, Ross first marched west for a short distance, then again reversed himself and marched north toward Bladensburg. These feints so confused the Americans that the defenders of Fort Washington blew up the fort without firing a shot, believing they were about to be attacked by land forces on the unprotected east side of the fort, as well as by the naval forces on the river. These maneuvers by the British also kept the Americans guessing as to the actual approach the British would take toward Washington. As a result, the American forces were only assembled at Bladensburg at the last minute with some troops arriving after the battle began.
On August 23rd and 24th, the British and Americans camped within two miles of one another near Upper Marlborough. The main British troops camped to the west of Mellwood, where Ross and other British officers invited themselves to dinner. The Americans were camped two miles to the southeast of Mellwood at Woodyard, a strategic crossroad leading to the capital. This was a key location for the Americans, who were in position to reach the banks of either the Potomac or the Patuxent Rivers within two hours.When the Americans learned that the British were marching to Bladensburg, they proceeded to the river crossing there. General Tobias Stansbury's Maryland men, the first to reach this objective, took up a position to the west of the bridge between the advancing British troops and Washington, DC.
At Bladensburg, the American forces suffered from mismanagement in the placement of troops and a lack of leadership, despite the presence of President Madison and Secretary of State Monroe. The British troops crossed the river under heavy fire, causing the first two American lines to retreat. A third line, manned by Barney's flotillamen and Marines, fought courageously until they, too, were forced to flee. This opened the way for the British to continue on Bladensburg Road to Maryland Avenue into Washington on the evening of August 24, 1814. There the British burned the Capitol and then marched up Pennsylvania Avenue and burned the White House. Along the way they burned many other government buildings including some at the Washington Navy Yard.
Returning to their ships in Benedict, the British used a slightly different route. From Bladensburg, they marched east and then south to Upper Marlborough. They then took the same route on which they had come. At Benedict, they reembarked their ships and sailed back down the Patuxent.
The picture to the left is an example of what a road-cut in the area might have looked like during the British invasion of 1814.
Here, on the map to the right, you can see the British soldiers marched up and back along present day Route 231 and Route 381, past Hughesville, MD neighborhoods such as Maxwell Hall, Indian Creek Estates, Peach Tree Hollow, Benedict Plantation, Swanson Creek Landing, Naylors Reserve, Murphy Meadows, Carriage Crossing, and the new community of Ole Field Estates. Two of the British soldiers who died during the campaign are said to be buried at Old Fields Chapel in Hughesville, MD.