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their towns and cities; of New York in particular -Brief description of Washington-Advance of part of the British force from Bladensburg-Its encampment near Washington-Reconnoissance of general Ross and other officers-Fire opened upon them-Advance of the light companies-Destruction of the capitol and two houses whence the fire proceeded-Explosion at the navyyard--Arrival at the encampment of remainder of British forces--Entry into Washington of 200 British-Destruction of the president's house; also of the treasury and war offices-Ancedote of a British centinel-Amount of American force in the vicinity-Accident at Greenleaf's-pointDestruction of the secretary's of state's office, ropewalks, ordnance, bridge, navy-yard, Sc. Amount of public property destroyed—Acknowledged respect paid to private property-Departure of the British from Washington-Their unmolested arrival, and disembarkation, at Benedict-American accounts-Erroneous impression respecting rear-admiral Cockburn's conduct at Washington--Sir Alexander Cochrane's letter to Mr. Munro, and its reply—Mr. Madison's proclamation-British accounts Annual Register -Parliamentary speech.
SOME hints thrown out by the British commissioners at the conference at Ghent, coupled with the rumoured destination of British troops
shipping in the ports of France, induced the American commissioners to intimate to their government, that an attack upon the federal city would probably be made in the course of the summer of 1814. This notice reached Mr. Madison on the 26th of June; and, on the 1st of July, he submitted to his council a plan for immediately calling 2 or 3000 men into the field, and holding 10 or 12000 militia and volunteers, of the neighbouring states, in readiness to reinforce that corps. On the next day, he created into a military district, the whole state of Maryland, the district of Columbia, and that part of Virginia north of the Rappahannock river, embracing an exposed coast of nearly 1000 miles ; vulnerable at every point, and intersected by many large rivers, and by Chesapeake bay. On the 4th of July, as a further defensive preparation, the president made a requisition to the several states of the union, for 93500 militia, as authorized by law; designating their respective quota, and requesting the executive magistrates of each state, to detach and hold them in readi. ness for immediate service. Of these 93500 militia, 15000 were to be drawn from the tenth military district, or that surrounding the metropolis ; for whose defence they were intended.
On the 2d of June sailed from Verdun roads, the Royal Oak, rear-admiral Malcolm, accompanied by three frigates, three sloops, two bomb. vessels, five ships armées en flåte, and three transports, having on board the 4th, 21st, 44th, and 85th, regiments, with a proportion of royal artillery, and sappers and miners, under the command of major-general Ross. On the 24th of July the squadron arrived at Bermuda, and there joined vice-admiral Cochrane, in the Tonnant. On the 2d of August, vice-admiral Cochrane, having received on board the Tonnant major-general Ross and his staff, sailed, in company with the Euryalus, for Chesapeake bay ; and, on the 14th of August, arrived, and joined the Albion, vice-admiral Cockburn, off the mouth of the Potomac. On the next day, major. general Ross, accompanied by rear-admiral Cockburn, went on shore to reconnoitre. 'The rear-admiral's knowledge of the country, as well as the excellent plan he adopted to prevent surprise, enabled the two officers to penetrate further, than would otherwise have been prudent. The thick woods that skirt, and the numerous ravines that intersect, the different roads around Washington, offer important advantages to an ambushing enemy. Rear-admiral Cockburn, therefore, in his frequent walks through the country, invariably moved forward between two parties of marines, occupying, in open order, the woods by the road-side. Each marine carried a bugle, to be used as a signal, in case of casual separation, or the appearance
of an enemy. It was during the excursion with general Ross, that rear-admiral Cockburn suggested the facility of an attack upon the city of Washington; and general Ross determined, as soon as the troops should arrive from Bermuda, to make the attempt.
On the 17th of August, rear-admiral Malcolm, with the troops, arrived, and joined vice-admiral Cochrane, off the mouth of the Potomac ; and the whole proceeded to the Patuxent, about 20 miles further up the bay. In the meantime, captain Gordon, with some vessels of the squadron, had been detached up the Potomac, to þombard Fort-Warburton, situate on the left bank of that river, about 14 miles below the federal city; and captain Parker, with the Mene. laus frigate, up the Chesapeake, above Baltimore, to create a diversion in that quarter.
The successful proceedings of captain Gordon, in the destruction of the fort; and,-a measure entirely his own,-the capture of the populous town of Alexandria, will be found fully detailed in our naval volume. * The direct route to Washington, from the mouth of the Potomac, was up that river, about 50 miles, to Fort-Tobacco; thence, over land, by the village of Piscataway,32 miles, to the lower bridge across the eastern branch of the Potomac; but, as no doubt could be entertained that this bridge,
* James's Nav. Occur, p. 381-6.
which was half a mile long, and had a draw at the west-end, would be defended, as well by a body of troops, as by a heavy sloop of war and a armed schooner, known to be in the river, the route up the Patuxent, and by Bladensburg, where the eastern branch, in case of the bridge at that spot being destroyed, could be easily forded, was preferred.
Commodore Barney's gun-boats were still lying in the Patuxent, up which they had been driven.* An immediate attempt against this “ muchvaunted flotilla” offered two advantages; one, in its capture or destruction, the other, as a pretext for ascending the Patuxent, with the troops, destined for the attack of the city. Part of the ships, having advanced as high up the river as the depth of water would allow, disembarked the troops, on the 19th and 20th of August, at Benedict, † a small town, about 50 miles south-east of Washington. On the evening of the 20th, rear-admiral Cockburn, taking with him the armed boats and tenders of the fleet, proceeded up the river, to attack commodore Barney's flotilla ; and to supply with provisions, and, if necessary, afford protection to, the army, 'as it ascended the right bank. For the full details of the successful enterprise against the American flotilla, we must refer to our naval volume. I I»