Access Heritage Logo (formerly the Discriminating General)

Articles by Category

Army Life
Forts and Historic Sites
Politics and Treaties
Uniforms and Equipment


Introduction to the War
Summary of the War's End
Chronology of Events
Reenactments and Units
Chart of British Regiments


Listen to Sound Clips
Read Book Reviews
Take a Quiz
View an Animated Battle
Watch Video Clips

Featured Products

British Swords
Muskets and Pistols
1812 Prints, Maps, and Plans
Uniforms and other 1812 Replicas



Battle of North Point 1814
By John Pezzola

When Colonel Brook, with his staff, having galloped along the line to see that all was ready, commanded the signal to be made. The charge was accordingly sounded, and echoed back from every bugle in the army, when starting from the ground where they had lain, the troops moved on in a cool and orderly manner. – Lieutenant George Robert Gleig at North Point, Maryland September 12, 1814 1


          In March of 1813, a British task force under the command of Rear Admiral George Cockburn arrived in the Chesapeake Bay . Their purpose was to alleviate the pressure that had been placed on Canada by invading American military forces. It was hoped that the United States would redeploy troops in order to protect its capital along with vital seaports on the eastern seaboard. After a year and a half in the Chesapeake region and following the burning of the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. , the British task force moved onto Baltimore , a strategic city known for its affluent trade and privateering. On September 12, 1814 , American forces comprised of various militia organizations deployed in order to impede British forces in their attempt to capture Baltimore . As a result, British land forces under the command of Major-General Robert Ross engaged American forces under the command of Brigadier-General John Stricker at what became known as the Battle of North Point. Analyzed in this piece, will be the tactics that were employed by both sides, along with the strategic significance of the battle. Provided will be a detailed narrative of the engagement, along with a general overview of the campaign leading up to the Battle of North Point. However, it is not the writer’s intention to provide a detailed examination of the overall campaign in the Chesapeake Bay area from 1813 – 1814, but rather an account of the land engagement fought during the crucial campaign.


Field Tactics and Weapons

            The battlefields of the War of 1812 resembled, in many cases, a chessboard with armies moving in accordance to tactical maneuvers of the era. Both the British and American forces often wore elaborate and rather cumbersome uniforms. Militia forces of the era were, at times, outfitted in uniforms that resembled their regular counterparts. The military forces on both sides consisted of infantry, artillery and cavalry. The infantry was the primary fighting force at the Battle of North Point, with artillery playing on both sides and the cavalry arm playing a small role, at best, for the Americans. Both sides had their infantry carry flintlock muskets into battle. The American Regular forces were mostly armed with the model 1795 Musket, .69 Caliber. However, because the American forces engaged at North Point consisted of uniformed militia, a various array of manufactured muskets were employed. There was also a battalion of riflemen consisting of three companies that played a role during the engagement. As for the British land forces, they were mostly armed with the British India pattern Musket, .75 Calibre. Both weapons weighed in the area of seventeen pounds and were able to adopt a fourteen to sixteen triangular shaped blade known as a bayonet.2     

            Soldiers on both sides carried a cartridge-box over their right side, which contained 30 – 60 pre-wrapped cartridges each with a measured amount of powder and a soft-lead ball. At times these were issued buck and ball. When given the order to load, soldiers would bite off the tip of the paper cartridge and poor a small amount of powder into the frizzen pan that held the powder that would ignite the powder that would be placed in the barrel. The remainder of the powder, along with the ball and paper wrapping were rammed down the barrel using a metal rod that was fitted under the barrel of the musket and could be removed.  When given the command to fire, soldiers would squeeze the trigger allowing the hammer that held a flint to drop and strike the powder in the pan. A resulting flash would then be sent through a touchhole igniting the powder inside the barrel.  When firing in volleys, large clouds of smoke would be released, thereby reducing the visibility on the field of battle. The accuracy of these types of weapons ranged from one hundred to one hundred and fifty yards.3

            When the War of 1812 commenced, the American military force that was no more than a constabulary organization, were utilizing a number of different field manuals. Most common were William Duane’s 1808 manual, The American Military Library or Compendium of modern tactics Embracing the Discipline, Manouevers, and duties of Every Species of Troops and Alexander Smyth’s 1812, Rules and Regulations for the Field Exercise, Manoeuvers and Conduct of the Infantry of the United States. However, the most common manual, particularly for the American militia infantry units engaged at North Point, was Baron Frederick William von Stueben’s 1794, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States. As for the British, the two manuals being utilized were Colonel David Dundas’s 1792, Rules and Regulations for the Manual and Platoon Exercise and Movement for His Majesty’s Troops. There were also subsequent versions that were published in 1807 and 1811.4 At North Point, American militia forces were drilled in tactics derived from Stueben’s regulations also known as the “Blue Book.”

            The most common infantry formation seen on the battlefield of North Point was the regiment. Most American regiments consisted two battalions a total ten companies with sixty-four privates, four corporals, four sergeants, a fifer and a drummer. The British deployed regiments consisting of two battalions with ten companies. The two flank companies of the British land forces were made up of grenadier and light troops. One company; was considered a field company whereas; the other was designated as a depot.5 On paper, United States forces had flank companies as well; however, very few units deployed them. Most of the time, militia or riflemen would be deployed for light or skirmish duty. This was the case at North Point when American General John Stricker deployed riflemen under the command of Militia Captain Edward Aisquith in order to impede Major-General Robert Ross’s movement up the North Point neck on September 12, 1814 .6

General John Stricker


In terms of firing methods, there were manuals on both sides that originally called for three-rank firing.  However, it was determined that two ranks were more effective.7   If the opportunity presented itself, infantry units would charge an opponents line with the bayonet. This often happened after a series of volleys of musket fire had shattered an opponent’s line.

            Movement on the battlefield consisted of most regiments or companies moving in column and then forming into line once they had position on the field. Once in the firing line, most units remained stationary in their two-rank formation. In terms of light troops, as stated earlier, American militia forces had at North Point utilized riflemen for their skirmishing need and could deploy line troops, if necessary. The British infantry regiments at North Point were mostly made-up of light troops. This was the case of the 1st British (Light) Brigade consisting of light companies from various regiments to include the 85th Light Infantry. This type of formation was effective in the terrain of North America and could be deployed to fight in line or in the traditional light formation that was to move in pairs, using an extended-order formation. There were also regular line regiments along with Marine and a Naval infantry landing force.8 With the various contingents of men on the field of battle and blinding smoke that consumed the combatants as they discharged their weapons, the command and control of soldiers was crucial in order to prevent confusion. Flag bearers and musicians played a key role on the battlefield during the nineteenth century. Bearers of both the national and regimental colors would be posted in the center of the line of battle, along with drummers posted in the rear of the second line or at the right of the line. It was crucial when in battle to identify one’s regiment and to hear various commands given by the regimental drummers, or in the case of the light infantry, buglers. The artillery played a small but crucial role at North Point.

            Artillery at the Battle of North Point consisted of Light field pieces, howitzers and rockets. General Stricker’s militia line consisted of six 4-pound light cannons. As for the British, General Ross had at his disposal, two 6 – pounders, a howitzer and Congreve rockets.9  The standard system of artillery being used by Americans at this time was that of Jean Baptiste Gribeauval.  The weapons system developed by Gribeauval, allowed for a more mobile field piece and a better method for transporting equipment and ordinance on the field of battle. Artillerists would place a charge of powder down the bore of the barrel followed by a projectile, after which the material would be rammed down similarly to a musket. The powder charge would be pierced using a priming wire through a touchhole at the end of the barrel, a small amount of powder added to fill the touchhole and then ignited by using a linstock or portfirestock. There were basically two types of projectiles that were fired out of the field pieces, round shot which was an iron sphere or canister or case shot which consisted of a cylinder tin filled with iron balls and acted like a large shotgun when fired. The range of the various field pieces deployed at North Point was 400 to 600 yards.  The one howitzer that was brought to North Point by the Royal artillery could send its projectiles in an arch. This was imperative when attacking fortified positions similar to the Americans under the overall command of General Samuel Smith at Hempstead Hill. In terms of the rockets, the Royal Artillery and Marine artillery deployed Congreve rockets that were considered to be notoriously inaccurate.10 The Congreve rockets were developed by Lieutenant General Sir William Congreve and could be placed in a tube that was mounted on a tripod, aimed in the direction of the target and simply lit. However, it is stated that rockets played a minor role during the engagement at North Point. Stricker mentions the use of them on his left flank; however, there is no documentation that states that the use of the rockets resulted in the demise of the American left. Although they did play a minor role at the Battle of North Point mounted forces were utilized.

            The cavalry arm was limited to that of General Stricker’s 5th Regiment of Cavalry Militia which consisted of five troops of horse numbering around 140 Light Dragoons.11 Their role was to provide intelligence and when possible, to impede the enemy’s movements. Ross did not have any cavalry with him at North Point, by all means a handicap. Dragoons were capable of fighting both mounted and dismounted and could have carried with them sabers, flintlock pistols and carbines, a shorten version of the musket.


British Strategy in the Chesapeake Region, 1814

             On the third of March 1813 , Rear Admiral George Cockburn arrived in the Chesapeake . At the time Cockburn was executing a blockading mission. The purpose of the blockading task force was to suppress privateers who had moved out of Baltimore and preyed upon British shipping since the war had commenced.12 However, a new strategy was developed by the British Secretary for War, Lord Bathurst, one that was to draw American regular forces away from their campaigning along the Canadian border thereby, relieving the pressure on Canadian and British troops who were spread thin.13 In a letter dated May 20, 1814 , from Bathurst to Major General Edward Barnes in Canada , Bathurst outlined the detail of operations to be conducted by Cochrane. Bathurst stated that if Cochrane should take such a position as to threaten the Inhabitants with destruction of their property, you are hereby authorized to levy upon them contributions in return for your forbearance, but you will not by this understand that the Magazines belonging to the Government, or their Harbours, or their Shipping are to be included in such arrangements; These together with their contents are in all cases to be taken away or destroyed.14

It was hoped that if raids were being executed in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States and it seemed that the capital could be threatened, the President James Madison and Secretary of War John Armstrong would have no choice but to redeploy American forces.

Until this point, British naval forces had been executing blockading operations along the coast of North America .  This was due to the limited amount of forces available to carry out larger operations. However, with the abdication of Napoleon in 1814, a total blockade was able to go into effect. The war against Napoleon in Spain was going in favor of British forces and many Peninsula veterans were now available to conduct operations in North America . Until the arrival of additional forces, Cockburn continued to conduct his “terror raids” throughout the Chesapeake Bay . Late in 1813, Admiral Sir John Borlase turned over command of the North American Theater of War to Vice Admiral Sir F. I. Cochrane. Warren was reluctant to hand over command and did not do so until 1814. Cochrane sought to conduct a vigorous campaign by extending the blockade along the American coast up to the New England states and by offering to runaway slaves, a chance to serve in the King’s forces. As a base for operations and a training ground for a corps of Colonial Marines made-up of runaway slaves, Cochrane chose Tangier island in the Chesapeake Bay 15. Cochrane had no love for the Americans and felt that like a “naughty spaniel, they must be treated with great severity before you can ever make them tractable”.16 Both Cockburn and Cochrane realized in order to conduct operations farther inland would require the need of additional ground troops. Although they were hoping for at least 10,000 to 20,000 troops for their operations, they were sent 4,000 soldiers from four regiments, two of which were veterans of the Spanish peninsula campaign, the 44th and 85th (Light). One, the 4th Foot was coming out of Eastern Spain and the other; the 21st Regiment of Foot was from Italy . These veteran soldiers were under the command of the talented Major General Robert Ross.17

In order to chastise the Americans, Cochrane moved his squadron up the Patuxent River and conducted a series of raids along the way throughout August 19 - 28. As a diversion, Cochrane dispatched Captain Sir Peter Parker to cut the communications between Elkton landing and Baltimore . The purpose of the diversionary operations was to confuse American forces as to true British intentions, the destruction of Commodore Joshua Barney’s flotilla. For Barney’s command was the only obstacle that could interfere with British land raids within the Chesapeake region. Barney could not contend with the Royal Navy and therefore sabotaged his own flotilla on August 22, 1814 , near Pig Point. On August 23, Cockburn along with Lieutenant George de Lacy Evans were rather persistent in persuading Ross to move on the capital. On August 24, 1814 , the British army under Major General Ross crushed the American forces at Bladensburg , Maryland and proceeded to move into the capital of Washington D. C. Following the destruction of Washington , which some commentators believe might have been motivated by the American’s burning of a number of public buildings of Dover , Ontario a year earlier; Admiral Cochrane was preparing to depart the Chesapeake and move towards Rhode Island . Cochrane decided to cancel his plans for military operations against Rhode Island in favor of an attack on Baltimore . This change in plans was at the request of Rear Admiral Cockburn and Major General Ross. Due to Baltimore ’s lucrative trade and its pirate activity, it appeared to be a logical strategic objective.18 


Defensive Preparations in Baltimore

            It could be seen from Baltimore , an orange glow that illuminated the night sky. The citizens of Baltimore could only imagine the trepidations that awaited their city if they were to allow the British to roll over their defenses. Prior to the burning of Washington , President James Madison on July 1, 1814 , had created the Tenth Military District that encompassed parts of Northern Virginia , Maryland and the nation’s capital. Madison selected Brigadier General William Winder, who was commissioned as a regular officer, as its commander. Thirty-nine year old Winder served at the Battle of Stoney Creek, Canada back in June of 1813. Winder was obviously a political appointee, as his uncle was the Governor of the state of Maryland .19 During defensive preparations for the British move on Washington , Winder spent his time taking care of frivolous matters rather than seeing to the training and condition of his troops.

Three weeks had passed since the attack on Washington ; however, Baltimoreans were not sitting by idly, for the Committee of Vigilance and Safety began to act. At the request of Baltimore Mayor, Edward Johnson, the Committee requested that Major General Samuel Smith, a Revolutionary War veteran, take overall command of Baltimore ’s defenses. Smith, unlike Winder, took appropriate military action with regard to training his militia troops and erecting defenses. However, with Smith being a militia officer and Winder being that of a regular officer, Smith worried about a confrontation over command.  Due to the incompetent military leadership displayed prior to the Battle of Bladensburg, Smith received permission from the Maryland ’s capital at Annapolis to take over command as a federally appointed Major General. The order read, “by the requisition of the President of the United States of the 4th of July last, one Major General is required of this state, in conformity to which, you have been selected.”20   

Samuel Smith set out to create a defensive works so strong that it would deter any force from trying to breach it. General Smith perceived that the British assault would be one of an amphibious nature and would come from the East up the Patpasco River . According to historian Joseph A. Whitehorne, the river was “dissected by creeks and estuaries flowing into the river made any rapid movement of a large force impossible.”21

Therefore, Sam Smith realized that there was no other alternative but to land an amphibious force at North Point was the Philadelphia road that ran east moving out of the city of Baltimore .  Bearing southeast from the Philadelphia Road was Trappe Road that ran into Long Log Lane. It had appeared to Smith that this would be the avenue of approach used by the British land force. The Committee of Public Supply aided Smith erecting defenses on the east side of the city. An order went out from the Committee of Vigilance back on August 24, calling on all citizens to bring with them all available shovels, wheel-barrows, pick-axes and spades. The line of earthworks extended from Broad Street across Hampstead Hill and anchored itself on the Patpasco near the mouth of Harris Creek . In addition to the earthworks, an artillery park containing about fifty pieces of ordinance was created. Across the Patpasco, sat Fort McHenry , whose guns could also provide support to Smith’s position. On Hampstead Hill, Commodore Rodgers and Perry were stationed, hence the name Rodgers Bastion which was given to the position on the Hill that was situated above the main earthworks.22


Battle of North Point September 12, 1814

          In a dispatch from Sir Alexander Cochrane to Major General Robert Ross dated September 12, 1814 , Cochrane indicates that from his position four miles from Fort McHenry , there were many preparations being made by awaiting Americans. Cochrane indicates that, “the enemy have been sinking ships across their harbour all day, and in front of the fort. They have a number of men at work to the NE-of town upon the ground which forms a kind of irregular ridge.”23 Cochrane continued to relay to Ross that the defenders were erecting breastworks and redoubts at various points along the ridge. Cochrane was referring to the primary American defensive line that ran across the ridge on Hampstead Hill and the large redoubt known as Rodgers Bastion.24

            It was in the early morning hours of September 12, when British soldiers and marines began to load into rowboats where they were lowered, and thereby, ferried to the shore at the tip of North Point. Lieutenant George Robert Glieg noted the precautions that were being taken during the disembarkation and he indicated that the guns from a number of brigs were pointed to the shore and that craft carrying the soldiers and marines were armed with carronades.25  It was 7:00 a.m. before all the ground troops were landed and were preparing to advance towards their objective. The disembarkation took four hours and leading the Light Brigade, was a Major Timothy Jones of Her Majesty’s 4th Regiment. The Light Brigade consisted of the 85th Light Infantry Regiment along with the light companies of the 4th, 44th and 21st Regiments of Foot. Following the light brigade’s advance, were six field pieces and two howitzers. Following the artillery was the Second Brigade under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Mullins and it consisted of the 4th Regiment, 44th Regiment along with a contingent of Marines and the Naval Landing Party. Finally, the Third Brigade was lead by Lieutenant Colonel William Patterson and within the brigade was the regiment of Major John H. Whitaker (21st Regiment) and 2nd Battalion of Royal Marines under the command of Major George Lewis. While Ross’s army was in motion, flanking parties were deployed in order to cover its movement.26

            At 7:00 a.m. , reports had come in from General Stricker’s cavalry scouts that Ross’s army had landed at North Point. The Light Brigade was advancing towards a farm owned by Robert Gorsuch. Prior to hearing these reports, General Smith reacted to the news of the British landing by dispatching what was considered the best-trained troops making-up part of the defense of Baltimore, the Third Brigade under the command General Stricker. The third brigade consisted of the following infantry regiments: 5th, 6th, 27th, 39th and 51st. There were four companies of cavalry that made up the 5th Maryland Militia Cavalry Regiment, along with the 1st Regiment of Maryland Artillery containing six four pounders and a battalion of riflemen consisting of three companies. The third brigade was ordered by General Smith to advance from the Philadelphia Road onto Long Log Lane, with the intentions of delaying Ross’s army and impeding his movement. According to historian Joseph A. Whitehorne, the land was flat and rather marshy with some woodland’s that provided concealment to Stricker’s position with zigzag fence lines to the front. Ross’s army would have to advance through open farm fields dotted by haystacks and owned by the Bouldin family. According to Frederick M. Colston, “the ground was well chosen, with the right resting on Bear Creek and the left near Bread and Cheese Creek.”27 On the left of Long Log Lane, Stricker posted the 27th Regiment along with the Union Artillery straddling the road. To the right of the road sat the 5th Maryland Regiment with riflemen posted towards Bear creek. Farther in the rear of the main line, were the 39th and 51st Regiments with the 6th being held in reserve near Cook’s Tavern. Around 8:00 p.m. , Stricker’s advanced force consisting of about 3,000 men, were establishing a bivouac along the Long Log Lane below the Trappe Road . While Stricker’s army camped overnight, he dispatched a mounted force from the 5th Maryland Cavalry Regiment under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Biays. The force consisted of about 140 troopers and reached a position about a mile from the Gorsuch’s Farm. The mounted force was supported by the Fell’s Point Riflemen who were under the command of Captain William D. Dyer’s. Dyer established a skirmish line at a blacksmith shop about one mile to the rear of Biay’s cavalry contingent.28

            After the light brigade had reached the shore, Ross wanted to move forward in order to conduct a reconnaissance mission. Colonel Arthur Brooke, who was General Ross’s second in command, was ordered to await the disembarkation of the rest of the army. Summertime in the Chesapeake can bring with it many a sultry day and as the soldiers of the light brigade advanced carrying their cartridge boxes, haversack, flintlock musket along with other necessary equipment along with donning a rather uncomfortable woolen uniform, soldiers began to succumb to heat exhaustion. Ross, accompanied by Admiral Cockburn, were about five miles from where Colonel Brooke was overseeing the completion of the army’s disembarkation when they decided to halt at the Gorsuch farmhouse and enjoy breakfast at the expenses of the Gorsuch family. Mr. Gorsuch inquired as to whether or not he should prepare supper for Ross’s return trip, at which point, Ross supposedly stated ‘ “I’ll sup in Baltimore tonight-or in hell.” ’

             The corps of riflemen, who were dispatched earlier by Stricker were, to conduct operations to impede the movement of the British land forces. Rumors were spreading that a flanking force had landed in the rear of the forward rifle unit at the Back River and in fear of being cut off from the main body, the riflemen conducted a hasty retreat. At the same time, Ross was reconnoitering a position about three miles from the landing on the point. Ross’s light units came in contact with Stricker’s cavalrymen who deployed as an observation unit. As the cavalrymen were going to report on the movement of the British force, three cavalrymen were captured and thereby interrogated by Ross. The three cavalrymen who were from the 1st Baltimore Hussars, indicated to Ross that there were close to 20,000 militiamen prepared to defend the approach to Baltimore . Ross unimpressed, stated ‘ “I don’t care if it rains militia” .’29

              At the same time, Brooke arrived with the remainder of the artillery and the 21st Regiment. Ross and Cockburn had completed their breakfast and noticed that there were incomplete breastworks. This discovery indicated activity by the enemy prior to their arrival. However, the breastworks were mostly thrown-up during a British raid a few months earlier. Stricker wanted to address the fact the British army seemed to be in a relaxed state at the Gorsuch farm and feared a possible strike that night, so he dispatched a force 150 men from the 5th Regiment consisting of Captain Benjamin Howard’s Mechanical Volunteers and Captain Levering’s Company of Independent Blues along with riflemen from Captain Edward Aisquiths Company of rifles and a few mounted troopers all under the command of Major Richard Heath. Ross continued to advance up the North Point neck; however, this was done without the use of mounted forces that could have provided Ross with adequate intelligence regarding the enemy’s disposition. According to Lieutenant George Robert Gleig, firing had broken out. “Though, from its running and irregular sound, it promised little else than a skirmish; but whether it was kept up by detached parties alone, or by the outposts of a regular army, we could not tell; because, from the quantity of wood with which the country abounded, and the total absence of all hill or eminences, it was impossible to discern what was going on.”30

               It was after 1:00 p.m. when Ross moved on with an advanced reconnaissance party leaving the rest of the light brigade some distance to the rear. Ross held up his advance in order for the rest of the brigade to come together. At this point the American advanced guard opened up on them and Ross’s men returned fire. Ross sent word for Brooke to move forward with all possible haste and even began to ride to the rear in order to meet Cockburn’s arrival. Suddenly, the American line commenced firing again and Ross toppled from his horse. Ross was shot through the right arm and the round logged itself in the chest cavity. Gleig states the “we were already drawing near to the scene of action, when another officer came at full speed towards us, with horror and dismay in his countenance, and calling loudly for a surgeon.”31 Gleig did not want to believe what he knew inside might have just occurred. However, Gleig went on to say that he, “soon realized; for the aide-de-camp had scarcely passed, when the General’s horse, without its rider, and with the saddle and housings stained with blood, came plunging onwards.”32

               Although there is much speculation as to who fired the shot that killed Ross, one thing is for sure; the mortal wounding of Ross had a profound effect on the rest of the army. Gleig stated, “It is impossible to conceive the effect which this melancholy spectacle produced throughout the army. By the courteousness and condescension of his manners, General Ross had secured the absolute love of all who served under him.”33  As Ross was dying, he did not want his men to lose their high morale, and therefore, asked to be covered thereby hiding his wounds. Cockburn was nearby and Ross handed him a locket that he pulled from his tunic. Handing the locket to Cockburn he told him to ‘ “give this to my dear wife, and tell her I commend her to my King and country” .’34

                Command was now handed over to Colonel Arthur Brooke due to Ross’s death. Brooke was a brave officer and considered to be rather cautious. The fact remains that, in the end, Brooke was successful because he drove Stricker’s brigade from the field. As Brooke began to advance his force, he deployed his light troops in a skirmish order in which the men were positioned in a line by two in order to always have one man loaded. As Brooke’s skirmish line was providing security, the rest of the Brigade prepared for an assault on Stricker’s line. Brooke was able to observe Stricker’s flanks covered on both sides by bodies of water. Brooke was able to determine that Stricker had his force deployed in a line with artillery. Stricker’s force was given cover due to its position in the tree line along with wooden paling to the front. As the light brigades skirmishers advance, they came under fire from the Baltimore Yagers under the command of Philip B. Sadtler. They were positioned in a log house of a nearby farm. Behind the force of skirmishers was the first of two lines. The second brigade made up the main line with the third forming a reserve.35  Brooke’s cautious manner appeared because he believed Stricker had more troops at his disposal than he actually had. Brooke decided to make an attempt to turn Stricker’s left flank by dispatching the 4th Regiment under the command of Major Alured D. Faunce. To cover the flanking maneuver, Brooke deployed his rockets and artillery and they began to fire into Stricker’s line. Brooke also hoped that the rockets would distract Stricker from the turning movement. Stricker utilized his artillery in order to suppress that of Brooke’s. As the American line was returning counter-battery fire, Brooke’s Royal artillery along with Royal Marine rockets were smashing Stricker’s line. At this point the flanking maneuver was almost complete and at the same time the Yagers, under Sadtler, were being driven from a rush made by the Brooke’s light troops.36

               As the 2nd brigade began to form a line behind the continuous screen of skirmishers, the Royal Naval landing party and Marines on the far left with the 85th on the right and the 44th to the far right. The 21st regiment was kept in a column with the possibility of punching a whole through Stricker’s center, while another contingent of Marines were to the left of the artillery and rocket batteries, a short distance to the right of the Bouldin’s Farm behind the column of the 21st . As dictated in General John Stricker’s report to Samuel Smith, the 5th and 27th Regiments were to bare the brunt of the British assault supported by artillery deployed on Long Log Lane. The 39th was posted to the left of the road and the 51st to the right about three hundred yards to the rear of the main line. The Sixth Regiment was in reserve. 37

              Gleig’s regiment, the 85th , was halted before making the main assault in order to provide time for the 4th Foot to move around Stricker’s left. A half an hour had passed when the main British line began to move, at which point they were greeted by a thunderous barrage of grapeshot from the American artillery. Gleig stated that as he advanced he was carrying a haversack filled with biscuits that was suddenly struck by grape shot. Although his biscuit were totally destroyed, nevertheless, it saved his life.38 Colonel Arthur Brooke gave the order for the Royal artillery and Marine rocket batteries to commence firing on Stricker’s line with the purpose of distracting him from the 4th Foot’s flanking mission. Stricker’s Union artillery posted in the center of his line tried to counter the British artillery. As Brooke’s main line began to advance, they were met with canister from Stricker’s gunners who were now facing the threat of an on-coming line of infantry. Brooke states that the enemy’s “fire, when within about 100 hundred yards, was so destructive, and thinning our Ranks so much, that I ordered the whole Line to “advance in quick time.”39  Brooke was hoping to close with the enemy in order to deploy the bayonet.

              With rockets flying overhead of Stricker’s line the light infantry contingent were preparing to secure the log house from the Yaegers that Sadtler ordered torched before they could do so. Stricker noticed the British concentration on his left flank and deployed his second line. The 39th regiment was placed to the left of the 27th and with two guns placed on the 39th’s left that were detached from the Union Artillery in the center. The 51st took up a position in an oblique manner in order to refuse the line from a flanking movement. The 51st left was anchored on the Bread and Cheese Creek. As the British 4th Foot was negotiating rather marshy ground, the Maryland 51st regiment that was to be posted on the left of the two guns in order to prevent a flanking attack was unsure of itself in terms of how to execute the maneuver. Stricker’s aide-de-camp, Major George Pitt Stevenson had to move to instruct the 51st as to how they must form their line. Unfortunately, Stricker states that the 51st “delivered one random fire and retreated precipitately, and in such confusion, as to render every effort of mine to rally them ineffective.” 40The 51st, under the command of a Lieutenant Colonel Henry Amey, fell back and with them, took part of the 39th regiment with them; thereby, leaving Stricker’s left exposed to the oncoming 4th Foot. 

             Stricker, determined to remain in the fight, reformed his line and went muzzle-to-muzzle with the British regulars for about an hour. Stricker, who was now under-strength, pulled his line back and reformed on his reserve regiment the 6th Maryland in the vicinity of Cook’s Tavern. There is some speculation as to what occurred at Cook’s Tavern. In Christopher T. George’s Terror on the Chesapeake: The War of 1812 on the Bay, a Corporal from the 5th Regiment named John McHenry states that the 6th Regiment had retreated before they were engaged. The irony is that the flanking attack spawned the panic on Stricker’s left, never materialized due to the terrain in which the 4th Foot was encumbered. By now, Stricker had moved his men back beyond Cook’s Tavern. Brooke had halted, for he did not know what was ahead of him and also his men were exhausted.   Although, Stricker had moved off the field. Nevertheless, it was a hard fought engagement by both sides. Brooke was able to claim victory however; Stricker’s men could credit themselves with standing their ground as opposed to the events at Bladensburg during the advance on Washington .  British lost 46 men killed while 295 were wounded. About 24 Americans were killed and 139 wounded along with 50 captured.41    As evening came, Brooke needed to assess the situation before another attack could be made. However, being that this was a joint land and naval attack, it is imperative for Brooke to ascertain the naval aspect of the operation.


           Cochrane noticed that the works on Hampstead Hill, although bustling with those preparing to defend it, seemed thin not as deep. Perhaps with enfilade fire from the water it could be turned. In a letter to General Ross, he prepared detail plans as to how he was going to assault the position from the water. Bomb crafts and barges would be utilized to neutralize Fort McHenry and perhaps by moving into the Papatsco River , the British could take out the enemy earthworks. Cochrane believed that a combined assault would drive the enemy away. An enemy in which they cared for very little. Upon finding out about the death of Ross, Cochrane forward the plans to Colonel Brooke. Although Brooke would stop the attack that night prior to making a pell-mell assault on the breastworks, the attack on Fort McHenry would rage.42

             As Sam Smith pulled back his forces, preparations were underway for an all-out assault on the earthworks of Hampstead Hill. In order to prevent the British fleet from entering the harbor and possibly laying down enfilade fire on Hampstead Hill, the shipping merchants from the city sunk the their vessels thereby creating an impenetrable obstacle for the Royal Nay. The defenders of Baltimore would pass the night anxiously awaiting the events that were to take place in the coming the morning. As the rain poured throughout the night, the bombardment of Fort McHenry continued. Major Armistead, the fort’s commander, along with his garrison held-out and as the sun rose the Royal Navy noticing that the fort and its defenders were still in-place, called of the bombardment of the fortification. Cochrane wrote to Cockburn in regards to whether a ground attack should be made on the earthworks. Both Cochrane and Cockburn decided it was up to Brooke to make that decision. Brooke stated in his diary that “ ‘if I took the place, I should have been the greatest man in England . If I lost, my military character was gone for ever.’ ”43 Cockburn urged Brooke to move forward with the attack; however, Brooke determined that he did not have the proper amount of forces necessary to carry the position and without the proper support of the navy, the attack would fail. Given the situation, it does not seem possible that Brooke’s contingent would have been able to take the heights. With limited field artillery, an army that had already taken casualties in the previous day’s fight and the lack of naval support, any attack made would have met with failure. Overall, it could be argued whether or not the attack made on Fort McHenry was as aggressive as could be, nevertheless the British walked having lost a first-rate combat leader in Major-General Robert Ross.

      1814 proved to be a crucial year for the United States during the War of 1812. September would bring the news of two great victories, one in Plattsburgh , New York and the other in the mid-Atlantic region. The Battle of North Point proved crucial in ending an almost two year long venture of British raiding operations. It is important to state that the defenders of Fort McHenry along with Baltimore ’s citizenry played a major role in the defense of the port city. Stricker, whose command was deployed in order to impede the movement of Ross’s army before reaching the main American position atop Hampstead Hill, was successful in his delaying action. Blame cannot totally be placed on Colonel Brooke because he did not have the adequate forces and support to carry out such an attack. However, raids along the Virginia and Maryland coast would continue until 1815 when the last hostile incident between American’s and British forces in the Chesapeake region took place on February 15.44 In early 1815, Brooke’s army now under the Command of Sir Edward Pakenham would launch an assault to capture the port city of New Orleans at the mouth of the major artery known as the Mississippi River .

1 George Robert Gleig. The Campaigns of the British Army at Washington and New Orleans . Charleston ,

  South Carolina : BiblioBazaar, 2007. p. 116.

2 Donald E. Graves. Red Coats & Grey Jackets: The Battle of Chippawa 5 July 1814 . Toronto : Dundurn

  Press, 1994. p. 61. Joseph A. Whitehorne. The Battle of Baltimore , 1814. Baltimore , Maryland : The

  Nautical and Aviation Publishing Company of America , 1997. p. 222.

3 Donald E. Graves. Red Coats & Grey Jackets: The Battle of Chippawa 5 July 1814 . p. 49.

4 Philip Haythornthwaite. British Napoleonic Infantry Tactics: 1792 – 1815. London : Osprey publishing,

  2008. p. 4.

5 Philip Haythornthwaite. British Napoleonic Infantry Tactics: 1792 – 1815. p. 10. John L. Sanford. “The

  Battle of North Point.” Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. XXIV, No. 4 (1929). p. 358.

6 Joseph A. Whitehorne. The Battle of Baltimore , 1814. p. 180.

7 Donald E. Graves. Red Coats & Grey Jackets: The Battle of Chippawa 5 July 1814 . p. 49.

8 Mike Chappell. Wellington ’s Peninsula Regiments (2) The Light Infantry. London : Osprey Publishing,

  2004. p. 15 – 16.

9 John R. Elting. Amateurs To Arms: A Military History of the War of 1812. Chapel Hill , North Carolina :

  DA Capo Books, 1995. p. 234 – 235.

10 Graves , p. 51. Harold L. Peterson. Round Shot and Rammers. South Bend , Indiana : South Bend

   Replicas, Inc. p. 54.

11 Whitehorne, p. 222.

12 Christopher T. George. Terror on the Chesapeake : The War of 1812 On The Bay. Shippensburg,

    Pennsylvania : White Mane Books, 2000. p. 3.

13 Christopher T. George. Terror on the Chesapeake : The War of 1812 On The Bay. p. 1.

14 Secretary of War, Lord Bathhurst in Michael J. Crawford (Editor) The Naval War of 1812: A

    Dcoumentary History Volume III 1814 – 1815: Chesapeake Bay , Northern Lakes, and Pacific Ocean .

    Washington, D. C.: Naval Historical Center, 2002. p. 72.

15 Michael J. Crawford. (Editor) The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History Volume III 1814 – 1815:

   Chesapeake Bay , Northern Lakes, and Pacific Ocean . p. 1 – 2.

16 Vice Admiral Sir F. I. Cochrane in Crawford, p. 270.

17 Major General Robert Ross in George, p. 72.

18 Crawford, p. 269. Anthony S. Pitch. The Burning of Washington : The British Invasion of 1814.

   Annapolis , Maryland : Naval Institute Press, 1998. p. 51. George, p. 91.

19 George, p. 78. Anthony S. Pitch. The Burning of Washington : The British Invasion of 1814. p. 18.

20 Scott S. Sheads. The Rockets’ Red Glare: The Maritime Defense of Baltimore in 1814. Centerville ,

   Maryland : Tidewater Publishers, 1986. p. 62.

21Whitehorne, p. 170.

22 William M. Marine. The British Invasion of Maryland 1812 – 1813. Hatboro , Pennsylvania : Tradition

    Press, 1965. p. 138. John L. Sanford. “The Battle of North Point.” Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol.

    XXIV, No. 4 (1929). p. 357. Scott S. Sheads. The Rockets’ Red Glare: The Maritime Defense of

    Baltimore in 1814. p. 73. Whitehorne, p. 170 – 171.

23 Cochrane in Crawford, p. 273.

24 Cochrane in Crawford, p. 273.

25 George Robert Gleig. The Campaigns of the British Army at Washington and New Orleans . Charleston ,

    South Carolina : BiblioBazaar, 2007. p. 111.

26 George Robert Gleig. The Campaigns of the British Army at Washington and New Orleans . p. 111.

    Whitehorne, p. 233.

27 Frederick M Colston. “The Battle of North Point.” Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. II, Issue No. 2,

   1997. p. 2. Benson J. Lossing. The Pictorial Field – Book of The War of  1812 V2. New York : Harper &

   Brothers, 1869. p. 950. Whitehorne, p. 176.

28 Benson J. Lossing. The Pictorial Field – Book of The War of 1812 V2. p. 950 – 951. George, p.

   137. Whitehorne, p. 177.

29 George, p. 137. Christopher T. George. The Family Papers of Maj. Gen. Robert Ross, the Diary of Col.

   Arthur Brooke, and the British Attacks on Washington and Baltimore of 1814.” Maryland Historical

   Magazine, Vol. 88. No. 3 (Fall, 1995). p. 310. Walter Lord. The Dawn’s Early Light. Baltimore : The

   Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972. p. 260.

30 George, p. 137. Walter Lord. The Dawn’s Early Light. p. 260. Whitehorne, p. 179.

31 Gleig, p. 113.

32 Lord, p. 262. Gleig, p. 113.

33 Gleig, p. 113.

34 Lord, p. 263.

35 George, p. 139 – 141. Brooke in George, p. 182 – 183. Whitehorne, p. 180 –181.

36 George, p. 142. Whitehorne, p. 181.

37 George, p. 141 – 143. Samuel Smith in Marine, p. 162. Whitehorne, p. 180 – 181.

38 Glieg in George, p. 182.

39 Brooke in George, p. 311.

40 Stricker in George, p. 143.

41 George, p. 142 – 145. Brooke in George, p. 311. Whitehorne, p. 182 – 183.

42 Cochrane in Lord, 270 – 271.

43 Brooke in George, p. 148.

44 Whitehorne, p. 214.


Copyright: John Pezzola 2008

Contacting us

Copyright: Unless otherwise noted, all information, images, data contained within this website is protected by copyright under international law.  Any unauthorized use of material contained here is strictly forbidden.  All rights reserved.