In his Aug. 12 Metro column, “Maryland’s love affair with the War of 1812,” Robert McCartney noted that it can seem odd that Maryland is so proud of its part in the War of 1812 — given that, as he stated, the “state spent most of the conflict getting its fanny whacked militarily by the British invaders.” But Maryland’s attitude isn’t any more peculiar than the larger nation’s reverence for the American Revolution. In that conflict, remember, the Continental Army suffered the same sort of spanking, but it still managed to defeat the most powerful army and navy in the world.
There is much for Maryland to celebrate. The battle losses to the British army commanded by Gen. Robert Ross at Bladensburg on Aug. 24, 1814, were severe. As they confidently closed in on Baltimore, the British seemed well on their way to victory. All that changed at the Sept. 12 Battle of North Point just outside of Baltimore.
Here, again, Marylanders tried to slow down the British advance. Two snipers in the Maryland militia, Daniel Wells, 18, and Henry McComas, 19, were credited with killing Ross in a skirmish just before the battle. They themselves were quickly killed by the British, but the damage was done. British morale was destroyed. With no effective leadership, the British army never attempted to take Baltimore after the British navy failed in its bombardment of the city.
The three weeks after the Bladensburg battle could well be Maryland’s proudest moments. For the British fighting forces on American soil, it was all downhill from there. They hit rock bottom at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815.
I love my Virginia battlefields. However, contrary to what McCartney might think, those Free State 1814 battlefields can match anything in Virginia when it comes to men showing valor against all odds. Baltimore and the state of Maryland have every right to be enthusiastic in their preparations to celebrate the proud part they played in the War of 1812.