Sea History 147 - Summer 2014

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the offensive by first attacking the 38-gun frigate L oire, then the 32-gun Narcissus wit h the support of shore-based artillery from m ilitiamen and m a rines along with one of his tr usted veteran sailing m as ters, John G eoghegan . The A m erican sho rebased bomba rdment kept the enemy at bay for the time being, but the disciplined British gunn ery returned effective fire. The British for ces navigated up Saint Leona rd 's C reek as far as they could to engage Barney's flotilla. Ir was a narrow pa rt of the creek, and Ba rney's barges cou ld form a line of no more than eight barges across. D espite their firepower advantage, the British fai led to inflict much dam age. Befo re long, t wo British vessels broke off the siege and retrea ted . Barney's fl otilla could inflict gnat-like annoyances, but it was obvio us th at the superior enemy force wo uld defeat them in time. As the skirm ishes continued , two A merica n barges were los t w ith eleven men ki lled or w ounded . Ba rney's m en m a naged to heavi ly d a mage two la rge enemy vessels, and in the confusion almost the enti re C hesapeake Flotilla was able to get away a nd move into th e Pa tu xe n t R iver. Lieutenant Rutter removed h is men from the ba rges under his comm and, bur he lost much of the equipment to m ara uding British forces . Rutter a nd mos t of hi s men evaded capture and rejoined Barney at a temporary headqua rters in Benedi ct, M aryland. Barney traveled the twe nty-five m iles to W ashington and there received new orders from Jones. H e was told to hold h is present position a nd have Rutter and 500 of his m en repositioned to Baltimore for that city's seaborne defense and rake command of fou rteen ba rges newly constructed on the n earby C hesap eake shore. Ba ltimo re's prima ry garri son that protected the city from attack by the sea was Fort McHenry. Barney, sti ll in comm a nd of the C hesap eake flotilla, was to come to Rutter's aid if the need arose-bur it was unclear how his remainin g barges and men could m ake the journey. 7 Barney returned to the Scorpion, and four days later di scovered rh ar Admi ral G eorge Cockburn's flagsh ip had entered the mouth of the Patu xent. On 19 August Barney's six-oared scout gig repo rted that a fl eer of twenty-three British vessels h ad


proceeded up the river. Cockburn planned to land troops near Benedict to surround a nd caprure Ba rney, then m arch o n to Washington . Barney rook approximately 400 men as ho re a nd formed a defensive position at U pper Ma rl boro, leaving Frazier in charge of 120 m en, who rem ained with the barges . The situatio n appeared hopeless, a nd once again they fea red that the barges would fa ll into enemy h ands and be used aga inst them. The most viable option was to explode or burn the barges. O n 22 August Commodore Joshua Barney ordered his guns spi ked and exploded, and his m en burned w hat re m ai ned of the flo tilla at Pig Point to prevent capture by the British fo rces a nchored nearby. Jones sent Ba rney a m essage that he was sending a detachment of 80 m arines from the Washington Navy Ya rd under Captain Sa m M iller equipped with th ree 12-pounders a nd two long 18-pounders to join his flotilla fo rce. Barney's flotilla men wo uld serve as artillerists and M iller's ma rines as infa ntry, but under the commodore's overall command. 8 Barney organized the rem nants of his 400 men into two barrery units . They wo uld supplement 24 0 Maryland mil itiam en in the defense of W as hin gton. A fter co nsulting w ith

Jones once aga in, Barney was placed under the comma nd of General William Winder, brother of the Governor of Maryland, who ordered him to guard the long bridge over t he east bra nch of the Potomac (now called A nacostia Creek). Barney was frustrated by this passive assignment. H e appealed to President Madison, who at the rime was personally inspecting the fro nt lines. Ba rney a rg ued that h is sa ilors a nd m arines mi ght be better used in the field of battl e. They mi ght succeed in h ampering General Ro bert Ross's British t roops fro m adva ncing o n to Bladensburg, a suburb of Washington. Madison agreed a nd Ba rney, once again, overrode t he direct chain of comma nd by going direc tl y to the commander-in-chief. Barney's m en joined W inder's defensive line. The total Am erican force num bered nearly 1,8 00 .9 Barney's guns we re placed on a knoll that commanded a creek crossed by Turncliff's Bridge. Ir was late August, and the British had marched ma ny m iles in their wool uni for m s, carry ing their arms and equipment into the Was hington area. The troo ps were exh austed , ye t they reso lutely attacked the Am eri can position s. O n the m orning of24 A ugust, the Bri tish artillery fired Congreve rock-


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