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BRITISH ACCOUNT OF THE INVASION OF WASHINGTON.
position, they were of course less exposed in de there appeared to be no further obstacle in the fending, than the others in storming it; and had way to prevent its immediate capture. they conducted themselves with coolness and res An opportunity so favorable was not endan. olution, it is not conceivable how the battle could gered by any needless delay. While the two have been won. But the fact is, that, with the brigades which had been engaged remained upon exception of a party of sailors from the gun-boats, the field to recover their order, the third, which under the command of Commodore Barney, no had formed the reserve, and was consequently troops could behave worse than they did. The unbroken, took the lead, and pushed forward at skirmishers were driven in as soon as attacked, the a rapid rate towards Washington. first line gave way without offering the slightest As it was not the intention of the British gov. resistance, and the left of the main body was ernment to attempt permanent conquests in this broken within half an hour after it was seriously part of America, and as the general was well engaged. Of the sailors, however, it would be aware that, with a handful of men, he could not injustice not to speak in terms which their con pretend to establish himself, for any length of duct merits. They were employed as gunners, time, in an enemy's capital, he determined to and not only did they serve their guns with a lay it under contribution, and to return quietly quickness and precision which astonished their to the shipping. Nor was there anything unassailants, but they stood till some of them were worthy of the character of a British officer in actually bayoneted, with fuzes in their hands; this determination. By all the customs of war, nor was it till their leader was wounded and whatever public property may chance to be in a taken, and they saw themselves deserted on all captured town, becomes, confessedly, the just sides by the soldiers, that they quitted the field. spoil of the conqueror; and in thus proposing to With respect to the British army, again, on line accept a certain sum of money in lieu of that of distinction can be drawn. All did their duty, property, he was showing mercy rather than seand none more gallantly than the rest; and though verity to the vanquished. It is true that if they the brunt of the affair fell upon the light bri- chose to reject his terms he and his army would gade, this was owing chiefly to the circumstance be deprived of their booty, because without some of its being at the head of the column, and more convenient mode of transporting it than we perhaps also, in some degree, to its own rash possessed, even the portable part of the property impetuosity. The artillery, indeed, could do itself could not be removed. But, on the other little; being unable to show itself in pres- hand, there was no difficulty in destroying it; ence of a force so superior; but the six- and thus, though we should gain nothing, the pounder was nevertheless brought into ac American government would lose probably to a tion, and a corps of rockets proved of striking much greater amount than if they had agreed utility.
to purchase its preservation by the money do. Our troops being worn down from fatigue, and manded. of course as ignorant of the country as the Amer Such being the intention of General Ross, he icans were the reverse, the pursuit could not be did not march the troops immediately into the continued to any distance. Neither was it at city, but halted them upon a plain in its immetended with much slaughter. Diving into the diate vicinity, whilst a flag of truce was sent for. recesses of the forests, and covering themselves ward with terms. But whatever his proposal with riflemen, the enemy were quickly beyond might have been, it was not so much as heard; our reach; and having no cavalry to scour even for scarcely had the party bearing the flag enthe high road, ten of the lightest of their guns tered the street, when it was fired upon from the were carried off in the flight. The defeat, how windows of one of the houses, and the horse of ever, was absolute, and the army which had been the general himself, who accompanied it, killed. collected for the defence of Washington was scat The indignation excited by this act throughout tered beyond the possibility of, at least, an im all ranks and classes of men in the army, was mediate reunion; and as the distance from Bla such as the nature of the case could not fail to densburg to that city does not exceed four miles, occasion. Every thought of accommodation was
instantly laid aside; the troops advanced forth the contrary, I conceive that too much praise with into the town, and having first put to the cannot given to the forbearance and husword all who were found in the house from manity of the British troops, who, irritated as which the shots were fired, and reduced it to they had every right to be, spared, as far as ashes, they proceeded without a moment's delay possible, all private property, neither plunderto burn and destroy everything in the most dis- | ing nor destroying a single house in the place, tant degree connected with the government. In
In except that from which the general's horse had this general devastation were included the senate been killed. house, the president's palace, an extensive dock. Whilst the third brigade was thus employed yard and arsenal, barracks for two or three thou the rest of the army, having recalled its stragglers, sand men, several large storehouses filled with and removed the wounded into Bladensburg, naval and military stores, some hundreds of can began its march towards Washington. Though non of different descriptions, and nearly twenty the battle came to a close by four o'clock, the thousand stand of small-arms. There were also sun had set before the different regiments were two or three public ropewalks which shared the in a condition to move, consequently the short same fate, a fine frigate pierced for sixty guns, journey was performed in the dark. The work and just ready to be launched, several gun brigs of destruction had also begun in the city before and armed schooners, with a variety of gun-boats they quitted their ground; and the blazing of and small craft. The powder magazines were set houses, ships, and stores, the report of exploding on fire, and exploded with a tremendous crash, magazines, and the crash of falling roofs, informed throwing down many houses in their vicinity, them, as they proceeded, of what was going forpartly by pieces of the walls striking them, and ward. It would be difficult to conceive a finor partly by the concussion of the air; whilst quan- spectacle than that which presented itself as they tities of shot, shell, and hand-grenades, which approached the town. The sky was brilliantly could not otherwise be rendered useless, were illuminated by the different conflagrations; and cast into the river. In destroying the cannon a a dark red light was thrown upon the road, sufmethod was adopted which I had never before ficient to permit each man to view distinctly his witnessed, and which, as it was both effectual and comrade's face. Except the burning of St. Se expeditious, I cannot avoid relating. One gun of bastian's, I do not recollect to have witnessed at rather a small calibre was pitched upon as the any period of my life a scene more striking or executioner of the rest, and being loaded with more subline. ball and turned to the muzzles of the others, it was fired, and thus beat out their breechings. reserve had previously paused, the first and second Many, however, not being mounted, could not be brigades halted; and forming into close column, thus dealt with; these were spiked, and having passed the night in bivouac. At first this was their trunnions knocked off, were afterwards cast agreeable enough, because the air was mild, and into the bed of the river.
weariness made up for what was wanting in comAll this was as it should be, and had the arm fort. But towards morning a violent storm of of vengeance been extended no further, there rain, accompanied with thunder and lightning, would not have been room given for so inuch as came on, which disturbed the rest of all who were a whisper of disapprobation. But unfortunately exposed to it. Yet in spite of the inconvenience it did not stop here; a noble library, several arising from the shower, I cannot say that I felt printing-offices, and all the national archives were disposed to grumble at the interruption, for it likewise committed to the flames, which, though appeared that what I had before considered as no doubt the property of government, might superlatively sublime, still wanted this to render better have been spared. It is not, however, it complete. The flashes of lightning vied in brilmy intention to join the outcry which was raised liancy with the flames which burst from the roofs at the time against what the Americans and of burning houses, whilst the thunder drowned their admirers were pleased to term a line of for a time the noise of crumbling walls, and was conduct at once barbarous and unprofitable. On only interrupted by the occasional roar of cannon,
BRITISH ACCOUNT OF THE INVASION OF WASHINGTON.
and of large dépôts of gunpowder, as they one diers, with no indifferent eye. An elegant dinner, by one exploded.
even though considerably over-dressed, was a I need scarcely observe, that the consternation luxury to which few of them, at least for some of the inhabitants was complete, and that to them time back, had been accustomed; and which, this was a night of terror. So confident had they after the dangers and fatigues of the day, apbeen of the success of their troops, that few of peared peculiarly inviting. They sat down to them had dreamt of quitting their homes or aban- | it, therefore, not indeed in the most orderly mandoning the city; nor was it till the fugitives from ner, but with countenances which would not have the battle began to rush in, filling every place as disgraced a party of aldermen at a civic feast; they came with dismay, that the president him and having satisfied their appetites with fewer self thought of providing for his safety. That complaints than would have probably escaped gentleman, as I was credibly informed, had gone their rival gourmands, and partaken pretty forth in the morning with the army, and had con freely of the wines, they finished by setting fire tinued among his troops till the British forces to the house which had so liberally entertained began to make their appearance. Whether the them. sight of his enemies cooled his courage or not I I have said that to the inhabitants of Washcannot say, but, according to my informant, no ington this was a night of terror and dismay. sooner was the glittering of our arms discernible, From whatever cause the confidence arose, certhan he began to discover that his presence was tain it is that they expected anything rather than more wanted in the senate than in the field; and the arrival among them of a British army;
and having ridden through the ranks, and exhorted their consternation was proportionate to their preevery man to do his duty, he hurried back to his vious feeling of security, when an event, so little own house, that he might prepare a feast for the anticipated, actually came to pass. The first imentertainment of his officers, when they should pulse naturally prompted them to fly, and the return victorious. For the truth of these details streets were speedily crowded with soldiers and I will not be answerable; but this much I know, senators, men, women, and children, horses, carthat the feast was actually prepared, though, in riages, and carts loaded with household furniture, stead of being devoured by American officers, it all hastening towards a wooden bridge which went to satisfy the less delicate appetites of a crosses the Potomac. The confusion thus occa. party of English soldiers. When the detach- sioned was terrible, and the crowd upon the ment sent out to destroy Mr. Madison's house, bridge was such as to endanger its giving way. entered his dining parlor, they found a dinner But Mr. Madison, as is affirmed, having escaped table spread, and covers laid for forty guests. among the first, was no sooner safe on the oppo Several kinds of wine in handsome cut-glass de site bank of the river, than he gave orders that canters were cooling on the sideboard; plate the bridge should be broken down; which being holders stood by the fire-place, filled with dishes obeyed, the rest were obliged to return, and to and plates ; knives, forks, and spoons, were ar trust to the clemency of the victors. ranged for immediate use; everything in short In this manner was the night passed by both was ready for the entertainment of a ceremonious parties; and at daybreak next morning, the light party. Such were the arrangements in the dining brigade moved into the city, whilst the reserve room, whilst in the kitchen were others answer. fell back to a height about half a mile in the rear. able to them in every respect. Spits loaded with Little, however, now remained tu be done, bejoints of various sorts turned before the fire; cause everything marked out for destruction was pots, saucepans, and other culinary utensils stood already consumed. Of the senate-house, the presupon the grate; and all the other requisites for ident's palace, the barracks, the dockyard, etc., an elegant and substantial repast were in the nothing could be seen, except heaps of smoking exact state which indicated that they had been ruins; and even the bridge, a noble structure uplately and precipitately abandoned.
wards of a mile in length, was almost entirely The reader will easily believe that these pre demolished. There was, therefore, no further parations were beheld, by a party of hungry sol. occasion to scatter the troops, and they were ac
cordingly kept together as much as possible on to the fate of a battle, they were guilty of a monthe Capitol Hill.
strous error again. Bladensburg ought not to There is no denying that the fall of Washington have been left unoccupied. The most open vilought to be attributed much more to the miscon- lage, if resolutely defended, will cost many men duct of the Americans themselves, than to the before it falls; whereas Bladensburg, being comskill or enterprise of those who effected it. Hadposed of substantial brick houses, might have been the emergency been contemplated, and in a proper maintained for hours against all our efforts. In manner provided against, or had the most mod. the next place, they displayed great want of milerate ingenuity and courage been displayed in re itary knowledge in the disposition of both their tarding the progress of our troops, the design, if infantry and artillery. There was not, in the formed at all, would have been either abandoned whole space of their position, a single point where immediately, or must have ended in the total de
an enemy would be exposed to a cross fire. The struction of the invaders.
troops were drawn up in three straight lines, like
so many regiments upon a gala parade; whilst Here, therefore, lay their principal error: had the guns were used as connecting links to a chain, they left all clear, and permitted us to advance being posted in the same order, by ones and twos, as far as Nottingham, then broken up the roads,
at every interval. and covered them with trees, it would have been In maintaining themselves, likewise, when atimpossible for us to go a step beyond. As soon tacked, they exhibited neither skill nor resoluas this was effected, they might have skirmished tion. Of the personal courage of the Americans with us in front, and kept our attention alive with there can be no doubt; they are, individually part of their troops, till the rest, acquainted as taken, as brave a nation as any in the world. they doubtless were with every inch of the coun. But they are not soldiers; they have not the ex try, had got into our rear, and, by a similar mode perience nor the habits of soldiers. It was the of proceeding, cut off our retreat.
height of folly, therefore, to bring them into a should have been taken in a snare, from which situation where nothing except that experience it would have been no easy task to extricate our. and those habits will avail; and it is on this ac selves, and might, perhaps, have been obliged in count that I repeat what I have already said, that the end to surrender at discretion.
the capture of Washington was more owing to But so obvious and so natural a plan of defence the blindness of the Americans themselves than they chose to reject; and determining to trust all to any other cerise.
Kaval operations - Commodore Porter's cruise - Blockaded in Valparaiso — The desperate fight with the Phæbe
and Cherub - Result of the battle - The Peacock takes the Epervier — The Wasp captures the Reindeer and other vessels — The fate of the Wasp - Decatur in the President -Loss of the President, in a battle with three English ships — The Constitution captures the Cyane and Levant - The Hornet takes the Penguin — The Peacock and the Nautilus — General Jackson in command at the South - The British ships at Pensacola — Jackson's
Plans of the British - Lafitte and the Baratarian pirates — The attack on Fort Bowyer — Jackson marches into Florida — Takes Pensacola - Makes preparations to defend New Orleans - State of the cityJackson's plans and measures — Arrival of the British fleet — Plans to oppose the enemy's advance to New Or. leans — The gun-boats destroyed — Martial law proclaimed - Arrival of troops — The British land under General Keane — Their course — Night attack on the enemy by Jackson - Sir Edward Pakenham arrives with other troops — Jackson's ramparts - Attack by the British on the 27th and 28th of November - The battle on the 8th of January, 1815 — Fierce and bloody contest - The British defeated — Their retreat - Attack on Fort St. Philip
- Jackson's difficulties in New Orleans — The state of things in New England - The Hartford Convention — Its purposes and results --How far justifiable -- Negotiations for peace — Treaty agreed upon - Proceedings of Congress meanwhile - Arrival of news of peace — The president's message — Its recommendations — Measures adopted for a peace establishment Conclusion of the fifth book,
The operations of the present year | United States, and called it Madison on the water were, on the whole, grati- Island, in honor of the president. fying to the pride which the country He had some difficulty with the native took in our gallant little navy. Of
Of disputes and warfare, especially with Commodore Porter's exploits in the the savage Typee, who endeavored to Pacific, we have briefly spoken on a effect the expulsion of Porter and his previous page (p. 198). We may now men; but failed of course in a conflict conclude the story of his adventures, with the marines and seamen, who and their result; and also tell of the va- burned a number of their villages. rious successes and misfortunes which During the month of November, 1813, fell to the lot of our brave seamen in the Essex was thoroughly overhauled contending against the superior force and made ready for sea. On the 12th and numbers of British ships of war. of December, she sailed for the coast
Porter took possession of the Island of Chili, Porter having first secured of Nouaheevah,* in the name of the the three prizes which had accom
panied him, under the guns of a bat* See “Journal of a Cruise made to the Pacific Ocean, by Captain David Porter, in the United tery erected for their protection, and States frigate Esser," 2 vols., Philadelphia, 1815.
left them in charge of Lieutenant