British Attack on Baltimore Ninety-Five Years Ago
Repulse By Small Force
Fleet of Forty Vessels at Mouth of Patapsco River
Landing at North Point
Valor of American Troops, Largely Militia
Inspiration for Francis Scott Key

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, September 19, 1909 [pt. 4, p. 1]

This month, ninety-five years ago, events were transpiring in and around Baltimore which will ever be features in the pages of American history. After the devastation of the Capital city and numerous places in lower Maryland, the British, with forty vessels, including several ships of the line, appeared at the mouth of the Patapsco river September 10. A force of nearly 8,000 soldiers, sailors and marines was landed at North point on the 12th, and sixteen vessels were dispatched up the river to attack Fort McHenry and the city on the front. Gen. Ross and Admiral Cockburn both met with defeat, the former being killed.

After re-embarking in the Patuxent August 29, the enemy's vessels had cruised in the Chesapeake, landing marauding parties to devastate unprotected parts of Maryland, and, the force being increased, the attack on Baltimore was not unexpected. The Maryland militia of Gen. Smith's division, with volunteer companies, were held in readiness. Gen. Winder with Douglass' brigade of Virginia militia and detachments of United States troops, were camped near. Fort McHenry's regular garrison had been reinforced and Fort Covington and batteries on the east side of the harbor manned.

First at Mouth of Patapsco
Satuday night, September 10, the fleet of forty vessels appeared at the mouth of the Patapsco, and Gen. Smith, anticipating their intention to land at the North point, fourteen miles distant, dispatched Gen. Stricker with part of his brigade down the North point road, while a light corps of riflemen and infantry from Stansbury&39;s brigade went out to Bear creek to prevent a landing there. Between the two roads Gen. Stricker took a good position and awaited the enemy, throwing forward a detachment of rifles. Monday morning the enemy disembarked troops and advanced.

After some skirmishing in the morning the battle was brought on in the afternoon, the enemy's whole force of over 7,000 men becoming involved at 2 o'clock. The American force on the field was less than half of that of the enemy, but for two hours or more maintained the line, when one regiment having given way, the order was given to fall back on the reserves. The enemy had lost heavily in the conflict, Gen. Ross falling before it had been fairly commenced, it advanced no further. Gen. Winder's command from ewst of the city, Stansbury's and Foreman's brigades, Commodore Rodger's force of marines and seamen, Cols. Cobean and Finley arrived at this juncture, and the trenches and batteries were manned.

Opens at Sunrise
The attack by water was commenced at sunrise Tuesday, 13th, and continued until the following morning. The chief defense was at Fort McHenry, on Whetstone point, under command of Lieut. Col. George Armstead, and during the day and night, when it was under an incessant bombardment, there were nearly a thousand troops there.

Fort Covington, half a mile west, was manned by sailors under Lieut. Newcomb, and nearby was a six-gun battery under Lieut. Webster, with flotilla men in charge, and at the Lazaretto, east of the fort, Lieut. Nutter had a battery and the barges of the flotilla. All were brought into action, the fire from both sides being incessant. The enemy's boats in the darkness of the night had got near Fort Covington, but were discovered and beaten off. Col. Armstead estimated that the enemy threw nearly 1,800 shells, 400 falling in the fort. He gave his loss as four killed and twenty-four wounded, and said where every officer and man did his duty it would be injustice to others were any named.

The enemy's vessels sailed down the river Wednesday morning, but with what loss is not disclosed. It is known that he lost some boats and had a small number of men killed and wounded. Gen. Smith estimated the loss of the enemy ashore and afloat at over 600 and the American loss at 150 killed and wounded.

Key Wrote Famous Hymn
It was during the bombardment that Francis Scott Key, who had gone to the fleet under a flag of truce to secure the release of a prisoner and was detained on shipboard, wrote the words which have become our national song, "The Star Spangled Banner." Soon afterward the story of the attack on Baltimore was the subject of a song called "The Battle of North Point," which for forty years or more was exceedingly popular.

The failure of the enemy at Baltimore did much to strengthen the confidence of the masses in the government and was due to the success there of an inferior force, three-fourths militia and volunteers, over the veterans of Wellington's peninsula campaign. The battle occurred soon after their vandalism here and elated the home community, and September 12 became a day for patriotic celebration, in the middle states especially. In Baltimore the "Old Defenders" were honored by the escort of the military as long as a corporal's guard of the heroes survived.