Terror on the Chesapeake-1813

Rear Admiral Cockburn

Rear Admi­ral Cock­burn

The War of 1812 did not start in earnest for those on Chesa­peake Bay until 1813. Rear Admi­ral Sir George Cock­burn was giv­en the task: ruin coastal trade, destroy sup­plies of grain and live­stock, and ter­ror­ize the pop­u­la­tion in gen­er­al. In late April he reached Kent Coun­ty, Mary­land. His force con­sist­ed of one 74 (a gun ship), three frigates, two brigs, two schooners, and a num­ber of ten­ders and barges. The British raid­ed How­ell Point and bom­bard­ed the land throw­ing shot as far as a mile from shore. At one farm they robbed a smoke­house, hen­house and sheep pen, and killed cat­tle. The mili­tia arrived in time to pre­vent the ene­my from car­ry­ing off the cat­tle and to fire at the retreat­ing boats.

The British con­tin­ued up the bay, lsy­ing waste by plun­der­ing French­town, and raid­ing and burn­ing Havre de Grace.

Cock­burn next turned to George­town, but he was frus­trat­ed by the intri­ca­cy of the Sas­safrass Riv­er. He kid­napped a local res­i­dent to act as his pilot and sent word that if the res­i­dents didn’t resist, George­town would be spared and pro­vi­sions they took paid for. How­ev­er the mili­tia, 400 strong, opened fire. When the British advanced, the mili­tia aban­doned the fight and melt­ed away. The British torched thir­teen dwellings and out­build­ings, cobbler’s shop, tav­ern, a gra­nary and store­house. How­ev­er, some homes were saved. (Local leg­end has it that the British spared sev­er­al homes due to the actions of  Miss Kit­ty Knight, a local lady of esteem, who stood up to the British when they were about to burn the home of one of her elder­ly neigh­bors. The Kit­ty Knight house still stands.)

Kitty Knight House today

Kit­ty Knight House today

As Cock­burn and his forces returned to the Chesa­peake the news of burn­ing and loot­ing had its effects. Resis­tance had died. The Brits paid for sup­plies and returned the pilot to his home. How­ev­er, they came back in August with a dif­fer­ent intent.

This is anoth­er blog of my “His­to­ry of The War of 1812 on Chesa­peake Bay” series. Since my next mys­tery will take place dur­ing a reen­act­ment of that war, I’ve dis­cov­ered many inter­est­ing facts I like to share, also, a few facts I thought I knew that weren’t exact­ly true.

 

 

War of 1812 — Kent Island

In August, 1813, Cap­tain Charles Gor­don, U.S.N. said, “MARYLAND INVADED…it appears the ene­my have tak­en pos­ses­sion of Kent Island, and that the inhab­i­tants of every descrip­tion have removed to the main land…From the cir­cum­stance of land­ing can­non on Kent Island, it appears to be the inten­tion of the ene­my to keep pos­ses­sion of it for some time; and cer­tain­ly a more eli­gi­ble sit­u­a­tion could not have been select­ed for their own safe­ty and con­ve­nience or from which to annoy us.”

Burning in Kent County

Burn­ing in Kent Coun­ty

Indeed, on August 5, the British, with two thou­sand men and sev­en­teen ships, took over the island. British Admi­ral John Bor­lase described Kent Island as a “valu­able & beau­ty Island which is half as large as the Isle of Wright…a cen­tral Point between Annapo­lis, Bal­ti­more, Wash­ing­ton and the East­ern Ports of the State of Mary­land.” After they pre­pared the island, they launched raids on St. Michaels and Queen­stown. How­ev­er, they left on August 27 to sail to their win­ter quar­ters.

One rea­son they left so soon was because of the heavy storms they had encoun­tered in the pre­vi­ous Sep­tem­ber.

This bit of his­to­ry and oth­ers that I’ve shared added to the reen­act­ment of the for­got­ten War of 1812 in my upcom­ing mys­tery—For­got­ten Body. In fact, some I’ve read today means I have to change a few things in that upcom­ing man­u­script. Saved me from a major his­tor­i­cal boo-boo. Of course, since all the char­ac­ters live in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, any mis­state­ments they make could be blamed on igno­rance. But Jo (my amateur/reluctant sleuth) is smarter than that.

I just said that, didn’t I? My char­ac­ter is a person—not an exten­sion or imag­i­na­tion of my brain. As a writer, does that hap­pen to you too? As a read­er, do you think of the char­ac­ters as paper dolls or real peo­ple? As a read­er, when I enjoy a book, I’m firm­ly in the “real peo­ple” mind set.