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.