War of 1812

A war largely forgotten, the War of 1812 is now remembered on its bicentennial with a beautifully rendered book, http://www.starspangled200.com/books In the book, the Harbor Master's House is noted as a "survivor" of the war, http://www.starspangledtrail.net/pdfs/regions/Visit%20Southern%20MD.pdf as well as being one of the historic locations featured in the new National Historic Trail created by the National Park Service. http://www.starspangledtrail.net/  By 1812, England was again at war with France. In the thirty years since the end of the Revolution, the Royal Navy had still continued its practice of "pressing" American seamen - that is, forcibly enlisting them in the British Navy. This was one of the biggest reasons that the young American government decided to declare war on Great Britain. And, much of that war was fought in Maryland. In the years following the American Revolution, England fostered hopes of returning its former colonies to British rule, and when the War of 1812 broke out, that outcome was by no means impossible. But, busy with the French forces much closer at hand, the British had only limited forces to send to the U.S. One tactic that was deemed promising was to attack Washington directly. Multiple forays throughout the Chesapeake Bay area ensued.

In 1814, British war ships entered the Chesapeake Bay and proceeded up the Patuxent with the goal of invading the new capital city of Washington. The troops went ashore just north of Lower Marlboro. Eleven British sailors who died of "swamp fever" were said to have been buried near the mouth of Graham Creek, their graves still visible as late as the 1940's as indentations in the land. About 160 British Royal Marines and some 30 Black  Colonial Corps raided Lower Marlboro in mid-June, without bloodshed. After the militia and townsfolk fled, the British took "quiet possession" of a large quantity of tobacco, valued at $125,000 (about $1.25 million in 2010 dollars). Newspaper accounts described the British destruction of the town; the American and Commercial Daily Advertiser reported on June 20, 1814, "they opened all the feather beds they could find, broke the doors and windows out and so tore the houses to pieces inside as to render them of very little value..." Throughout the county, houses were burned and tobacco was confiscated and either burned or dumped in the water, rendering major economic damage.

In August, the British fleet again anchored at Lower Marlboro, and a few of the seamen came ashore. Local folklore has it that a young Lower Marlboro lad pointed out a hornet's nest and told the invaders that it was home to rare hummingbirds. According to the story, he encouraged them to stop up the hole in the bottom and take the nest about ten miles away before opening it, whereupon they would have a pair of birds that would stay with the ship as mascots. The plug was pulled while the British ship was still within view of the town, and residents saw Admiral Cockburn and a dozen of his officers dive overboard, sword and all. As late as the 1970's, older residents recalled that as children, they had located two British gunboats buried in silt along the west river bank, though this and the tale of British graves seems to be re-told in every river town, with scant archaeological evidence of either.

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Contact George Meng directly through this website or at 410-535-5500.

 

 

The Harbor Master's House

4215 Chaneyville Road

Owings, MD 20736

 

This home is located in Lower Marlboro, Maryland at the corner of Lower Marlboro Road (MD Rte. 262) and Chaneyville Road.  Get directions.  Only a 45 minute drive from Capitol Hill or Annapolis, or 30 minutes from METRO's Green or Orange lines.

By air - Ronald Reagan National Airport is 60 minutes, Baltimore-Washington International is 75 minutes.