Posts tagged ‘Marine Corps’
August 24, Major General Robert Ross and nearly 4,500 British troops – veterans of the wars against Napoleon in Europe – are nearing the small Maryland town of Bladensburg on the Eastern Branch of the Potomac River (known today as the Anacostia River) and a main road that leads to Washington about 8 miles away.
On the other side of the shallow river, U.S. Army Brigadier General William Winder, is trying to organize a defense line after days of marching his troops back and forth, reacting to one rumor after another about which way the British are going: north to attack Baltimore or south to attack the young nation’s capital.
All spring and summer, despite warning signs that Britain – with the Napoleonic Wars at an end – is pouring troops into Montreal and Caribbean to launch multiple attacks on the United States, President James Madison and his cabinet keep sending U.S. troops to attack Canada along the Niagara Frontier. Now those troops are scattered across northern New York State from Fort Erie on the Canadian side of the Niagara River to Plattsburg on Lake Champlain.
Winder has few regulars to defend Washington. Instead he must rely on poorly trained militia from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. A recent change in Pennsylvania law prevents militiamen from leaving the Keystone State.
Secretary of War John Armstrong, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and a political schemer since 1783, according to “1812, The Navy’s War,” by George C. Daughan, is convinced Washington – a “city” of 8,000 with a few large but isolated government buildings – isn’t big enough to warrant attack. Armstrong gives Winder no direction, refusing to let him call out the militia until mid-July — almost the last minute in an era without railroads and the telegraph. And Winder, a political appointee (his uncle is governor of Maryland) without a strategic plan, immerses himself in minutia in the seven weeks since his appointment as commander of the Tenth Military District, which includes Washington. Neither he, nor Armstrong, reinforce Bladensburg or Fort Washington, the capital’s main defensive position overlooking the Potomac south of the city.
Now on the day of battle, Winder starts the morning with about 2,500 men – mostly militia. More militia groups start arriving at Bladensburg from all directions, Annapolis, Baltimore, Washington, topping out at between 5,000 and 6,000 troops. But most are poorly trained, ill-equipped and have never seen action.
Commodore Joshua Barney, a tough sailor who has been tying up the British Navy with his flotilla of row-galleys in the Chesapeake Bay since June, has marched his men and cannon to Washington after scuttling his fleet two days earlier when he is cornered on the upper Patuxent River north of the capital. Before riding out to Bladensburg, Winder orders Barney and his men to stay behind and guard a bridge into Washington – not on the route being taken by the British. The old seadog doesn’t want to be left out of the fight, and Barney forcefully persuades Madison — also on his way to the battle — to let his men march to Bladensburg with their heavy cannons. He leaves a token force behind to defend or destroy the bridge if the British break through, according to “Through the Perilous Flight,” by Steve Vogel.
Secretary of State James Monroe, arriving at Bladensburg before Winder, doesn’t like what he sees and takes it upon himself to re-order the deployment of the troops without consulting the Maryland militia commanders. Units are placed so far apart they cannot support each other in battle, according to Walter Lord’s 1972 classic on the Chesapeake campaign, “The Dawn’s Early Light.” The ambitious Monroe even moves a regular Army unit of Light Dragoons to a ravine where they can’t even see the battlefield. Winder arrives on scene only a little before the British and doesn’t have much time to undo Monroe’s handiwork.
At noon, Ross’s force of three brigades enters Bladensburg after a killing march through the blistering August heat in wool uniforms and carrying 18-pounds of cannon balls per man — they have no supply wagons. Many soldiers succumb to exhaustion and sunstroke. Ross thinks he is facing between 8,000 and 9,000 enemy soldiers. He has just three cannon, the Americans more than 20.
Nevertheless, Ross attacks. The first British rush across the bridge is broken up by cannon, rifle and musket fire from the Maryland units in the first line of defense. But the battle-hardened British attack across the bridge again and again. In addition to their cannon, the British have a Congreve rocket unit. The less-than-precise rockets do little damage but they unsettle the already jittery Americans. Members of the British 44th Regiment ford the shallow river above the bridge and threaten the American left flank. Confused orders and the rocket barrage eventually break the first American line.
The second American line holds out for a while and even tries to counter attack but then retreats in the confusion of the firs line running past them. As the battle begins to turn into a rout and militiamen flee the field in what would become known as the Bladensburg Races, Winder orders the third line of militia and Army regulars on Barney’s left flank to retreat. The Maryland militia on his right flank also evaporate after firing two or three rounds at the advancing British.
Word of the retreat doesn’t get to Barney and his 400 Marines and sailors covering the road to Washington on the right flank. They continue firing their five cannon—two Navy big guns and three Marine wheeled guns—into the attacking British and then counterattacking, crying “Board ‘em, Board ‘em” and driving the British back, according to the U.S. Naval Institute.
But the teamsters driving the supply wagons take off with the militia, taking Barney’s ammunition with them. Barney is shot through the thigh and as the British close in from three sides, he orders his men to retreat and join the forces needed to defend Washington. By 4 p.m. the battle is over. The British have lost 64 dead and 185 wounded. Only about 20 Americans are killed and 50 wounded but more than 100 are captured. Madison and his cabinet leave the battlefield when things start going sideways, heading for Washington and Virginia.
Barney is sitting under a tree when the British forces reach his position. Ross and Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, commander of the naval units transporting and supporting Ross, congratulate the commodore on his unit’s fighting spirit. They see that his wound is treated at Bladensburg and grant him parole rather than take him prisoner.
Ross rests his men for two hours and then begins the march to Washington, just 7 miles away, at 6 p.m. August 24, 1814.
NEXT: Washington Burning
Editor’s Note: We’re back from some time off in the Rockies, so here’s the Friday Foto — a little later than usual.
Optical (Tactical) Illusion.
The headline of this Marine Corps photo should be “That’s why they call it camouflage.” Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Marine Rotational Force-Darwin report by radio under camouflage netting that makes an interesting — and confusing — shadow pattern. These two Marines are radioing in a mock mass casualty report during a rehearsal of a live-fire artillery exercise at Bradshaw Field Training Area in Australia’s Northern Territory.
It’s all part of Exercise Koolendong 2014. In addition to mass casualty medical response in a remote area, combat air control and air-ground coordination, and combat engineer explosives training, the 16-day bi-lateral exercise focused on establishing a U.S. Marines-Australian Defence Forces combined headquarters element, and directing ground, aviation and logistics capabilities in austere conditions.
To see more photos of this part of the exercise click here.
Since 2012, U.S. and Australian forces have been working closely on training and operational exercises in the hot, remote scrubland at the northern tip of Australia,. The planned rotation of up to 2,500 Marines for six months every year in Darwin starting in 2016, is part of the U.S. strategic “pivot” to Asia after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
August Build-up .
While the guns are largely silent this week, armies are in motion in northern New York and Lower Canada, along the upper Mississippi River and in and around the Chesapeake Bay all in preparations for major battles on Lake Champlain, outside Washington and Baltimore and on the Niagara Frontier and Illinois Territory.
The British siege of the U.S. held fort continues in Canada just across the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York. After their failed three-column assault on the fort August 15, the British forces settle in for a long siege, firing cannon balls into the stronghold.
The British have no tents and the soldiers suffer in the heavy Autumn rains under crude shelters made from bark and branches. Reinforcements from the 6th and 8th regiments of foot, veterans of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, arrive to replace the nearly 900 troops killed, wounded or captured in the Aug. 15 attack.
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Major Zachary Taylor with more than 350 U.S. regulars and militiamen is preparing to sail and row up the Mississippi River to recapture Fort Shelby, near present day Prairie du Chien, in the Illinois Territory.
A small number of British and Canadian troops are awaiting the attack, along with many Indian allies, mostly Sauk warriors under Black Hawk.
The fort, where the Wisconsin River joins the Mississippi, is a vital outpost for controlling the fur trade with the Indians in the region.
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In Montreal, preparations are underway for a British attack on Northern New York. Sir George Prevost, Governor General of Canada, is assembling an army of 10,000 to march on Plattsburgh, New York, accompanied by a hastily constructed British fleet to seize control of Lake Champlain, opening the way for the British to march down to New York City
A force of 3,400 mostly green troops under General Alexander Macomb await them in Plattsburgh, Four small ships and 10 gunboats are poised for action under Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough in the waters off Plattsburgh.
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After almost two years of raiding both sides of the Chesapeake Bay, the British are ready to strike at Washington and Baltimore. Major General Robert Ross begins landing a force of 4,000 soldiers and sailors August 19 at Benedict , Maryland on the Western shore of the Chesapeake. Ross’ troops veterans of the wars in Europe, march toward Bladensburg, Maryland where they would have to cross a bridge over the Eastern Branch of the Potomac River to reach Washington.
Commodore Joshua Barney, who has harried the British in the Chesapeake with a tiny fleet of gunboats, rowed like galleys, during June and July is pursued up the increasingly shallow Patuxent River by the British. Under orders from Washington, he scuttles his flotilla August 22 and has his sailors and Marines drag the vessels’ cannons overland to Bladensburg where Brigadier General William Winder is trying to set up a defense.
But Winder, a political appointee, has no realistic plans and by August 23 he has gathered only about 6,000 Maryland and Virginia militia to defend the bridge at Bladensburg.
Two Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) soldiers and two U.S. Marines emerge from the water ready for action while practicing small unit techniques as part of the Japan Observer Exchange Program at Kin Blue beach, Okinawa, July 16.
The soldiers, with JGSDF’s Western Army, have been observing the Marine of L Company for approximately six weeks. The Marines are with the Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The program provides observation and education opportunities on small unit concepts, tactics, and amphibious operations to further enhance interoperability between the two forces as well as security in the region.
Land, Sea and Air
TAMPA, Florida – Special Operations Forces from the United States and other nations converged on the waterfront of downtown Tampa today (May 21) via parachute, helicopter, inflatable assault boat, all terrain vehicle and swimming underwater in a demonstration of international commando skills at a defense industry conference today.
Your 4GWAR editor saw it all while covering this annual conference where special operators explain their technology and equipment needs to contractors and manufacturers.
The lunchtime event was conducted in the waters just outside the Tampa Convention Center where this year’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference is being held.
The idea behind the exercise was to showcase the tactical capabilities of commandos from different nations working together. In addition to U.S. Navy SEALS and special boat operators,, Army Rangers, Army and Air Force pilots, the 30-minutes exercise included special ops troops from Britain, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland and Sweden among others.
The scenario included the “rescue” of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn from “terrorists.” Two MH-6 Littlebird helicopters delivered snipers to cover the rescue. Two rigid hull inflatable assault boats stormed the water front with covering fire from the two small helicopters. An MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter delivered additional troops via rappel rope down to the ground. Still more troops jumped into the water from the Blackhawk and parachutists from the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland jumped from an MC-130 airplane from 8,000 feet and landed in the water near the convention center.
The conference, sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association, drew more than 300 exhibiting companies and nearly 8,000 attendees.
Click on the photos to enlarge.
Hitting the Beach
The cloudy brown bursts above the water are simulated artillery fire from the beach defenders while the white smoke is being generated as a screen by the marines’ amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs). Ssang Yong, which stands for ‘Twin Dragons,” measures the amphibious capabilities of the South Korea-U.S. Navy-U.S. Marine Corps team.
For the exercise, both the ROK and U.S. AAVs were commanded by the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) III Marine Expeditionary Force.
Inside the Osprey
Cobra Gold, the largest and oldest military exercise in Southeast Asia, originally started as a training exercise to strengthen the relationship, mission readiness and interoperability between troops of the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States. This year, the 33rd iteration of Cobra Gold, the United States and Thailand welcomed participants from Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and, for the first time, the People’s Republic of China.
The exercise included an amphibious operations, helicopter assault, disaster site evacuation and training with live ammunition, according to the Pattaya Mail. The U.S. Marines seen here are with 2nd platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
To see what the Osprey tilt rotor aircraft looks like from the outside and other photos of the exercise, click here.