Posts tagged ‘Marine Corps’

COUNTER TERRORISM: Air Strikes on Khorosan Group, Australian Attack Thwarted

Syria Air Attack.

Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville Jr. details air strikes in Syria at a Pentagon press briefing Sept. 23. (Defense Dept. photo by Casper Manlangit)

Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville Jr. details air strikes in Syria at a Pentagon press briefing Sept. 23. (Defense Dept. photo by Casper Manlangit)

U.S. and Middle East partner nation forces launched air strikes Monday night and early Tuesday morning (September 22 and 23) against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The United States also launched air strikes into Syria to attack the Khorasan Group, a terrorist organization believed to planning an attack against the West, Defense Department officials said.

“We’ve been watching this group closely for some time,” Army Lieutenant General William Mayville told a Pentagon press briefing Tuesday afternoon (September 23). Mayville said U.S. intelligence officials believe the Kkorasan group “was in the final stages of plans to execute major attacks against Western targets and potentially the U.S. homeland,” he added.

U.S. Navy ships in the Arabian Gulf launched a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles at Khorasan compounds and other targets in Syria. Khorasan Group, an offshoot of al Qaeda has attempted to recruit Westerners to serve as operatives or infiltrate back to their homelands.

The three waves of air attack were directed at ISIL and Khorasan Group. The first consisted of Navy cruise missiles. The second wave employed F-15 Strike Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-22 Raptor fighter jets as well as B-1 bombers and numerous unmanned aircraft. The final wave consisted of F-18 Hornet jets off Navy carriers and more F-16 Fighting Falcons. In the third wave, U.S. aircraft were joined by forces and planes from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Mayville the air attacks were part of a sustained campaign that “should be thought of in terms of years” to “dislodge and eventually remove ISIL from Iraq.” 

*** *** ***

Beheading Plot

Australian security personnel have arrested 15 people in the cities of Sydney and Brisbane for an alleged plot to carry out random public beheadings in those two cities.

Australia (CIA World Fact Book)

Australia
(CIA World Fact Book)

Officials said a man believed to be the senior Islamic State (IS or ISIL) leader in Australia “is understood to have made the instruction to kidnap people in Brisbane and Sydney and have them executed on camera,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. The video was then to be sent back to ISIL’s media unit, where it would be publicly released,” according to the Australian broadcaster.

Earlier in September, the Australian government raised the terrorism threat level to the second-highest warning in response to the domestic threat posed by ISIL/ISIS.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organization, the country’s domestic spy agency said the threat had been rising over the past year, particularly in recent months, mainly due to Australians joining the ISIS/ISIL movement to fight in Syria and Iraq, according to Thompson Reuters.

*** *** ***

September 24, 2014 at 1:29 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (September 14-September 20, 1814) UPDATE

Silent Emblem.

September 14, Baltimore

UPDATES with final action in Fort Erie Siege September 17

Bombardment of Fort McHenry by Peter Rindlisbacher (Courtesy of Royal Canadian Geographic Society/Parks Canada)

Bombardment of Fort McHenry by Peter Rindlisbacher
(Courtesy of Royal Canadian Geographic Society/Parks Canada)

Some 20 Royal Navy ships – bomb and rocket vessels, frigates and troop-carrying barges – continue their futile assault on Fort McHenry and the outer defenses of Baltimore. The ships, blocked by sunken hulks, a chain boom and batteries on either side of the channel east of the fort leading to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, are forced to bombard McHenry from two miles out – beyond the range of the American guns.

An amphibious assault at an area west off the fort in the wee hours of the 14th is repulsed when Americans manning two fortifications outside McHenry, spot the British barges carrying infantry and open fire with deadly effect.

Meanwhile, Colonel Arthur Brooke, leading the land forces facing the Americans near heavily fortified Hampstead Hill in Baltimore finally receives a note from Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane. Cochrane, the expedition’s overall commander, explains that his ships in the Patapsco River won’t be able to offer supporting fire for any land attack on the other side of the city. It was up to Brooke to decide if he could take Baltimore with his force of less than 5,000 men. If not, Cochrane writes, it “would be only throwing the men’s lives away” and keep the expedition from performing other missions.

Brooke, has been planning a 2 a.m. attack on American General Samuel Smith’s 15,000-man force of soldiers, sailors, flotilla men, Marines, militia and volunteers spoiling for a little payback after the burning of Washington. But the note gives him pause – and an honorable out from an attack likely to end in failure. After a council of war with his officers, Brooke’s army slips away leaving campfire burning to fool the Americans into thinking the British were still there.

Francis Scott Key notes "that our flag was still there." Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

Francis Scott Key notes “that our flag was still there.” Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

At daybreak on the 14th Cochrane calls off the bombardment. Maryland lawyer Francis Scott Key, stuck on a boat downstream from Fort McHenry during the attack, is thrilled to see the fort’s huge American flag still flying in the morning light. Fifty-years later, American General William Tecumseh Sherman will call it “the silent emblem of [our] country” but thanks to Key, the amateur poet, his opus “The Defense of Fort McHenry,” will immortalize the national flag as The Star Spangled Banner.

Brooke and his troops march back to where they first came ashore two days earlier and re-board the transports. Cochrane’s fleet eventually weighs anchor and heads for Canada. The Battle of Baltimore is over. Here is the seldom sung fourth, and final, verse of the poem that becomes the U.S. National Anthem …

Oh! thus be it ever, when free men shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

*** *** ***

War Moves South

September 14-16, Mobile Bay

British leaders in London still have their eye on New Orleans and plan to send an invasion force there as part of the strategy to attack the United States from the north and south.

Maj. William Lawrence (War of 1812 Alabama, Facebok page)

Maj. William Lawrence
(War of 1812 Alabama, Facebok page)

In preparation for that operation, the British plan to attack Fort Bowyer overlooking Mobile Bay on the Gulf Coast. Major General Andrew Jackson, expecting a British thrust from Pensacola (in what was then Spanish Florida) has beefed up the earth and timber fortification with 160 Army regulars and 20 canon under the command of Major William Lawrence of the 2nd U.S. Infantry Regiment..

If the British capture the small fort, it will enable them British to move on Mobile, and then head overland to Natchez in Mississippi Territory and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, cutting off New Orleans from the north.

Four British ships under Captain William Percy land 60 Royal Marines, 60 pro-British Indians and a small canon nine miles from the fort, but they are repulsed by the Americans September 14. The British ships attack the fort the next day but canon fire from the fort damages one ship which runs aground. That ship is set afire by the British after the beached ship’s crew is rescued. The other three ships sail away on September 16 after losing 34 killed and 35 wounded in the land and sea attacks. American casualties are only four killed and four wounded.

*** *** ***

Fort Erie Sortie

September 17, Canada

The British siege of Fort Erie on the Canadian side of the Niagara River continues after 42 days.

On September 17, two columns of American troops totaling 1,600 men sortie from the fort and sneak up on three British artillery batteries under cover of a heavy rain. One column, commanded by Brigadier General Peter Porter, consists of volunteers from the New York and Pennsylvania militia and elements of the 23rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. Porter’s men capture Battery Number 3. The other column, commanded by Brigadier General James Miller, includes detachments from the 9th, 11th and 19th U.S. Infantry regiments. Miller’s group captures Battery Number 2.

But there is fierce fighting after the British regroup and counter attack. The Americans are driven out of batteries 2 and 3 and are unable to take Battery Number 1. Three of the six siege guns in Battery Number 3 are destroyed, but the Americans are unable to spike the guns in Battery Number 2 before retreating following the two-hour engagement in the trenches.

In the often hand-to-hand fighting, the Americans suffer 79 killed, 216 wounded and 170 captured. The British losses are 49 killed, 178 wounded and 382 captured. A few days later, the British commander, Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond, decides to break off the siege.

East Bastion and barracks of Fort Erie today. (photo by Ernest Mettendorf via Wikipedia)

East Bastion and barracks of Fort Erie today.
(photo by Ernest Mettendorf via Wikipedia)

September 14, 2014 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 12, 2014)

Horizontal While Vertical

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos

U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Julio Miranda Jr. rappels down a cliff during Mountain Exercise 2014 at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center  (MCMWTC)  in Bridgeport, California.

Miranda is a rifleman with the 3rd Platoon of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. Marines with the 3rd Battalion will become the ground combat element of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in October.

“This isn’t easy for someone doing it their first time,” said Sergeant. Andrew Rector, a unit training instructor with MCMWTC. “Everything in your body is telling you no, don’t walk off that ledge, but you have trust in your equipment and follow the technique.”

The training started with classes on tying basic knots and rappel harnesses, as well as getting a feel for what it’s like to rappel with no gear, according to Sergeant Emmanuel Ramos, who took this photo. After learning the basics, the Marines made their way through the mountainous terrain to a location two kilometers from their camp to begin their rappel assault with day packs and rifles.

The Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center teaches a variety of high altitude survival skills as well as mountain and cold weather operations. The center last year started an advanced horsemanship course to teach Special Operations Forces including Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command the necessary skills to enable them to ride horses and move through terrain that can’t be navigated by motor vehicles — as was the case in the early days of the Afghanistan war.

September 12, 2014 at 1:11 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (September 7-September 13, 1814) PART III

Battle for Baltimore.

British Major General Robert Ross

British Major General Robert Ross

September 12, 1814

At 3 a.m. the British fleet in the Patapsco River south of Baltimore are unloading thousands of British soldiers and sailors — including about 500 Colonial Marines, runaway American slaves who have joined the British who promised them freedom from servitude in return. The overall commander, Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, originally planned to depart the sultry and (in his mind) fever-ridden Chesapeake Bay after capturing and burning Washington. But unfavorable tides, storms in the Atlantic and the urging of his two sub commanders — Major General Robert Ross and Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn — persuades Cochrane to try and take Baltimore, the most pro-war city on the Atlantic Coast and home to numerous privateers (state-sanctioned sea-going raiders) that have been wreaking havoc with British shipping for the past three years.

By 7 a.m. more than 4,000 troops are ashore and Ross decides to begin marching while the rest of the troops, cannon and equipment are being landed and organized.  Baltimore is about 14 miles away and Ross is anxious to take his men across this neck of land between the Patapsco and Back rivers before it gets too hot and the Americans realize they are attacking from the land side.

Brigadier Samuel Smith, the overall American commander in Baltimore has sent the 3,200-man 3rd Maryland (militia) Brigade about half way between the American lines and the British landing point, as a tripwire to warn of the British advance and to slow it down. Brigadier General John Stricker, the brigade’s commander, posts his men across a narrow neck of land only about a half mile wide between two creeks, straddling the road from North Point to Baltimore. Stricker sends a small unit, consisting of two companies of the 5th Maryland Regiment and less than 100 members of the Baltimore Rifle Battalion, even farther forward to surprise the British as they advance.

 

Battle of Baltimore (Click on map to enlarge)

Battle of Baltimore
(Click on map to enlarge)

It is the Americans who are surprised when thy run into the lead elements of the British force. The 5th Maryland companies, standing in the middle of the road, fire two volleys and flee. The riflemen, with more accurate weapons, take cover in the tall grass and behind trees to fire at the British. One or two of their bullets strike the British commander, General Ross, mortally wounding him. Colonel Arthur Brook takes command.

By 2 p.m. the British force reachStrickler’s position and are surprised when the militia units do not run when fired upon by artillery and Congreve rockets as they did at Bladensburg. While the 5th Maryland, 27th Maryland and the six-gun Union Artillery battery stand their ground but the 51st Maryland begins to waver and finally flee, followed by the neighboring 39th Regiment. With hisleft wing collapsing,Strickler fears the now outnumbered 5th and 27th regiments will be overrun by the British who mount a bayonet charge. At 3:45 p.m.Strickler orders his troops to retreat a mile back to a line where the 6th Maryland is standing in reserve. The American losses are 24 dead, 139 wounded and 50 captured. By contrast British suffer 46 killed, 295 wounded. Brook decides not to pursue the Marylanders, leaving his attack on Baltimore, still 7 miles away, until the next day to give his hungry, thirsty and exhausted troops a rest.

The 5th Maryland Militia Regiment at the Battle of North Point. (National Guard Heritage Series)

The 5th Maryland Militia Regiment at the Battle of North Point.
(National Guard Heritage Series)

*** *** ***

As the British prepare to attack Baltimore by sea, defenders block the entrance to the city’s inner harbor by sinking old ships between Whetstone Point — where Fort McHenry stands guard — and Lazaretto Point, where an artillery battery was set up. A chain barrier was stretched across the space and a string of barges, and as a last line of defense, the sloop-of-war Erie. General Smith, a Revolutionary War veteran and U.S. senator from Maryland began strengthening Baltimore’s defense — especially Fort McHenry — when the British began raiding the Chesapeake shoreline in 1813.

There were about 1,000 Army soldiers and militiamen inside the fort. Smaller earthworks fortifications were set up west of the five-sided masonry fort to prevent the British from sailing around the Fort McHenry and attacking Baltimore by land from the south. Most of the seaside fortifications are manned by some 1,000 sailors, Marines and Commodore Barney’s flotilla men, many of whom were black freemen.

*** *** ***

September 13

Shortly after daybreak, the British begin bombarding Fort McHenry and some of the shore batteries. Five of Royal Navy’s eight bomb ships are drawn up two miles from Fort McHenry. Thy have fearsome names like Devastation, Terror and Volcano and can hurl 200-pound shells up to two-and-a-half miles. The Americans briefly return fire but even their biggest guns can’t reach more than a mile and a half. There is also a ship, the Erebus, firing Congreve rockets. The bombardment continues all day and into the night where “the rockets’ red gleaming” illuminated the fort and its enormous 15-star, 15-stripe flag. Farther down the Patapsco River, American lawyer and poet Francis Scot Key has a good view of the attack but it is one he can do without. Key and John Stuart Skinner have sailed out to the British fleet to negotiate the release of a Maryland physician, Dr. William Beanes, who was taken prisoner for arresting at gunpoint British deserters and looters. The British agree to release Beans but keep all three men aboard ship until the battle is over.

Fort McHenry’s commander, Major George Armistead estimates 1,500 and 1,800 projectiles are fired at the fort. Only about 400 fall within the compound. The noise and concussion are almost unimaginable, however. At one point the bomb ships move a half a mile closer but they are now within range of some of the American big guns and after taking some hits, they are ordered back to their original position. Cochrane, the overall British commander sends a message to Brooke, the Army commander, saying the Navy can’t penetrate Baltimore’s waterside defenses and won’t able to support his attack on Baltimore’s fortifications. The message doesn’t reach Brooke for hours.

Fort McHenry today (Defense Department photo)

Fort McHenry today
(Defense Department photo)

General Smith has between 15,000 and 16,000 troops under his command, including 1,000 sailors, Marines and flotilla men. The American trenches flow all around Hampstead Hill, the American strong point. By 9 a.m. the British land forces have come within sight of he American lines, which are stronger, more extensive and heavily armed than Brooke had been led to believe. After assessing the situation and estimated the Americans may have 20,000 men and more than 100 canons, Brooke probes for a weakness in the America lines but is repulsed very time.

With only 4,500 men, Brooke knows it,s a big risk to attack an entrenched, larger force. However, with fire support from the Navy (he still hasn’t gotten Cochrane’s note) Brooke begins to think he might be able to pull it off. After a council or war, Brooke and his officers plan to launch a nighttime assault at 2 a.m. September 14.

Next Week: Star Spangled Banner and Fort Erie Holds On

September 11, 2014 at 1:18 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (September 7-September 13, 1814) PART I

War on Three Fronts.

Brigadier General Alexander Macomb deploys his small force at the Battle of Pattsburgh, N.Y.

Brigadier General Alexander Macomb deploys his small force at the Battle of Pattsburgh, N.Y.

September 7, 1814

Sir George Prevost, the governor general of Canada has reached the Saranac River in New York State opposite Plattsburgh, N.Y. Prevost is waiting to coordinate with a Royal Navy force that is sailing down Lake Champlain for a combined operation to drive down the long narrow lake between New York and Vermont and then proceed down the Hudson River Valley all the way to New York City.

The idea is to split off the anti-war states of New England from the rest of the United States while another British force sails up from the Caribbean to attack the U.S. Gulf Coast — particularly New Orleans. Two of the three brigades in Prevost’s command are battle-tested troops from the Duke of Wellington’s campaigns against Napoleon in Spain and Portugal.

While he waits for the navy, Prevost’s 10,000 troops have swept aside small American units aiming to delay his southern march at places like  Chazy and Beekmantown. The Americans have been felling trees across roads, burning bridges and changing the direction of signposts as part of their delaying tactics. Once at the Saranac, Prevost deploys his men and builds artillery emplacements to attack the town while awaiting Captain George Downie and his fleet of four ships and 12 gunboats. Some tentative attacks across the Saranac are repulsed by U.S. Army regulars under Major John Wool.

Earlier in the summer, then-Secretary of War John Armstrong (the same guy who said the British wouldn’t bother attacking Washington) orders 4,000 regulars at Plattsburgh to march to Sacketts Harbor on Lake Ontario to protect  a vital navy yard and supply center. That leaves Brigadier General Alexander Macomb with about 1,500 troops to defend Plattsburgh. Although they are regulars, many of them are green recruits or recovering from wounds or illness. Macomb calls for militiamen from New York and Vermont to reinforce him. About 2,000 come but many of them are equally untrained and nearly useless. Macomb assigns them to dig trenches and fortifications.

U.S. and British fort and batteries at Plattsburgh, N.Y. 1814

U.S. and British forts and batteries at Plattsburgh, N.Y. 1814

*** *** ***

In early September, Major Zachary Taylor (future Mexican War commander and U.S. President) leads an expedition of 350 U.S. Army regulars and Illinois Territory militia up the Mississippi River to recapture Fort Shelby just outside the village of Prairie du Chien (in what is now Wisconsin) which had fallen to a combined force of 650 Native American warriors and a few British and Canadian troops.

On September 4, Taylor’s force is camped on Credit Island in the Mississippi near present day Davenport, Iowa. Indians under the Sauk leader Black Hawk attack, killing two guards.  In addition to the Sauk, the Native American force includes warriors from the Fox, Kickapoo, Winnebago and Sioux tribes. The following morning during a series of skirmishes between Taylor’s troops and the Indians, British canon open fire on  the U.S. forces, wounding 11 soldiers and forcing Taylor to withdraw downstream to Fort Cap au Gris near St. Louis, Missouri.

The Upper Mississippi River during the War of 1812. 1: Fort Bellefontaine U.S. headquarters; 2: Fort Osage, abandoned 1813; 3: Fort Madison, defeated 1813; 4: Fort Shelby, defeated 1814; 5: Battle of Rock Island Rapids, July 1814 and the Battle of Credit Island, Sept. 1814; 6: Fort Johnson, abandoned 1814; 7: Fort Cap au Gris and the Battle of the Sink Hole, May 1815. Map of the upper Mississippi River during the War of 1812 Key: 1: Fort Bellefontaine U.S. headquarters 2: Fort Osage, abandoned 1813 3: Fort Madison, defeated 1813 4: Fort Shelby, defeated 1814 5: Battle of Rock Island Rapids, July 1814 and the Battle of Credit Island, Sept. 1814 6: Fort Johnson, abandoned 1814 7: Fort Cap au Gris and the Battle of the Sink Hole, May 1815. (Map by Bill Whittaker via Wikipedia)

The Upper Mississippi River during the War of 1812. 1: Fort Bellefontaine U.S. headquarters; 2: Fort Osage, abandoned 1813; 3: Fort Madison, defeated 1813; 4: Fort Shelby, defeated 1814; 5: Battle of Rock Island Rapids, July 1814 and the Battle of Credit Island, Sept. 1814; 6: Fort Johnson, abandoned 1814; 7: Fort Cap au Gris and the Battle of the Sink Hole, May 1815.
Map of the upper Mississippi River during the War of 1812 Key: 1: Fort Bellefontaine U.S. headquarters 2: Fort Osage, abandoned 1813 3: Fort Madison, defeated 1813 4: Fort Shelby, defeated 1814 5: Battle of Rock Island Rapids, July 1814 and the Battle of Credit Island, Sept. 1814 6: Fort Johnson, abandoned 1814 7: Fort Cap au Gris and the Battle of the Sink Hole, May 1815.
(Map by Bill Whittaker via Wikipedia)

On Sept. 7, Taylor sends militia Captain James Callaway, a grandson of Daniel Boone, with a party of troops to build a fort on a bluff overlooking the east side of the Mississippi near present day Warsaw, Illinois. The outpost is named Fort Johnson. Black Hawk makes plans to harass the Americans again.

Credit Island is the fourth time Black Hawk has thwarted American plans to establish a military presence in the Mississippi Valley. The Americans’ plan is to challenge British control of the fur trade with the Indians. Black Hawk’s previous battles with U.S. forces along the Mississippi were at Fort Madison, Fort Shelby and Rock Island Rapids (see map below).

Taylor and Black Hawk will meet again in battle nearly 20 years later in the Black Hawk War of 1832.

Editor’s Note: The U.S. Army’s UH-60 helicopter is named for Black Hawk

*** *** ***

September 9

Captain George Downie, Royal Navy, heads south on Lake Champlain with his fleet of four ships: the 37-gun frigate HMS Confiance, the 16-gun brig Linnet, and two 11-gun sloops, the Chubb and Finch. Downie has also assembled 12 gunboats with a total of 17 guns among them.

Waiting for Downie near Plattsburgh is an American squadron of four ships: the 26-gun corvette (light frigate) Saratoga; the 20-gun brig, Eagle;  the 17-gun schooner Ticonderoga and the 7-gun sloop Preble. Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough has also assembled 10 gun boats, some of them rowing galleys, with a combined total of 16 guns.

Both the British at their shipyard at Ile aux Noix, Canada and the Americans at Otter Creek on the Vermont shore, have engaged in an arms race all summer trying to build boats as fast as possible to get naval superiority on the lake. The Americans’ Eagle  was completed only a few days before the battle. The British were still doing carpentry and rigging work on the just completed Confiance as it sailed into battle with a shortage of sailors. To make up the shortfall, Downie is using British soldiers who are new to navy ways.

On the night of September 9, a raid across the Saranac River by 50 Americans destroys a British Congreve rocket battery just 500 yards from Fort Brown, one of the three main American fortifications (see map above).

A congreve rocket vintage 1806 (Courtesy British Science Museum/http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/)

A Congreve rocket vintage 1806
(Courtesy British Science Museum/http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/)

Unfavorable winds keep Downie from attacking the American squadron on September 10. McDonough, the American commander, uses the extra time to drill his crews. While the British have a slight edge in the number of guns and boats they possess. Nearly all the U.S. vessels are equipped with carronades, short range canon that fire heavier projectiles while Downie’s ships have mostly long guns that have a longer range but fire a slightly lighter and less damaging shot.

*** *** ***

September 11

The Royal Navy with a huge fleet of bomb ships, rocket battery ships and troop ships sails into the Patapsco River in Maryland, about 8 miles from Baltimore. Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane’s plan is to land the 4,000 soldiers that took Washington at North Point and have them attack Baltimore from the land. At about the same time, the British fleet will bombard Fort McHenry, the guardian of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, into surrender and then attack the city from the sea.

What the British don’t know is that the American commander, Brigadier General Samuel Smith, is a very different man from Major General William Winder, the hapless U.S. commander at Bladensburg. They also are unaware that the citizens of Baltimore — military and civilian, black and white, male and female — are not about to roll over and be put to the torch like Washington.

Troops have been pouring into Baltimore and a massive military engineering project is well underway: digging trenches, gun emplacements and just generally beefing up the city’s fortifications.

NEXT: Battle on Lake Champlain, North Point and Fort McHenry

 

 

 

 

 

September 8, 2014 at 1:18 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (August 24-August 30, 1814)

PART I

Bungled Battle.

Last Stand at Bladensburg by Charles H. Waterhouse (Collection of the National Museum of the Marine Corps) (

Last Stand at Bladensburg by Charles H. Waterhouse
(Collection of the National Museum of the 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.

Map of the Battle of Bladensburg  (About History.com)

Map of the Battle of Bladensburg
(Military History About.com)

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.

The recently unveiled Bladensburg Battle monument featuring (left to right) A U.S. Marine, Commodore Joshua Barney and Charles Bell, a freed slave and one of Barney's flotilla men. (DC War of 1812 blog)

The recently unveiled Bladensburg Battle monument featuring (left to right) A U.S. Marine, Commodore Joshua Barney and Charles Bell, a freed slave and one of Barney’s flotilla men.
(DC War of 1812 blog)

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

August 25, 2014 at 12:53 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (Saturday, August 23, 2014

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.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Scott Reel

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Scott Reel

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 23, 2014 at 9:19 pm Leave a comment

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