Posts tagged ‘Navy’
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
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.
Super Hornet’s Nest
U.S. sailors and naval aviators prepare for flight operations on the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) in the East China Sea.
This photo of aircraft lined up on the Washington’s flight deck show both the single seat Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet and the twin-seat F/A-18F (also called the Super Hornet). Both versions are twin-engine carrier-based multi-role fighters. Both planes can fly faster than Mach 1 and are armed with a 20 millimeter gatling gun-style nose cannon. The Super Hornets can also carry air-to-air missiles or precision guided bombs.
The markings of two-seater equipped Strike Fighter Squadron 102 (VFA-102), nicknamed the Diamondbacks (note the rattlesnake emblem on the aircraft’s tail) and the single seat F/A-18Es of Strike Fighter Squadron 27 (VFA-27), known as the Flying Maces (note the armored fist clutching a mace tail emblem).
Click on the photo to enlarge the image.
Belize River Patrol
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Galla trains with the Belize Special Boat Unit during Southern Partnership Station 2014 on the Moho River, Belize, July 8, 2014.
Southern Partnership is a U.S. Navy deployment, sponsored by U.S. Southern Command, focusing on exchanging expertise with partner nation militaries and security forces.
Galla is a gunner’s mate assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron 2.
To see more photos of this riverine training exercise, click here.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Brooks Graham (left) directs a landing craft air cushion (LCAC) into the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu following a training exercise in the Pacific Ocean, June 25, 2014.
The Peleliu was on its way to Hawaii to participate in the multi-national sea-and-air exercise, Rim of the Pacific 2014. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in what is billed as the world’s largest maritime exercise — commonly known as RIMPAC — in and around the Hawaiian Islands.
To see more photos of RIMPAC 2014, click here.
Video of an LCAC in action
4GWAR’s FRIDAY FOTO feature didn’t take a day off for the Fourth of July holiday. A summer storm in the Washington, DC area Thursday afternoon (July 3) caused a power outage at 4GWAR “World Headquarters” knocking out our cable/internet access until today. We apologize to our visitors for the delay.
U.S. Victory at Sea.
On June 28, at the mouth of the English Channel, the American sloop of war, USS Wasp, captures and destroys the British sloop, HMS Reindeer.
The Wasp, a ship-rigged sloop of war, is the fifth American ship to bear the name — the fourth in two years. The 24-gun Wasp, under the command of Master Commandant Johnston Blakely set sail on May 1 with orders to raid British commerce in the English Channel.
By late June the Wasp has taken seven British merchant vessels and is closing in on two more on the morning of the 28th, when the Reindeer, a 21-gun Cruizer-class brig-sloop, comes on the scene. The Reindeer, sailing out of Plymouth, is under orders to hunt down the Wasp.
The Wasp is the bigger ship with a bigger crew (173 sailors and Marines compared to 118 on the Reindeer) and more powerful guns. Because the winds were light, it took the two vessels half the day to draw close enough to fire effectively. The two ships traded broadsides for 20 minutes before the the Reindeer’s bow came to rest against the Wasp making them close enough for boarding parties to attack. The British boarding party was driven back under heavy fire from Marines in the Wasp’s rigging.
After repulsing the British boarding party, the American sailors and Marines swarmed over the shattered Reindeer, forcing the British to seek shelter below deck. The British commander, Captain William Manners, was killed along with 24 other sailors and Marines, 42 more were wounded. American casualties were nine dead and 15 wounded.
The Reindeer was so badly damaged it couldn’t be salvaged, so Blakely ordered her set afire. The prisoners were taken aboard the Wasp or transferred to a neutral ship. Wasp had to sail to the French port of L’Orient for repairs for her own battle damage.
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War in Quebec.
On the same day, across the Atlantic on the New York-Canadian border, U.S. troops skirmish for second time in two days with British forces at Odelltown, Lower Canada. There have been a series of indecisive skirmishes on the border between New York and Lower Canada (what is now Quebec) during the spring and summer of 1814.
Military records of the time, according to the Website North Country Now, report that U.S. troops from the 30th and 31st U.S. Infantry regiments advance from Plattsburgh to Champlain and Chazy near the border west of Lake Champlain. Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Forsyth, with 70 riflemen, advances to Odelltown, south of LaColle in Quebec, where they are attacked by about 200 lightly armed British troops. The Americans suffer one killed and five wounded. The British, three killed and five wounded. Forsyth withdraws to Champlain in New York.
But on the 28th, Forsyth is ordered to advance into Canada again to lure the British into attacking the Americans and chasing them back across the border where other U.S. troops are waiting to ambush them. The plan works but as 150 Canadian Indians allied with the British advance toward the ambush site, Forsyth steps up on a log to get a better view and is shot and killed by an Indian. The U.S. troops open fire, driving off the Indians, who suffer 17 dead.
Needs and Wants, Part III.
TAMPA, Florida – At last month’s National Defense Industry Association’s Special Operations Industry Conference (SOFIC), the generals and admirals who oversee Army Rangers, Navy Seals, Air Force combat controllers and other Special Operations Forces explained what they need to operate in vastly different environments. Today we finish our roundup with a focus on another world region followed by the 4GWAR Blog: The Arctic.
THE HIGH NORTH
“It’s said by some of our European partners that Africa is the challenge for this generation and the Arctic will be the challenge for the next,” said Air Force Major General Marshall Webb, the head of Special Operations Command Europe, one of three three theater special operations commands that share responsibility for the Arctic region. He noted that communications north of the Arctic Circle was “a challenge” for his people “as they operate in that environment.”
He also noted that high tech airborne intelligence gathering and surveillance is important but “the ability to share [ISR] with our European partners is paramount from my perspective.”
U.S. Northern Command’s area of responsibility includes Alaska and Canada. And Pentagon officials have said that as polar sea ice melts — as it has been doing for several years — maritime access will open up in the high north and present a “true strategic approach to the [U.S.] homeland.” Northern Command has been working with Canada to develop communications, maritime domain awareness (both on and under the sea) and infrastructure for safety, security and defense needs.
Rear Admiral Kerry Metz, commander of Special Operations Command-North, said like Africa Command, the Arctic poses communications challenges over vast distances “as SOF [special operations forces] re-engages in extreme cold weather maritime operations — both surface and subsurface.”