tv 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Bladensburg and the Burning CSPAN August 23, 2014 1:00pm-2:01pm EDT
routed american the event now just getting started. >> you get extra points for dressing in period costumes. >> absolutely. [laughter] >> yes, ma'am. we are ready. great. first, i want to welcome everyone to this roundtable discussion on the war of 1812. we are certainly happy to have you in bladensburg, maryland, in prince george's county. you know, i am the county and iive, rushern baker, get the pleasure of doing something i love to do, and that it's talking about history and the role the county and state played. i want to welcome the c-span audience who might be watching today on this 200th anniversary
bladensburg, at which i think it's tomorrow. -- is tomorrow. really funng to be a day for me and i am looking forward to hearing from our panel of experts. normally, you hear the elected officials talk a lot. this will be the most you hear me. we will get to those who are here who are experts and will and might in us all. on our panel am a i am introducing, i'm not sure if he is here yet, christopher george, who is a medical editor by profession and is an independent historian. he was born in liverpool, england, lives in baltimore, he has a ba in history from loyola university of baltimore, and an mla from john hopkins university. he is now a u.s. citizen, but he readily admits to divided loyalties over the war of 1812.
-- founding founder editor of the journal of the war of 1812 and the originator and coordinator of the national war of 1812 composed him series -- series.m his book, "the terror on the chesapeake," was published in 2001. wrote aboutre sun" his book, it must be considered, that topic am of the war of 1812, the best, single-volume treatment yet. chris, along with john, have a book humming out next year. here, wechris gets will have him appear and join us. we have with us peter snow. very glad to have peter here. he was born in dublin. national service in infantry,et light
which sounds really gallant. he then went on to, you will have to correct me, ballahoo college at oxford, where he got his degree in classics and ancient history and philosophy. joined british independent television network, where he served as diplomatic correspondent. he later joined the bbc, where he did political reporting along with a wide range of other programming. for example, he and his son dan presented programs on bbc2 on the battle -- on eight british .attles the world's greatest
20th-century battlefields. this is going to be so much fun. biography was's published. his book, 'when britain burned was publishedse,' last year. the washington post called the book a fine example of literary popular history. welcome, peter. , who i have steve vogel had a chance of sitting in a roundtable before, a veteran journalist. he is a graduate of the college of william and mary, a great college, and he received his masters degree in international public policy from johns hopkins university advanced school of international study. he previously wrote for "the washington post," a local, little paper, about military affairs and the treatment of veterans. his reporting about the war in afghanistan was part of a
package of the stories that were selected as finalists for the 2002 pulitzer prize. he also covered the war in iraq and the first gulf war, as well as u.s. military operations in rwanda, somalia, and the balkans. his book, which is very good, i did read this one, about the battle of bladensburg, "through wasperilous fight," published last year. it was reviewed and it was said steve did a superb job of bringing this woeful tale to life. vened his fast-paced narrative with lively vignettes in thecipal participants folly. steve is with us. finally, dr. ralph eshelman, who i had the pleasure of hearing a couple days ago, has over 35 asrs of experience
management experience pacific to the war of 1812. he is the codirector of the cultural resource survey, which discovered in partially excavated -- and partially excavated a military vessel from the chesapeake flotilla. ralph conducted a survey of withand come 1812 sites the national park service of american battlefield protection program, served as historian, consultant for the planning team for the star-spangled banner national historic trail feasibility study, and the trail's comprehensive management plan. he has written and co-authored several books on the war of 1812 , and having personally visited and photographed nearly every war of 1812 site in the chesapeake bay region, he is considered the leading expert on this resource.
, "the virginia magazine" wrote that readers clear textthe peppered with numerous first-hand accounts. ralphw, to start us off, will start us off to talk about bladensburg. give them all a round of applause. [applause] >> a very good afternoon, everyone. it is wonderful to see such a great turnout. standing room only. this is a great turnout. thank you for showing up. the big question is, why bladensburg? why was there this big battle at bladensburg? when the british came up the chesapeake bay in the summer of 1814, they then came up the river and landed at a little hamlet known as benedict, which
is in charles county. over 35 miles from washington, d.c., and it took them four days to march year. that meant the british were coming from the south to try to reach washington. bladensburg is to the northeast of washington, d.c. now, that means the british had to go further than a direct, southern route. why would they do that? why would they come all the way this extra distance to go to bladensburg? the answer is actually very simple. the british knew that there were three bridges that were built across what we call the anacostia river, which is just outside where we are right now. they realized that if the americans burned those bridges, it would be very difficult for them to get across. bladensburg,up to they knew the water was shallow enough that even if the americans burned that bridge, which, interestingly enough, the americans did not burn, they would still be able to get across that fort.
the is why the bit -- battle of bladensburg took place where we are right now. it was further for them to go, but it afforded the british a clear opportunity without being inhibited by the burning of these bridges. before we get to more questions, i wanted to make it clear to everybody that i personally believe it is a misnomer to call this the battle of bladensburg. i say that because, number one, the battle did not really take place in bladensburg. the british occupied bladensburg. there were rows minor resistance from a couple of guys that fired a couple of guns. other than that, they came into the town and took it without any defense whatsoever. the real battle took to the west, across the anacostia river , which was known as the eastern branch. if we called it the battle for washington, which truly it was, i think everybody would have a clear understanding of the significance of this battle. that is kind of my opening remarks. >> peter? >> i think one of the great
things about this wonderful country is the way you discuss, so uninhibitedly, with such frankness, one of the most embarrassing moments in american history. [laughter] written, nextg in year, we are dreading the moment when we commemorate the battle of waterloo. 2015. it hugely overshadows the war of 1812. we were fighting napoleon. waterloo, the battle of waterloo, the victory in 1815, nine months from now, as it were. wheneatly dread the moment the battle of waterloo is commemorated. they are not likely to come
along to things like this and chat away. there won't be much of that going on, i'm afraid. here we are discussing, as ralph brilliantly introduced, baden spurred. bladensburg. you're so happy to discuss it because you feel it led on toward the triumph, victory. i just want to stir you up. i don't think baltimore can be described as a victory. i think it is an outrageous thing to say. i am sorry. the battle of baltimore, the lifting of the siege of baltimore, was a huge victory for the americans. it was certainly a failure for the british, but i think to call it an american victory is nonsense. only a couple of days before, they pulled out of the baltimore operation. the americans were made to withdraw.
there was a smaller number of americans than british. the british commander had a than the baltimore general who was in charge of the americans. the sort of british victory there. what happened after that, the british decided it was not worth a candle. they were facing overwhelming odds. they said, we are not going to go on. of course, they failed to reduce fort mchenry. it is a great american success. to call it a victory is an overstatement. back to bladensburg very briefly , i think there are three problems the brits had at bladensburg. they approached bladensburg in quite an apprehensive way. they were worried about the battle of bladensburg. it was 50 miles for ships. it was a very small force. 50 miles for the shift. they found themselves facing a
quite large army on the bank. three big to face the problems. one was the heat. you have no idea -- you have an heat wasou live -- the absolutely unbelievable. guys in their red, will into next were falling down, as some of them dying of heat, british soldiers. secondly, the width of the bridge, which they started by crossing, my understanding is they went across the bridge and there were getting used to the idea, but the bridge that crossed the anacostia was very narrow. anyone who crossed the bridge had to face this impressive cannon fire from the american front lines which did do severe damage. that was a big problem. the third problem, of course, was the problem of the guy on the monument, young georgie.
detracttian could not -- one cannot detract from the facingat joshua barney the entire victorious british army, which had wiped away two of the first american lines, faced a small force. barney was a serious problem for the brits. and his hands.e three huge problems. i am sorry to say, it was an american disaster. [laughter] >> thank you. steve? maybe you can read on the americans. >> i will see what i can do. peter did make a claim about baltimore being a defeat last night and my response to him was fairly simple. scoreboard.
[laughter] was, the important point is the british did withdraw. the attack was turned away. as for bladensburg, that cannot be described as an american victory by any means. but, i am very glad we are doing this today and that there has been a dedication of the monument this morning, because i think we sometimes tend to make all these jokes about bladensburg, it is known as the bladensburg races, and we joke about the soldiers who fought here, how fast they were, and all that, but i have to think, these were primarily citizen soldiers. these were militia. they were not particularly well trained. they were not well equipped and they certainly were not well led. yet, they showed up. they were here. i wonder how many of us today
would show up this an invading army was moving towards the capitol. i think we need to give them credit for that. honor their bravery. the other point i want to make here at the start is that bladensburg is also a story of missed opportunities because despite the fact that the americans were going against a very veteran troupe, well led by general ross with admiral cockburn at his side, there were opportunities for the americans to turn this attack back before bladensburg, certainly. we missed opportunities were even a modest attack on the british advance could have turned the british back. ross was rightfully quite nervous of this advancing of this pretty small british force with very little artillery away from his shifts -- ships. he was under strict instructions from london not to risk his force. certainly, there was risk
involved in coming to washington. the 24th, when very belatedly, the american britishrs realized the attack would be coming through bladensburg, even though, as ralph mentioned, ultimately, it was pretty clear the british would have to come to bladensburg to get to washington. the more southern approaches certainly, they would not have been able to cross the river down there. the bridges had been blown. they would not be able to get across the river. it was wider there than here at bladensburg. if our forces had been placed a little bitearlier, a more widely, and without so much chaos at the last minute, i think that british force could have been turned back. i think when we think about bladensburg, we have to think about some of the missed opportunities, but also on her
the sacrifice that was made here. thank you. >> thank you. mr. george, welcome. we are starting off talking about why the battle of bladensburg. >> ok. well, one of the things that i would like to mention is that one of the things that the americans had and the british didn't have was cavalry to know what was happening up ahead. , eventtle of bladensburg though it was a defeat for the americans, directly led to what happened at baltimore, where general ross was mortally wounded, again, because he did not have -- he did not know what was happening a few miles up the where general stricker had pushed down the peninsula. it was because of key, the word
"key" mean something else, but because of key officers of the 85th regimen who had led the advance into bladensburg, namely, major george brown, who was wounded with a musket ball through the pelvis, very thorton, whonel led the 85th across the bridge, and also major would -- wood, werehese key officers wounded here and left at bladensburg. they were not available to lead the advance at baltimore. so, the disaster that happened to the british at baltimore was because of what had happened here at bladensburg. so, bladensburg and the burning of washington was definitely a disaster and something that should not have happened. i disagree with what is said that washington was burned
because of the burning of york. we can talk about that a little bit more. said foralways been 200 years, but there is absolutely nothing in the british correspondence that says, we went to washington because we wanted revenge. the british admiral and chief, the vice admiral, wrote to the new secretary of the army, , a weekecretary, monroe later. he mentioned the number of places where the americans had , including niagara-on-the-lake. i know we have an official here from niagara-on-the-lake, but he never mentioned york. that means that york was not the reason. they were not thinking about york. hadral ross may not have much knowledge of the fact that the government buildings of york were bill -- were burned in
april of 1830. >> let me start off with a question, and actually, it is a very good question. maybe to start off with the rest of the panel on why exactly did ,he british burned the capital and if it was not in response to york, why did that happen? why don't i lead off with that question and we will take questions from the audience? >> i don't mind starting off on that one. we hear over and over that the british burned washington, d.c. that is not really correct. if you read good, scholarly books, they will point out to you that the british burned select public buildings. inir attempt was not to come and totally destroy the city of washington. they actually showed restraint. i think we as americans need to recognize that. every time we say that the british burned washington, we are actually overstating the situation, which makes it even
more interesting when you consider that before the british even got to the capital, which was the first -- the capitol, i aan that with an o, not an --the u.s. navy had already begun to burn the navy yard. the two other bridges that were south of bladensburg were also on fire. ofund 8:20 on the evening august the 24th, first the bridges were burned, then the navy yard. as the british are coming into washington, d.c., they are already seeing fire. it is not fire from them. it is fire from the united states military that is trying to keep potential military targets out of the hand of the invading army. i would just urge everyone to please keep in mind that the british truly did not burn the city of washington. i did an analysis and at best, it might be 4.8% of the city
burned by the british. [laughter] sake, i mean, massive headline of the story is burned theitish white house. they burned down congress. they burnt down the parliament, the shrine of democracy in the usa. why did they do it? that was the key question you asked. straightforward and dead simple. the british army, the british people, were fighting a war of survival against napoleon, who occupied the whole of europe. they had to make sure this guy was defeated, wiped off the map. the americans were trading with napoleon. the americans, the blockade of france -- france was a threat to western world.
the british were absolutely appalled that the americans decided to declare war on britain when britain was fighting napoleon. now, britain had acted extremely arrogantly and disgracefully, ing americaness sailors and ships to fight in the royal maybe against france. that was outrageous and understandably, tempers rise. canada, a massive mistake. they invaded a country, which although, tiny population, was able to defend itself extremely impressively. the war on canada was disaster us -- was a disaster. that really infuriated the brits. when napoleon advocated mercifully in 1814, the opportunity arose to give the americans with the british described as a good drubbing.
there had been instructions to ross and cockburn. the instructions were to give the americans a good drubbing. they wanted the war of 1812 to stop. they did not want to reoccupy america. they went to washington in order to -- what else could they do? they wiped out the army at bladensburg. and steve will argue with this, they would've accepted a contribution, money, in exchange for not going to washington. anyways, that didn't happen. they went to washington and what did they do? there were supposed to give a good drubbing. those were the instructions. they burned the white house, they burnt the congress, they burnt the war department, they burnt the state department. the americans wisely burnt the navy yard. distraction,act of
many of which thought was outrageous, one radical mp said what the brits have done in washington is what the goths failed to do in rome. burn the shrine of democracy. they were trying to stop them fighting this bogus war. >> very true. i think, certainly, no matter well -- no matter how well behaved to the british troops were, this cannot qualify as a goodwill visit on the part of the british. [laughter] utterly dismiss the idea this was an act of revenge for york. i think we can all agree with that. the british, quite simply, what cockburn had envisioned from the time he arrived in the chesapeake in the spring of 1813 , and which ross agreed with, was to decapitate the government
of james madison. they thought that by so humiliating the president by proving that he could not even defend his own capital, while he was trying to invade canada, this would so undercut support for the war, and possibly force the collapse of the american government. this was not symbolic by the british. they wanted this war to end on british terms. they thought by essentially forcing the collapse of madison's government, burning the white house and the epitope -- the capitol, they could force the americans to sign a treaty that would bring an end to the war on british terms, which at times during this conflict, in fact, the same day that we fight the battle in bladensburg, the in belgium arees presenting the american delegation with what are really -- demands. they include british control of the great lakes, navigation
rights on the mississippi, and at that point, they are making demands for a 250,000 square mile swath of territory in the old northwest, much of ohio, illinois, indiana, that would become a permanent indian buffer state. these were terms that, frankly, would have neutered america. the british, in coming to washington, were trying to establish a weaker united states on the north american continent, possibly even force its dissolution. they have not started this war. we declared war on them. they wanted to make sure the united states would not be in a position to stab them in the back again. >> thank you. mr. george, we give you the last word on the fact that the ittish did not come here -- was not revenge on york, i want to say to the audience, we will go to questions, but if you could please wait until the mic gets to you, we do have a tv
audience. mr. george, closing thoughts? they contention is that public buildings of washington need not have been burned. by thet's directly shown fact that three days after the d.c.,h left washington, alexandria surrendered to a british squadron, and not a single building was burned. mind you, the city of alexandria was put under a terrible contribution. prize ships were taken. tobacco, flour, other goods and so on. .hat was seen as a disgrace a lot of the republicans reys fored the tor giving up in such a disgraceful way. however, the main point is that
washington, the americans did not surrender the city, which might have happened in europe, and might have been what general ross expected. they came in under a white flag for a parlay to negotiate with the americans. but the american government itself and the city government under mayor blake had all left. mayor blake had said he would not surrender the city. instead of there being negotiations, shots rang out by onee capital, owned of the delegates for the americans in ghent. this house is still there, not far from the capitol. ross' horse was shot out from underneath him and several men of the british force regiment were killed.
an acts was seen as of treachery. we draw a parallel with what dr. beans being arrested because he is a city and had upper mall bro agreement not to act in a hostile manner and nothing would happen if the americans acted with neutrality. yet, a few days later, when the british were going back for the ships, a few british stragglers he was involved in arresting these guys. that was seen as a dishonorable act by general ross. up withwhy beans ended
the flagship and francis scott key ended up going up to baltimore and writing a certain song. so, there is a parallel between the reason for the burning of washington and what happened with dr. beans. >> thank you very much. let's go to the audience. >> john will have something to say. can we get him and? -- in? >> let's go to the question back here. >> i have a question. i mean, the burning of washington was not the first city on the chesapeake that was burned on the british. 1813, may, they burnt -- >> that is right. admiral cockburn, a rather tyrannical character, this happened, you are exactly correct. however, cockburn was not in c harge of the forces that captured washington. general ross was. mild-manneredmore
and firm man. he was respecting private property. washington could have been respected and not burned. again, if the city had not been surrendered. >> i think it is important to note that actions like the burning were taking place before any of the british forces knew what had happened in york or other actions in the canadian -- >> it should be pointed out that it british believed that provoked an attack. as the british were up there the towng some raids, that flew the flag in defiance and also fired a cannon shot at them. not one guy. there were a bunch of them up there. >> we have a very short window of time. we will let the panelists answer the questions and make sure we get as many of them.
say,e one thing i would the americans did say that even burn, he wasnot provoked into it, private property. >> i would agree completely. he was playing by very tough rules. ultimately, you know, in his mind, he was being fair. had certain conduct and i don't think there were atrocities. something like hampton in virginia, what happened there was not really under cockburn's command. 'st, certainly, cockburn actions in the chesapeake nonetheless created great terror throughout this region. >> just bear in mind that all these people had friends who were being killed by the french. thesands were killed by french. these americans, for some reason, insisting on fighting a
war against a country that was fighting the french. they were invading canada, which was part of britain. what the hell were the americans playing at? we have to stop this war. we have to stop the war. >> i think you're going to bring on a lot of questions. i have a couple myself. if you want to add something? i know you have a book coming out. >> i am working with chris george on a biography of general ross. peter snow and diane steve -- and steve -- absolutely brilliant. we argued about the battle of bladensburg. we are all great friends. it is a wonderful opportunity to share some of our stories with you. chris and i are of the belief that washington would not have been burned if a ransom had been paid. you have to burn -- there and usual. today. it was not unusual at that
point. there was prize money associated with his actions. as far as i know, no public buildings and alexandria were burned. says, stand and deliver, what was he going to do if the people of alexandria didn't deliver? he is operating under the same orders the general ross was operating on, which is if they did not get that ransom, they were to take very severe action. in my view, ross very reluctantly, completely reluctantly, until the very last minute, did not want to burn any public buildings. i would argue, we would argue strongly, he actually disobeyed his orders. he should have burned washington. he got in trouble for not burning washington. one final thing. i am sure there are loads of wasle -- admiral cockburn
exceptionally greedy. not only did he open to get a ransom, washington would've been humiliated by being surrendered. there was ransom in lieu of burning the public building. in other words, we should've gotten the money. [inaudible] >> thank you. question? write up here. >> i have a question for peter snow. you had -- you do a lot of tactical analysis of battlefields. we talk about american militia and that failure of the militia, but it is more a failure of the american command. i am particularly looking at the final stages, where winder orders the withdrawal of the third line, without a rallying point. then we have barney continuing to hold artillery against infantry, which is usually a massacre. if we had not had the left flank of breaking, would this not
necessarily have been such a defeat that it was? >> i would say two things about that. winder, to be fair to it was monroe, the future president of the u.s., who changed, moving the fifth, for example, very impressive baltimore regiment, back from just behind the guns in the front line, to 500 meters behind, and they could not possibly support them. the range of the muscat is not more than 50 or 70 meters. you can't do anything from 500 meters away. that was a disaster. it was committed by munro. -- monroe. monroe did that. the second thing i would say, you talk about militia, let's bear in mind, to be fair to the american side, the british fought their way through campaigns with the french and
europe of appalling bloodshed and professional skill on both sides. who marched across that bridge had to be simply relieved. i have no idea what it must've looked like. if you and i had been in the front american line facing these redcoats, coming straight at ,hem, stepping straight at them the ranks would close. they would come on. two guys would fall down, three guys would come down. they're coming toward you. said,endleton kennedy very enthusiastic, very patriotic american, fighting in the second line, he saw these guys coming and he said, we made a fine scamper of it. appallinglyeen frightening to see these professional redcoats. you have to be fair to the americans on this thing. >> you want to add something?
>> peters important point about james monroe, secretary of state, he inserted himself into the chain of command right as the battle is about to begin, fifth ofves the maryland and some of the regiments farther back so they could not support the frontline. another important thing that people might want to know as they look at this map is that the first two lines of american marylandmanned by militia, were never informed that a third line was being formed behind them by joshua barney. general winder, you know, fails to make that clear to even the commanders upfront. so, there are no instructions as to where these people are supposed to retreat to. this is one of the reasons that the collapse of the initial lines up front were so catastrophic, because if they had retreated in a more orderly fashion, they could've supported the very strong line that barney had, but instead, they flee in a
pell-mell fashion, some to georgetown, wherever the road would take them. i think that goes to the point that this battle was not a foregone conclusion. >> let's take a question over here. >> i have something. like cs? -- >> yes? question or a winder made a fatal mistake because he told the guys near the bridge to retreat up the georgetown road. they could have fallen back to join with barney or the militia and the british might not have won the battle. hisact, the u.s. army -- in testimony to congress that this was a battle that the british should not have won because it was fought in 100 degrees heat, you know, in these woolen leadrms, with 60 rounds of
ammunition, all of the muskets knapsack, canteen, everything, and they were out of shape from being aboard the ships for weeks, if not a couple of months. so, if there had been a better world -- better general, like winfield scott, who was up in ,anada, or maybe nathan townson who was of the same family the town in maryland is made -- named for, a capable army leader leading the americans here, this need not have been the bladensburg races. >> thank you. i think it is just worth mentioning a little bit about the bridge because you get this image, what peter was talking about, the british coming across that bridge. this was not your normal bridge. this was a bridge that was really meant either for horsemen or people that were walking. it did not even accommodate a wagon, for example. only three men shoulder to shoulder could stand on the
width of that bridge. it was a relatively small bridge. the reason is because there was a ford there -- fjord there. you did not go across that kind of bridge. this is the bridge we are talking about. >> a question over here. right here. >> you mention criticism in british newspapers of the honda can washington. the previous december, in a snowstorm, american forces had burned the town of niagara. were civilian homes, churches and so forth. in july of 1814, they burned down another little village. again, civilian homes and so on. was there any comment or criticism in maryland newspapers about that kind of conduct? >> not that i know of. >> the american government did disavow those actions. -- york is no question
is different. soldiersthe american really ran amok. it was not a deliberate act of the american government. just one thing. you just burned things in those days. [laughter] very rude. is you have got to recognize that one of the things you did in those days, you burned the other guys' towns. you made it hurt. we bombed dresden in the war. we killed millions of people in germany. you and i, in cologne. in those days, you burnt their towns. that is what you did. that were dreadful things happened. of course, it is all dreadful. that is how you fought wars in those days. >> two questions back here. the gentleman sitting down and then the gentleman standing up. then i will come over here. connectiona close
with our canadian friends. my question is, how much of theson's had an impact on decision for the canadian campaign, and was the purpose to america, british north gain more land for the united states, or a combination of both? if the canadian campaign had not onurred, what was the impact the bladensburg battle or the war of 1812? >> if we can keep the answers short, we will try to take as many questions as possible. >> the main point is this was the only way that the americans could really fight the british. -- it isu.s. navy pretty miniscule at this point, less than about 20 major vessels up against 600 vessels with the royal navy. the easiest way to fight the british was up in canada.
that is why the secretary of the army armstrong sent the best american troops up to canada. i personally feel manifest theiny shows that if americans could have captured canada, they would have kept it, but the top war of 1812 historian believes that they would have only acted as a bargaining counter to get from the british. that is a matter of debate. >> i think that was madison's intent, to get a bargaining chip, so to speak. there were many others, like henry clay, the war hawk from kentucky, certainly interested in that territory. it is one of those things that they assumed it would be a quick conference canadian territory and that did not happen. the whole thing became moot. >> one thing about the war of 1812, the americans did not win it.
-- it can be argued today lost it. they discovered that america should look west. fighting the 600 reddish it's ships, nonsense. what itamerica do succeeded in doing in building huge prosperity, by looking west, by doing the louisiana purchase, and so on. >> that began with the louisiana purchase in 1803. it was already invoked by the or of 1812. >> let's go back here in the back. ultimately,ion is ladenburg -- bladensburg. when you look at the river, there is a red line where the bridges, when you cross the river. bladensburg side, it
crosses the river with an arrow. i wish that somebody would speak to -- there's probably a paragraph associated with that arrow. we never talkhy about the war of camp casey. we talk about the war of bladensburg. just the shooting, the guns, the militia, the fighting spirit was in the militia. >> let's see if -- >> i would just like sunday to say something about that arrow. >> some accounts indicate that some of the british fjorded the river. that line is meant to show that. i, myself, feel that the majority of the british all came over the bridge, and they actually ran over their own dead and dying.
>> ok. >> [inaudible] [laughter] >> thank you. so we can get to as many questions as possible, we will let them answer, then move to the question here. anybody want to add anything else? ok. all right. let's go to the question right here. men, theoke of the british officers, cavalry officers, who were not present at north point because they had been wounded, and at least some of the wounded soldiers, british wounded, were left in the houses .nd bladensburg, upper marlboro what eventually happened to those british soldiers and officers who had been wounded and who were left to convalesce in american homes? >> it is a great question because they end up playing a
critical role, first of all, in the writing of the "star-spangled banner." these officers, including the very brave colonel thornton, who really led the charge across the bridge and then against barney's guns, is severely wounded. given very good care here in bladensburg by the americans. when francis scott key goes on his mission to try to negotiate hasdom for dr. beans, he all these great arguments the americans have come up with as to why the doctor should be released, but what convinces general ross are these letters him,key has brought with attesting to the wonderful care they are getting from the americans. on that basis alone, ross decides to free dr. beanes.
thornton himself, there is an exchange in october. thornton, who is nearly killed that bladensburg, winds up playing a very critical role down in new orleans. he is released in the chesapeake bay exchange and ends up joining the attack on new orleans. he almost turns around that attack for the british. he leads the attack on the opposite bank of the mississippi that goes for the well for the british, but then is called off because they suffered too much on the other side. it is remarkable. rnton, despite his wounds, winds up playing a big role in new orleans. >> next question. thank you. it is right here. in front. yes, sir. -- presidentr madison is out there. the last few weeks, i have heard several people talk about how he looks like he was there almost for the entire battle of bladensburg until barney gets wounded, and then he leaves.
the question is, do we have any evidence that the british, did cockburn or ross know that madison was on the battlefield, and do you think that had any effect on anything at all? >> i don't think so, no. they must've thought it unlikely the president was there. it is just extraordinary, isn't it? the british didn't know. madison himself did not know -- extraordinary story. one of the most extra ordinary stories about the whole campaign. >> one of the officers claimed they saw madison fleeing the battlefield. i think it was a belated recognition, like, the president was here. [laughter] they were expressing regret they did not have a whole bunch of calvary to go capture him. --hink it was more >> they appointed these men, armstrong and the war secretary,
,t is his fault these lunatics these severely failed characters, were in charge of the american defense of the capitol. .t was a tragedy you must allow for monroe, who changes the fate of the american troops. madison asked armstrong and winder at that moment, what do you think about the situation here? probably not very happy about what he saw. they were stuck like this. now we have to fight like we are. he said to armstrong, the were secretary, what do you think about it? armstrong said, i have no opinion. >> we have time for one last question. >> there are a lot of theories i have read about that seems a divergent takes pressure away from what was happening on the north canadian border, especially plattsburgh.
they were going to cut off the new england states and basically either take new england or make it a separate country, or use that as a bargaining chip. but as the whole thing in the chesapeake was not really the main story, it was just a diversion. if you could speak to that. >> i would not call it a diversion, but when the united states declared war on england, it was in february of 1813 that the british put a blockade at the mouth of the chesapeake bay. that is very early in the war. why would they do that? they were trying to bring an economic as well as military war to the seat of american government. after all, that is where these pols dish -- politicians were that dared to declare war against them. that is when they came into the bay and essentially occupied that they. part of the reason for doing that was to not just destroy the economy of this region, but hopefully to draw some of the american forces that otherwise might be up in what we call the northern border. essentially, that did not
happen. they did harm the economy significantly, but they did not really -- were not successful in bringing american troops from the northern border. >> our historian counterparts up in canada believe that what happened here in the chesapeake was just a sideshow and that the main action happened up in canada, which is certainly a point of view, and they were fighting for their survival. to the canadians, it was the great patriotic war. for the most part, they are correct. was not just grades around the chesapeake bay with the intent of trying to get armstrong to move troops for the defense of the capital. i would argue that when ross his 4000 troops and disobeyed orders, and went ahead and attacked washington, and you capture the capital of the foreign country, that is more than just a raid.
it is a significant moment in international history. i severely disagree with my canadian counterparts that what happened here was a very important moment in both british and american history. >> i have heard canadians say they burned the white house. [laughter] >> let me do this. that is the last question, but we want to give everyone 30 seconds to close out. [laughter] 1812 in 30 war of seconds. i don't want the audience -- they will be around. there will be book signings. you don't want to miss that opportunity. start us off, 30 seconds. wars,id an analysis of skirmishes, and battles of the were of 1812. ontario and the state of maryland tied on the numbers. virginia came in third. i find that very interesting. had morepeake theater
raids, skirmishes, and battles than any other theater during the war of 1812. canada needs to start thinking about that. [laughter] i would like to end on a little bit of a positive note. the war, according to the treaty of ghent, was not won by either side. so what is the big deal? why are we celebrating it? i would try to summarize it very quickly that historians referred to the air after the war of 1812 as the era of good feeling. people had a new, profound sense of patriotism and confidence in their country that they did not have before. i look at that as a pivot point because this country could have gone downhill, but after that war, in fact, the country came uphill. think about the icons of our history that came out of the war of 1812, not the least of which are the star-spangled banner, the flag, the anthem. don't give up the ship. etc., etc. >> the british could really draw from this war, which i think most of them thought was
completely futile and boring. a ridiculous sideshow. it inspired the american anthem. very briefly, we have got some books we can sign for you. we have a little tent. i did not know we burned the white house five years ago until smith.a book about harry he had been diverted. very successful. he decides to go to america. off he goes to america. this guy went to america. my mom -- my publisher said, that is interesting. he went to america and he beat the americans in the battle of bladensburg. what, said the publisher? yes, i say. he had dinner on the table. my publisher said, write the book at once. think,ly briefly, i
looking at the legacy of this day, we have to remember that after the burning of the white , this wasthe capitol a precarious moment in american history. we think everything was for danes to turn out the way it did. we were really on the brink at that moment. key threeis scott weeks later, three weeks later, up in baltimore, is writing about whether he is seeing the flag flying over fort mchenry, he is not just wondering about the flag. he is wondering more about baltimore, whether baltimore is going to survive. beyond that, whether the republic can survive. that verse he writes, the first verse, inns with the question mark for a reason. this was a real turning point, i think, in american history. >> thank you. mr. george? >> from my point of view, and i gave a talk a couple of years ago at the george washington of the points that i made was that this was the only time that the capitol
of the united states has been attacked before 9/11. so, again, it is a very significant moment in history. i think it provides a real lesson on military preparedness. the governments of jefferson and madison were reluctant to have a big, standing army, and relied on the militia. you can see directly what happened at bladensburg. the militia, for the most part, land and are successful, the navy flotilla, and this shows you why you need a standing army. i would say that this is what now makes the united states probably the primary military ofion in the world, because the strength of the military. >> that is a good point to end on.