“Capt. Baker, of the sloop Swallow of Baltimore. being chased into St Jerome’s creek by a British barge”

Image courtesy marinas.com
Image courtesy marinas.com

On April 10, 1814, Captain Baker, commander of the Sloop Swallow from Baltimore wrote to his wife to share his frightening encounter with a British barge on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County on April 6. The Niles’ Weekly Register shared news of the fight on April 23 writing:

Capt. Baker, of the sloop Swallow of Baltimore, being chased into St Jerome’s creek by a British barge with 16 men with small arms and a 4 pounder in her bow left his vessel and being joined on the shore by two of the inhabitants having own muskets in all commenced a fire upon the enemy and though he had got possession of the sloop compelled him to abandon her with the loss of two killed one of them supposed to be an officer.

The Register published their account of the fight just below an update on the promotion of Admiral Cockburn, calling the British officer a “ruffian” who was “anxious to deserve this distinction by some act of great atrocity and meanness,” and reflecting the tension felt in Baltimore and around the Chesapeake Bay from the tightening British blockade.

The Blog of 1812 shared a copy of a letter from Captain Baker, of the Sloop Swallow, of Baltimore, to his wife, dated April 20, 2014:


“We have arrived at this place after passage of 20 hours from Baltimore. On the 6th instant, at daylight, we were off this place, but the wind being off shore, could not fetch in. At the same time, observed a schooner steering up the bay; also a remarkably long barge with three lug sails coming out of the Potomac. We concluded they were from Washington, bound to Baltimore. There were two or three other vessels in sight down the bay. We hove about and stood in for the creek; the schooner then tacked, stood for the barge, and soon after hauled down her head sails, apparently with a view to anchor, distant about 3 miles. We ran our vessels into the mouth of the creek, and although she grounded in consequence of the tide being so very low at the time, thought ourselves pretty secure should the vessels then in sight prove to be enemies, as we soon were convinced they were. In 30 minutes after we grounded, a boat was discovered coming from the schooner in pursuit of us, distant about one and a half miles. We immediately landed the most valuable articles. We found on further examination of the boat, that she rowed ten oars, carried a four pounder in her bows, and manned with 16 men. There being but three us on board, with two muskets only, I thought it most prudent to leave the vessel: and I do assure you it was with great reluctance we abandoned the Swallow to a set of infernal robbers.

We landed, and two gentlemen, whome I shall ever respect as brave men, by the names of Langley and Hopkins joined us in the combat. On their nearer approach, we hailed, and asked them where they were bound?- They replied by pointing to the sloop. We immediately commenced a brisk fire upon them, which was so well kept up and directed that notwithstanding they succeeded in getting alongside, four only of them dared to ascend the deck. [Capt. B. killed one of them.] One of the gentlemen who joined us, killed another in the stern if their boat, which, I suppose, was an officer. They hoisted the sloop’s sails, and swung her bow out. This exposed to our fire those who had been skulking under her lee in the barge; and in a few minutes we compelled them to leave their prize, after rowing three miles with the loss of two men! We immediately boarded her again, and got her safe into the creek. We received no injury on our side; there being so few of us it required good marksman to do execution.

‘The same boats, I am informed, captured a sch’r from Alexandria, said the be capt Holmes’s. They are making great destruction among the bay craft. A few of our barges would be great service in this creek.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *