While visiting neighbors on Wonton Creek in Kent County, Lieutenant Colonel Philip Reed, 21st Regiment, saw four British landing barges from the frigate HMS Loire and schooner HMS St. Lawrence. Reed quickly borrowed a musket and gathered twenty-nine neighbors armed with duck guns and muskets to ambush the British barges as they passed.
On April 29, 1814, Joshua Barney wrote to William Jones with the news of his departure from Baltimore:
At Anchor, at Mouth of Patapsco 29th April 1814
Yesterday I left Baltimore, with the Scorpion, two gun boats, and twelve Barges, to proceed down the Bay, with a view of “Convoying” the Asp from Potomac. The wind from SSE has detained us. On Monday last I sent down the Look-out boat with the Galley. The Galley has just returned and informs me, that there are two Ships and several smaller vessels of the Enemy in the Potomac; I shall proceed down with a change of wind and be guided by circumstances.
I cannot remain long as we are unable to carry more than twelve days of provisions, The Asp not being with me, nor the lookout boat, and it is impossible to put provisions, other than Salt, onboard the gunboats. They have no hold or place to put Bread, which is very bulky, nor dare I trust Liquors, or small stores among the Crews of Any, but I will do the best I can.
The lookout boat remains below to watch the movements of the Enemy.
I have left Mr. Rutter to superintend the Service in Baltimore, and have Mr. Frazier with me. I am with respect
Your Obedient Servant
On March 11, 1814, Admiral Alexander Cochrane wrote to British Governor General George Prevost in Halifax, Nova Scotia from on board the HMS Asia docked in Bermuda. Cochrane outlined his plan to draw American forces away from Canada by making a “considerable diversion in the Chesapeake Bay.” Cochrane also felt optimistic about the prospects of “facilitate the desertion of the Negroes, and their Families,” and the possibility of arming formerly enslaved men to fight against slave-holders in the Chesapeake region.
HMS. Asia, Bermuda 11th March 1814
I have the honor to acquaint Your Excellency of my arrival at Bermuda, to Succeed Admiral Sir John Warren in the Command of His Majesty’s Ships on the Coast of America, from the St: Lawrence to the Mississippi, and I take this early occasion of assuring Your Excellency of my most cordial concurrence in every measure that can be conducive to the good of His Majesty’s Service; Rear Admiral Griffiths will have my directions to Second your views to the utmost of his power,—
And I hope to be able to make a very considerable diversion in the Chesapeake Bay, to draw off in part the Enemy’s efforts against Canada—
It is my intention to fortify one of the Islands in the Chesapeake, to facilitate the desertion of the Negroes, and their Families, who are to have their choice of either entering into His Majesty’s Service, or to be settled with their Families at Trinidad or in the British American Provinces— Recruiting Parties are to be sent from all the West India Regiments to Bermuda, and those who may choose to enlist, are to have their Wives and Families Provided for in the same manner, as those permitted to attend the Regiments abroad, by which it is hoped in a certain time the Regiments will furnish their own Recruits—
As two additional Battalion of Marines are on their way out, with the Recruits I expect to raise from the Negroes joined to the 102 Regt. all of which will be under the immediate Command of Major General Conran, I hope to be able to Keep the Enemy in a constant alarm so as to prevent their sparing any part of their Military force from the State, South of the Delaware, which if I succeed in, I do not believe from the temper of the Eastern states that they will be able to recruit their Army from thence—
I have the honor to remain etc.
[Signed] A. Cochrane March 11, 1814
On February 23, 1814, Rear Admiral George Cockburn sailed his flagship the HMS Albion into Lynnhaven Bay marking the return of the British military campaign to the Chesapeake.
The British attacks on coastal Maryland and Virginia towns that earned Cockburn a reputation for brutality in 1813 paused when most of the fleet sailed for Bermuda in September. Returned from the Caribbean after a tour of the Atlantic blockading squadrons, Rear Admiral Cockburn soon resumed the aggressive raids and anticipated grander actions under his new, more aggressive commander in chief Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane.
On February 5, 1813, Captain George Burdett, on board the HMS San Domingo near Norfolk, issued a public notice announcing the British blockade of the Chesapeake Bay:
“I do hereby certify to all of whom it may concern, that the ports and harbors of the Bay of the Chesapeake are this day put in a state of strict and rigorous blockade. Given under my hand, on board the San Domingo, in Lynnhaven Bay in the Chesapeake, this 5th day of February, 1813, Captain George Burdett, R.N.”
The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty had directed the British Navy to blockade the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays on December 26, 1812. Learn more about the British blockade of the Chesapeake from Maryland in the War of 1812 by Scott Sheads.