On April 4, 1814, Commodore Joshua Barney wrote from Baltimore to Secretary of the Navy William Jones with a sense of satisfaction. After numerous requests for additional sailors for the Chesapeake Flotilla, Barney was “extremely happy” to hear from Jones that the Flotilla would soon receive most of the crew from the USS Ontario which had been trapped in the Baltimore harbor by the British blockade (and the lackluster recruitment efforts of Captain Robert T. Spence). Barney’s letter reads as follows:
Baltimore April 4th 1814
I had the honor of receiving your letter of the 29th and shall be extremely happy in having the number of my men increased. The two Barges from Washington arrived this day, I had sent the Look-out boat to meet them with 30 additional hands for their assistance, four of the new barges from the Eastern-shore are here, and Col. Spencer the builder, will be here, (if the Weather permits,) with four more this week. The Armament for them is nearly ready, but I have been most cruelly disappointed in the delivery of the Guns (light 18 pounders) by Mr. Dorsey. He has trifled with us from the first, with promises from day to day, and it was but four days ago I was able to get from him the Guns; in fact, no dependence can be put, on his word. I believe Mr. Beatty has much reason to complain. I have heard that Capt. Spence has received orders to transfer some men to the flotilla, (say 18) but I have not seen him.
I have just heard from Mr. Frazier. He complains that men cannot be procured on the Eastern-shore for that both parties discourage enlistments, each wishing to keep the men, for the next Elections, as they are so equally divided, that the loss of a few Votes would throw the balance into the hands of the other party, I have given Assurances that all the Demos. shall be there on the 1st of October next to Vote, which I hope will have some effect.
It would appear we have about 30 men to come over, which I shall order here next week; We were doing very well in procuring men, until the news of raising the Embargo arrived, but I fear that will put a total stop to it, everything that can sail fast, will now be fitted out, and the Cupidity of our Merchants is such, that they care not, how much the City is threatened so that they can get a vessel to sea—
I am Sir with respect your Obt. Servt
On April 2 1814, Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane issued a proclamation to attract black recruits from the men held in slavery on farms and plantations across the Chesapeake region. The proclamation was intended to help fulfill his plans (mentioned in his March 10 letter to George Prevost) to combine the “Recruits I expect to raise from the Negroes” with the British Marines and “Keep the Enemy in a constant alarm.”
In The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, historian Alan Taylor observed how the carefully worded proclamation avoided any direct mention of slavery but still emphasized the “FREE” status of any who fled to the British–allowing Cochrane to deny any charge of promoting a slave revolt. Cochrane sent 1,000 printed copies of the proclamation to Cockburn for distribution around the Chesapeake, an effort aided by local and national newspapers that reprinted the proclamation in full. Taylor quotes orders from Cochrane to Taylor identifying the emancipation of enslaved people as a central goal of the 1814 campaign writing:
“Let the Landings you may make be more for the protection of the desertion of the Black population than with a view to any other advantage… The great point to be attained is the cordial support of the Black population. With them properly armed & backed with 20,000 British Troops, Mr. Maddison will be hurled from his throne.”
Many of the black recruits and families that took advantage of the British offer were eventually resettled in Halifax, Nova Scotia. According to Taylor, around 1,200 black refugees arrived between 1813 and 1814 and another 1,611 refugees arrived between April 1815 and October 1818. Among the enslaved people from the Chesapeake who made it to Canada was thirteen-year-old Gabriel Hall (pictured above in an 1895 photograph) who escaped from Walter Wells’s Calvert County farm in July 1814. Learn more about Gabriel Hall from the Maryland State Archives or read on for a transcript of Cochrane’s proclamation.
PROCLAMATION OF VICE ADMIRAL SIR ALEXANDER F.I. COCHRANE, R.N.
By the Honorable Sir ALEXANDER COCHRANE, K.B. Vice Admiral of the Red, and Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Ships and Vessels, upon the North American Station …. &c, &c, &c.
WHEREAS, it has been represented to me, that many Persons now resident in the UNITED STATES, have expressed a desire to withdraw therefrom, with a view of entering into His Majesty’s Service, or of being received as Free Settlers into some of His Majesty’s Colonies.
This is therefore to Give Notice,
That all those who may be disposed to emigrate from the UNITED STATES will, with their Families, be received on board His Majesty’s Ships or Vessels of War, or at the Military Posts that may be established, upon or near the Coast of the UNITED STATES, when they will have their choice of either entering into His Majesty’s Sea or Land Forces, or of being sent as FREE settlers to the British Possessions in North America or the West Indies, where they will meet with due encouragement.
Given under my Hand at Bermuda, this 2nd day of April, 1814, ALEXANDER COCHRANE.
By Command of the Vice Admiral, WILLIAM BALHETCHET. GOD SAVE THE KING.
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 the evening of February 28, 1814, Barney’s Fountain Inn hosted a public dinner to celebrate General William H. Winder visiting Baltimore on his way to Canada. A native of Somerset County Maryland, William Henry Winder started practicing as a lawyer in Baltimore in 1798. In 1812, at the outset of the war, Winder joined the United States Army as a colonel. Captured at the Battle of Stoney Creek in July 1813, Winder was released on parole in early 1814 to travel to Washington and help negotiate an exchange of American and British prisoners.
DINNER TO GENERAL WINDER. This gentlemen, detained in Canada, as one of the hostages selected by the British government in the system of retaliation that the United States had found it necessary to adopt, was permitted to return hither on his parole for 60 days, and is understood to have brought some propositions to our government, the nature of which has not transpired. About to return to captivity, he was invited to a splendid entertainment prepared at Barney’s Inn, on Monday last. The mayor, Edward Johnson, Esq. presided, assisted by Judge Nicholson and the venerable James H. McCulloch, Esq. Among the invited guests were several officers of the army and navy. After dinner the following, among other, toasts were drank [sic].
Our country — the president of the United States — the vice president–The brave who have fallen in battle — Canonized in the hearts of their countrymen.
The brave who have survived — What [need]of praise is due to him who sacrificed the brightest prospects of fortune and the joys of domestic life, for the toils and dangers of flood and field?
As this toast pointed at general Winder too directly to be misunderstood, the company rose and greeted it with three cheers.
Judge Nicholson then proposed as a volunteer — The health of our fellow townsman, brigadier general WINDER— May he soon be restored to that career of glory from which he was untimely snatched by one of those accidents which no human foresight can prevent. This toast was also received with heartfelt pleasure, and greeted with nine cheers.
General Winder immediately rose and said — “The emotions which this scene, and more particularly the last toast, had excited in his breast, were too powerful to permit him to express in any adequate language the strong sensibility with which he received from his fellow townsmen those marks of friendship and confidence towards him. He could only say, if an opportunity should again be afforded him, (which he ardently prayed might be soon) he should exert all his industry and such powers as he had, to justify the kind expectations which had been indulgently entertained by his friends.”
After repeated bursts of applause the following toasts were given:
Our citizens in captivity — May they feel that their country estimates them, not by success or disaster, but has honors for the sufferer as well as triumphs for the victor.
The memory of Washington — The author of the declaration of independence– The mission to Gottenburg, Etc. Etc.
The seamen of the United States — May the hand that impresses them be broken, and he that subscribes to their oppression be its victim.”
By brigadier-general Winder — Lawrence — He has taught us how to conquer and how to die.
By the president of the day— The sons of Maryland, found with honor to themselves wherever the enemy appears, from Canada to the shores of Chili [sic].
By J.H. M’Culloch, vice president — Our brethren of the west — Were we to withhold our praise, the stones in the streets would cry aloud.
By J. H. Nicholson, vice president— Our brethren in the east— May they recollect the time when we were brethren indeed.
By major Armistead, 3d regt. of artillery — Our officers and soldiers in captivity — An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Here general Winder arose and said, “He was satisfied that the very short time which was allowed him to remain with his family, would be a sufficient apology for his retiring so early from this flattering scene— The last toast,” said he, “will remind you of the state to which I am about to return, and that my country may ere long be called upon to carry into effect for me, the principle contained in that toast. In any extremity which may arrive, the sympathy which has been so warmly and so promptly evinced towards me, by so many of my respectable fellow citizens, will form one among the many strong incentives to fortitude — and will, I trust, assist me in supporting myself in the bitterest moments as becomes a soldier.”
The general then retired, and the sensations of the company can be better conceived than described.
Special thanks to Barbara Weeks for research and writing for this post.
I have read with much pleasure your speech at Annapolis; you have perspicuously traced the causes of our war with Great Britain to their real origin and have exposed the disgraceful intrigues and falsehoods of the Administration by which they have gradually led Congress to declare it. If the war party could divest themselves of their hatred to England and consider dispassionately the contents of your address, I should hope the perusal of it would be followed by happy consequences. But men blinded by party spirit are not to be cured by reason but by sufferings, and the great mass of the people have not yet suffered enough to make them sick of the war.
On February 26, 1814, Charles Carroll of Carrollton wrote to his son-in-law Robert Goodloe Harper (continuing their correspondence from January) to praise his recent speech in Annapolis.
Throughout the war, members of the Federalist Party, like Carroll and Harper, expressed serious concerns about the conflict with Great Britain and offered sharp criticism of President James Madison. In Baltimore, the debate between Federalists and supporters of the Democratic-Republican Party turned violent when a group of rioters destroyed the offices of the Federalist newspaper The Federal Republican on June 20, 1814. In a second attack in July, a mob brutally assaulted and tortured the newspaper publisher Alexander Contee Hanson and eight of his employees and associates. In 1816, Contee succeeded Robert Goodloe Harper as a United States Senator for Maryland.