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The Battle of North Point was fought on September 12, 1814. This engagement was part of the larger Battle of Baltimore.

Background

British Movements

After Major-General Robert Ross had defeated the Americansmarker at the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814, and burned Washington, the Britishmarker headed further up the Chesapeake Bay to the strategically more important port city of Baltimoremarker. Ross's army of 3,700 troops, and 1,000 marines, landed at North Pointmarker on the morning of September 12, 1814, and began moving toward the city of Baltimoremarker.

American Defenses

Major General Samuel Smith of the Maryland militia anticipated the British move, and dispatched General John Stricker's column, along with several rifle companies, and a battery of 6, 5-pound guns. At that point, the peninsula was about a mile wide, and considered an ideal spot for bloodying the British before they reached the main American defensive positions. Stricker deployed his brigade half way between Hampstead Hill, just outside of Baltimore where there were earthworks and artillery emplacements, and North Point.

Stricker received intelligence that the British were camped at a farm just 3 miles from his headquarters. Stricker deployed his men between Bear Creek and Bread and Cheese Creek, which offered cover from a nearby woods, and had a long wooden fence near the main road. Stricker then placed two regiments and his six guns in a front defensive line. He also held two more regiments in support, and one more in reserve. He placed his men in mutually supporting positions, relying on numerous swamps and the two streams to stop a British flank attack, all of which he hoped would help avoid another disaster like Bladensburg.

Battle

Opening Skirmish

On the 12th, Stricker decided it would be better to provoke a fight, rather than wait for a possible British night attack. At 1:00 pm, Stricker sent Major Richard Heath, with 250 men, and one cannon, to draw the British to Stricker's main force.

Heath advanced down the road, and soon began to engage the British pickets. When the British General, Robert Ross, heard the fighting, he quickly left his lunch and ran to the scene. The British attempted to drive out the concealed American riflemen. George Cockburn was cautious about advancing without more support, and Ross agreed that he would leave and get the main army. However, Ross never got his chance. An American sniper concealed in a tree shot him in the chest. Ross turned his command over to Colonel Arthur Brooke, and died soon after. The sniper who shot him was spotted and killed moments after.

Main Battle

Brooke was able to reorganize the British troops, and prepare to assault the American positions at 3:00 pm. Brooke decided to use his three cannon, and his rocket launchers, to cover an attempt by the 4th Regiment to get around the American flank, while two more regiments and the naval brigade would assault the American center. The British frontal assault took heavy casualties, as the American riflemen fired right into the British assault, and the Americans loaded their cannon with pieces of broken locks, nails and horseshoes, spraying scrap metal on the advancing British. However, the British 4th Regiment, managed to flank the American positions, and send many of the American regiments fleeing. Stricker was able to turn it into an organized retreat, firing volleys as they continued to fall back.

Aftermath

Brooke had advanced to within a mile of the main American position, but he had suffered heavier casualties than the Americans, and it was getting dark, so he chose to wait until Fort McHenry was expected to be neutralized.

The battle had been costly for the British. Along with General Ross, the British lost 46 killed and 295 wounded. Losing General Ross was a critical blow to the British. He was a respected leader of British forces in the Peninsular War and the War of 1812. Ross's death proved a blow to British morale as well. The combined effect of the blow suffered at North Point and the failure of the Royal Navy to capture or get past Fort McHenrymarker at the entrance to Baltimore harbor, despite a 25-hour bombardment, proved to be the turning point of the Battle of Baltimore. During the bombardment on Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key was detained on a British ship at the entrance to Baltimore and penned the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Legacy

The battle is commemorated through the Maryland state holiday of Defenders Day.

Notes

  1. Brooks, Hohwald p.200
  2. Brooks, Hohwald p.201


References and further reading

  • George, Christopher T., Terror on the Chesapeake: The War of 1812 on the Bay, Shippensburg, Pa., White Mane, 2001, ISBN 1-57249-276-7
  • Pitch, Anthony S.The Burning of Washington, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000. ISBN 1-55750-425-3
  • Whitehorne, Joseph A., The Battle for Baltimore 1814, Baltimore: Nautical & Aviation Publishing, 1997, ISBN 1-877853-23-2


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