The Battle of North Point Part 2

On the afternoon of September 12, 1814, the Battle of North Point was about to begin. As the British approached the Maryland line formed by General Stricker’s troops, Colonel Arthur Brooke, now in command after the death of General Ross, could see that it was strong and well protected. He sent the 4th Foot, also known as The Kings Own Regiment, along with the Royal Marines and a few seamen against the Maryland left flank. The 21st Fusiliers were on the road to Baltimore with orders to attack the Americans on the left (the British right).

 
A color photograph of a dragoon helmet.
This light dragoon helmet from the Fort McHenry collection is crowned with a long plume of horsehair. Helmets like this were worn by troops in Captain Bouldin’s Company, of The Independent Light Dragoons, 5th Cavalry District, Baltimore City who were present at the Battle of North Point.

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The British Attack

The attack began just before 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon, with the British firing Congreve Rockets (famous for their red glare) at the American left. Three weeks before, at the Battle of Bladensburg, the British had fired Congreve rockets at the Americans. When the rockets are fired, they make a high-pitched screeching sound. Many of the men at Bladensburg, having not encountered these before, were so terrified they dropped their flintlocks and ran away. Brooke was hoping to repeat this at Baltimore. But when the rockets were fired, the men of the 5th Maryland, having been at Bladensburg, told their comrades the rockets were harmless toys. The Americans held and rockets fell harmlessly behind the lines. Except one. It set fire to a haystack on the Boulden farm which quickly spread to other buildings of the farm, including the farmhouse.

Using this as a diversion, the British started to attack the American left flank.
Stricker had anticipated this and brought up the 51st and 39th regiment to reinforce his left. He wanted the 39th to move up to the left of the 27th and the 51st to form a line facing northeast with its right attached to the left of the 39th, forming a 90-degree angle. While attempting to complete this movement both regiments became confused. Instead of the 39th moving slightly up to their left and the 51st moving to their left after the 39th had completed their movement, they both attempted to complete the maneuver at the same time, crossing into each other, losing all order and cohesion, which added to the confusion.

The 51st regiment finally got into position as the King’s Own approached, and someone called out “we are being flanked!”The 51st fired one ragged volley and fled, taking half of the 39th with them.

 
A historic drawing of the troops at the battle of north point.
Drawing depicting the various troops and their positions at the Battle of North Point.

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A Reluctant Retreat

Stricker was enraged. Realizing he could not hold his position, he ordered the 3rd brigade to withdraw. With the 5th regiment holding off the enemy, the rest of the 3rd Brigade, in a mostly orderly fashion, retreated the one mile to Cook’s Tavern.

The British halted and did not pursue the Americans. Brooke and Cockburn had been surprised by how well the Americans had fought. The battle had lasted almost an hour. The British lost 46 dead and 295 wounded. The Marylanders, 24 dead, 139 wounded. Fifty Americans were taken prisoner.

Stricker held his troops at Cooks Tavern until sunset. Fearing a night attack by the British, he ordered a retreat to the defenses of Baltimore, five miles away. As the Americans approached the defenses of the city it started to rain and continued for most of the night.

Under a heavy rainstorm, Brooke’s forces stayed on the battlefield at Godley Woods through the night. Planning his attack on Baltimore for the next morning, Brooke sent a note to Admiral Cochrane asking for the navy’s help in taking the city by bombing the entrenchments. But the British navy was already busy with another battle, as Brooke would soon find out.

Last updated: September 11, 2020

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