1813 Chesapeake Campaign

Illustration of British troops destroying a wooden structure while fires and smoke fill the background.
After destroying Havre de Grace on May 3, 1813, British raiders crossed the Susquehanna River and attacked the old Cecil Furnace, later called Principio Iron Furnace. The fire from the burning complex lit up the sky and terrified Americans for miles around. © Gerry Embleton
The British blockade at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay began in February 1813 with the arrival of a British naval squadron. In the spring and summer of 1813, the Upper Bay was the target of British forces under Rear Admiral George Cockburn. After a successful raid on the town of Frenchtown, MD, the presence of strong fortifications on the Elk River caused the British troops to withdraw from attacking Elkton, MD. On May 3, Admiral Cockburn ordered his troops to attack the town of Havre de Grace, MD. After forcing back resistance from local American militia, the British looted the town and burned many of its buildings. British troops continued their destructive invasion by destroying the Principio Iron Works, located east of present-day Perryville, MD. The summer continued to be full of conflict on both the Bay’s eastern and western shores. In August 1813, the British attacked Queenstown in Queen Anne’s County, MD, and the shipbuilding town of St. Michaels in Talbot County, MD.

Virginia also suffered at the hands of British forces in 1813. British raids took place on Carter Creek, Rappahannock River, Pagan Creek, James River, Lawnes Creek, Rosier Creek, and Mattox Creek. The British attack on Norfolk and Portsmouth was repulsed at the Battle of Craney Island at the mouth of the Elizabeth River. The British took out their revenge of that loss on Hampton three days later, attacking and occupying that city. The looting and destruction that began in 1813 severely affected the economy and commerce of the Chesapeake Bay region for many years.

Last updated: May 4, 2020

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