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The immediate object of the debarkation appears to have been the destruction of Commodore Barney's gunboats; but subsequent events changed an inferior and incidental movement into a series of leading and important transactions. The nature of the ground over which the army had to move, was such as to afford great advantages to a defending force. Woods and defiles presented themselves at every step ; the former might have been filled with sharp shooters, since every American is expert with the rifle ; and in the latter, militia might have made an effective stand against regular troops. Nothing of all this was done, and the scientific disposition of the British commander answered no purpose but that of displaying his own prudence and skill. The third day's narch closed at the village of Marlborough. During the night, a number of heavy explosions' announced the destruction of the flotilla, ‘prudently destroyed' by the discretion of its commodore, according to our author's statement, but, in the language of the American general Wilkinson, ‘unfortunately abandoned and blown up by order of President Madison,' although in a situation highly favourable for defence. The same officer expresses the strongest indignation at the negligence which had given to the English troops the advantage of an unobstructed march. Not a single bridge,' he writes, was broken, not a causeway destroyed, not an inundation attempted, not a tree fallen, not a rood of the road obstructed, nor a gun fired at the enemy, in a march of nearly forty miles, from Benedict to Upper Marlborough, hy a route on which there are ten or a dozen difficult defiles ; which, with a few hours' labour, six pieces of light artillery, three hundred infantry, two hundred riflemen, and sixty dragoons, might have been defended against any force that could approach them : such is the narrowness of the road, the profundity of the ravines, the steepness of the acclivities, and the sharpness of the ridges.
The main object of the incursion having thus been accomplisbed, it was determined, at the suggestion of Admiral Cockburn, to advance on the capital of the United States, now .at only a few miles distance. The enemy had shewn so little disposition to close quarters, that the English commanders felt themselves justified in presuming further on his inefficiency. A much more decided resistance, however, now hegan. Riflemen harassed the van, and a strong body of troops with artillery, made demonstration of more serious opposition ; but it was not until the following day that the Americans made their final stand. It was about mid-day when the British column, fainting with heat and fatigue, came in sight of their position behind a branch of the Poiomac, and in rear of the little town of Bla
Vol. XXVII. N.S.
densburg, The front and left flank were covered by the river, and their right rested on a dense wood and a deep ravine. Little generalship was displayed in the attack, and less spirit in the defence. The Americans stood in three lines, doubling the number of the assailants, but consisting chiefly of militia. They had twenty pieces of artillery in the field, some of which swept the bridge of Bladensburg and its main approaches, along and over which the light brigade, through a murderous discharge, rushed to the attack. It was irresistible, and the enemy was borne back upon his second line, which, in its turn, advanced upon the light brigade, weakened by an excessive, though necessary, extension of its line. In the mean time, the second brigade had crossed the bridge, and deploying on the right, turned the left flank of the Americans, and drove it upon the centre. All was now defeat and confusion; the victory was with the British, and the road to Washington lay open before them. Our Author is somewhat indignant with his antagonists for suffering the matter to be so easily settled. Their position was strong, notwithstanding the error committed in not holding the town; and attacked as they were in their strongest point, • had they conducted themselves with coolness and resolution, it is not conceivable how the day could have been won. With the exception of Barney and his sailors, 'no troops could behave worse than they did.' On our side, the gallantry of officers and men was conspicuous; but General Ross seems to have relied more on the effects of an immediate attack on raw troops, than on the advantages to be gained by science and skill. The column of march was hurried on to the charge without waiting to close its ranks; and no attempt was made to discover a ford by which the destructive passage of the bridge might have been avoided. It was afterwards ascertained, that the stream might have been crossed at a point near the extremity of the enemy's left. The author's military criticisms on the battle, are summed up in the following words :..Of the personal courage of the Americans, there can be no doubt : they are, individually taken, as brave a nation as any in the world. But they are not soldiers ; they have not the experience nor the habits of soldiers. It was the height of folly, therefore, to bring them into a situation where nothing except that experience and those habits will avail : and it is on this account that I repeat what I have already said, that the capture of Washington was more owing to the faults of the Americans themselves, than to any other cause.'
This opinion may be substantially correct, but it is, we apprehend, erroneous in that part which assigns' folly' to the determination to fight. It would have been disgrace indelible, to have given up Washington without an effort to save it; but in the loss of the battle there was nothing ignominious. Raw troops and inexperienced leaders can have no confidence in each other; and in the hour of trial, nothing can be more fatal than such an absence of trust. The foundation of firmness and valorous effort is taken away. There can be no energy in fight, no self-possession in retreat: no wonder, then, that sauve qui peut is the last, or rather the first, resource.
The next marking event in the campaign was the march on Baltimore. The Writer describes his feelings, previously to the landing, in very striking language.
No man, of the smallest reflection, can look forward to the chance of a sudden and violent death, without experiencing sensations very different from those which he experiences under any other circumstances. When the battle has fairly begun, I may say with truth, that the feelings of those engaged are delightful; because they are, in fact, so many gamblers playing for the highest stake that can be offered. But the stir and noise of equipping, and then the calmness and stillness of expectation, these are the things which force a man to think. On the other hand, the warlike appearance of every thing about you, the careless faces and rude jokes of the private soldiers, and something within yourself, which I can compare to no. thing more nearly than the mirth which criminals are said sometimes to experience and to express previous to their execution; all these combine to give you a degree of false hilarity, I had almost said painful, from its very excess. It is an agitation of the nerves, such as we may suppose madmen feel; which you are inclined to wish removed, though you are unwilling to admit that it is disagreeable.'
No opposition was made to the debarkation, and, for a considerable distance, the road was unimpeded; but at length, a sharp fire of musketry announced that the enemy had thrown forward his skirmishers.
• We were now drawing near the scene of action, when another officer came at full speed towards us, with horror and dismay in his countenance, and calling aloud for a surgeon. Every man felt within himself that all was not right, though none was willing to believe the whispers of his own terror. But what at first we could not guess at, because we dreaded it so much, was soon realized; for the aide-de. camp had scarcely passed, when the general's horse, without its rider, and with the saddle and housings stained with blood, came plunging onwards. Nor was much time given for fearful surmise, as to the extent of our misfortune. In a few moments we reached the ground where the skirmishing had taken place, and beheld poor Ross laid, by the side of the road, under a canopy of blankets, and apparently in the agonies of death. As soon as the firing began, he had ridden to the front, that he might ascertain from whence it originated, and mingling with the skirmishers, was shot in the side by a rifleman. The wound was mortal: he fell into the arms of his aide-de-camp, and lived only long enough to name his wife, and commend his family to the protection of his country. He was removed towards the fleet, but expired before his bearers could reach the boats.
• It is impossible to conceive the effect which this melancholy spectacle produced throughout the army. By the courteousness and condescension of his manvers, General Ross bad secured the absolute love of all who served under him, from the highest to the lowest ; and his success on a former occasion, as well as his judicious arrangements on the present, had inspired every one with the most perfect confidence in his abilities. His very error, if error it may be called, in so young a leader-I mean that diffidence in himself, which had occasioned some loss of time on the march to Washington, appeared now to have left him. His movements were at once rapid and cautious ; nay, his very countenance indicated a fixed determination and a perfect security of success. All eyes were turned upon him as we passed, and a sort of involuntary groan ran from rank to rank, from the front to the rear of the column.'
It was, assuredly, the greatest fault that ever the gallant Ross committed, when he threw himself amid the fire of sharpshooters. When Bessieres, with much better excuse, mingled in the affray of skirmishers, and fell by a chance shot, Napoleon, while pronouncing his eulogy as a brave and accomplished officer, censured the rashness and uselessness of such exposures in the instance of commanders. There are cases, no doubt, in which it becomes the duty of a general to hazard his person. The most consummate leaders have done it,Cæsar at Munda; Gustavus Adolphus at Lützen ; Eugene at Luzzara ; Bonaparte at Arcole; and Wellington at Waterloo. But here, not the shadow of necessity existed, and the life of an excellent officer was lost without a palliating plea. The disastrous effects of this casualty were felt severely. Colonel Brooke, the second in command, is described as an officer • of decided personal courage, but, perhaps, better calculated • to lead a battalion, than to guide an arniy. The battle that followed was better contested than the affair of Bladensburg. The American line was not shaken either by the musquetry or the artillery, and did not give way until the bayonet was laid in the rest.
• As soon as their left gave way, the whole American army fell into confusion; nor do I recollect on any occasion to have witnessed a. more complete rout. Infantry, cavalry, and artillery, were huddled together, without the smallest regard to order or regularity. The sole subject of anxiety seemed to be, which should escape first from the field of battle ; insomuch that numbers were actually trodden down by their countrymen in the hurry of the flight.
• In strolling over the field of battle, I came unexpectedly upon a wounded American, who lay among some bushes with his leg broken. I drew near to offer him assistance, but, on seeing me, the wretch screamed out, and appeared in the greatest alarm ; por was it without some difficulty that I could persuade him he had nothing to fear. At last, being convinced that I intended him no harm, the fellow in. formed me, that it was impressed upon the minds of their soldiers by the officers, that from the British they might expect no quarter ; and that it was consequently their determination to give no quarter to the British. The fellow might belie his countrymen, and I hope and believe he did, but such was his report to me.
The army, on the following day, came in sight of the lines of Baltimore, defended by from 15 to 20,000 men and a large train of artillery. To attack these in front, would have been exposing the assailants to tremendous slaughter, and it was determined to carry Fort M'Henry, a fortification on the extreme left of the entrenchments, and close to the bank of the river on which the city stands. It was, however, necessary that the guns of the fort should be silenced by the fire of the shipping ; and here, so many difficulties, both natural and artificial, were found to be interposed, that the large ships could not get up. It is intimated by Mr. James, that the admiral called off the bomb-ships without necessity, and that an offer was made to lrim, by several cap'ains of frigates, to lighten their vessels and lay them alougside the batteries, but refused, Be this as it may, the enterprise was abandoned, and the troops reached, unpursued and unharassed, the point whence they cominenced their advance. On the return march, while passing the ground where the battle had been fought,
I saw,' observes the Author, ' several men hanging lifeless among the branches of trees, and learnt that they had been riflemen, who chose, during the battle, to fix themselves in these elevated situations, for the combined purposes of securing a good aim, and avoiding danger. Whatever might be their success in the first of these designs. in the last they failed; for our men soon discovered them, and, con: sidering the thing as unfuir, refused to give them quarter, and shot them on their perches."
The death of General Ross seemed to have broken up the plan of operation, whatever it might be : the fleet separated, and that portion to which the Author was attached, anchored in the Patuxent. Here the officers were in the habit of making excursions in different directions, heedless of the danger to wbich they were exposing themselves.
On one of these occasions, several officers from the 85th regiment agreed to pass a day together at a farm-house, about a quarter of a mile from the stream ; and taking with them ten soldiers, unarmed, to row the boat, a few sailors, and a young midshipman, not more than twelve years of age, they proceeded to put their determination into