September, 1814: Battle of Baltimore Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In the summer of 1814, Britain dispatched a naval-military expedition to the Chesapeake Bay. After capturing Washington, D.C. (August 24), the British turned their attention to Baltimore. This port was the main U.S. base for privateers employed against the British merchant marine and therefore was an important military target.

In the summer of 1814, Britain dispatched a naval-military expedition to the Chesapeake Bay. After capturing Washington, D.C. (August 24), the British turned their attention to Baltimore. This port was the main U.S. base for privateers employed against the British merchant marine and therefore was an important military target.

Baltimore’s inner harbor was protected by Fort McHenry. The landward approaches to the city had also been fortified. The British Royal Navy, led by Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, arrived in the outer harbor on September 11. The next day, the army under Major General Robert Ross disembarked onto the North Point Peninsula and marched toward Baltimore. Midway up the peninsula, a 3,200-man U.S. force led by Major General Samuel Smith opposed the British advance. After the ensuing Battle of North Point (September 12), the defeated Americans retired into the mile-long fortifications on Hampstead Hill, just to the east of the city. In the early morning hours of September 13, the British subjected Fort McHenry to a twenty-hour bombardment. Discouraged by their inability to subdue the fort and by the strength of the U.S. army on Hampstead Hill, the British withdrew on September 15.

Britain’s failure at Baltimore strongly influenced the outcome of the War of 1812. This defeat, coupled with U.S. victories at Plattsburgh (September 11, 1814) and Lake Champlain (September 11, 1814), encouraged British leaders to seek a compromise peace. The result was the Treaty of Ghent (December 24, 1814; ratified January 15, 1815), which reestablished the prewar status quo.

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