War of 1812 to return to Harford this week

Havre de Grace to stage re-enactments this week

April 27, 2003|By Andrew D. Faith | Andrew D. Faith,SUN STAFF

The Susquehanna Museum of Havre de Grace will commemorate the 1813 British attack on the town with re-enactments, lectures and other activities next weekend.

Re-enactments of fighting at Havre de Grace during the War of 1812 are scheduled for 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday on the museum grounds on Charles Montgomery Way.

A lectures series will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday when historian Jeff Korman speaks on "The War of 1812 in Maryland" at the Havre de Grace branch of the Harford County Public Library, 120 N. Union Ave.

The British fleet under Rear Adm. George Cockburn moved up the Chesapeake Bay in the early spring of 1813 to enforce a blockade and threaten Baltimore and Washington.

After raiding the bay islands and the vicinity of Elkton in late April, Cockburn's force appeared at Havre de Grace, then a town of about 50 wooden houses, on May 3, 1813.

The town was lightly defended by militia, and the British subjected it to a naval bombardment before they landed a force of about 400 men. According to the account of J. Thomas Scharf in History of Maryland, published in 1879, "When the town had been bombarded for about 15 minutes, the enemy landed, and all but eight or 10 of the militia fled."

John O'Neil, who remained at the town's defenses, gave this account of the fighting in a letter dated May 10, 1813, and included in Scharf's history:

"On the [3rd of May] we were attacked by 15 English barges at the break of day. We had a small breastwork erected, with two 6 and one 9-pounder [cannons] in it, and I was stationed at one of the guns. When the alarm was given, I ran to the battery and found but one man there, and two or three came afterwards. After firing a few shots, they retreated and left me alone in the battery.

"The grape-shot flew very thick about me. I loaded the gun myself, without anyone to serve the vent, which you know is very dangerous, and fired her, when she recoiled and ran over my thigh.

"I retreated down to town, and joined Mr. Barnes, of the nail manufactory, with a musket, and fired on the barges while we had ammunition, and then retreated to the common, where I kept waving my hat to the militia who had run away, to come to our assistance, but they proved cowardly and would not come back.

"At the same time, an English officer on horseback, followed by the marines, rode up and took me with two muskets in my hand. I was carried on board the Maidstone frigate, where I remained until released, three days since."

After overcoming O'Neil, the British looted and burned the town and farmhouses in the surrounding area. At sunset, with casualties of three killed and two wounded, the British returned to their ships and sailed away.

Schedule of re-enactment events

The following events have been scheduled in connection with the Susquehanna Museum's fourth annual re-enactment of the British attack on Havre de Grace during the War of 1812: THURSDAY

7 p.m.: Jeff Korman, a Maryland historian, of speak on "The War of 1812 in Maryland" at the Havre de Grace branch of the Harford County Public Library, 120 N. Union Ave. 410-638-3151. SATURDAY

10 a.m.: Re-enactment camp opens at the Lock House of the Susquehanna Museum. The encampment will be open all day for visiting the military hospital, tavern, sailmaker, military drills and other activities.

11 a.m.: Cannon demonstration and firing.

11:45 a.m.: Lecture by Chris George, "British in the Upper Bay."

1 p.m.: Re-enactment of the British attack on Havre de Grace.

1:45 p.m.: Star-Spangled Banner flag demonstration.

2 p.m.: Lecture by Vince Vaise, "Artillery in the War of 1812."

2:30 p.m.: Cannon demonstration and firing.

3:30 p.m.: Re-enactment of "The Fracas at Rodgers Tavern" and the British plunder of the house on Green Street.

5 p.m.: Encampment closes. MAY 4

9 a.m.: Church services; visitors welcome.

10 a.m.: Surgeon's call.

11 a.m.: Lecture by Bob Magee, "Personalities Involved in the Attack on Havre de Grace."

Noon: War of 1812 military instruction for interested visitors.

1 p.m.: Courts-martial.

2 p.m.: Lecture by Ellsworth B. Shank, "What Happened in Havre de Grace During the Attack?"

3 p.m.: Encampment closes.

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