Battle of North Point a win or loss? Take your pick

October 26, 2011

A recent letter to the Sun by Martin K. Van Horn ("PBS documentary on War of 1812 was flawed," Oct. 14) and an article by Fred Rasmussen ("War of 1812 turned at North Point," Oct. 23) complained that PBS's documentary on the War of 1812 failed to cover the Battle of North Point, "one of the few land battles the Americans won against the British."

I agree the television program, which was produced in Buffalo and Toronto, emphasized the Great Lakes Theater of War to the detriment of the Chesapeake Campaign. However, like the war itself, an argument can be made that the Battle of North Point was won by the British, not the United States.

First, it should be mentioned that North Point was never meant to be a focal point of the Battle of Baltimore. The British intent was to capture the city, possibly to burn it to the ground, in an attack by land and by sea. Baltimore's harbor was defended by Fort McHenry and most troops and volunteers stood guard at Hampstead's Hill at the present day Patterson Park.

After landing near the present day Fort Howard near Edgemere, British troops marched toward Baltimore. In order not to be surprised by an attack, an attachment of American troops was sent out to find and engage the British. Approximately halfway between the British landing point and Hampstead Hill, the Battle of North Point was fought. The British suffered a strategic loss with the killing of their commanding general, Robert Ross. While more British were killed than Americans, the outnumbered Americans were forced to retreat from the battle field by the end of the day preferring to fight the decisive battle at the heavily armed and fortified Hampstead Hill.

That battle never took place since Fort McHenry prevented British ships from advancing on the city and the British ground troops did not believe they could successfully attack Baltimore without naval support. Baltimore was successfully defended, and the British withdrew.

In classic military terms, the Battle of North Point was a British victory since the British were in control of the field after the battle was fought. However the British failed in their main objective — the capture of Baltimore.

Compared to the debacle in Washington a month earlier, the Battle of Baltimore was an American victory. But in reality, it was more of a successful defense since the British forces merely withdrew available to fight another day.

I like to think that the "MD" after Baltimore stands for "miraculous defense," as compared to the "DC" after Washington which I believe stands for "defeated city," at least in terms of the War of 1812.

Fred B. Shoken, Baltimore

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.