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1812 Historic Sites

Addison’s Chapel

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, also known as Addison Chapel, was built about 1809 replacing two previous chapels. The Chapel was first established in 1696 as a chapel of ease for St. John’s Church at Broad Creek. It was named for Colonel John Addison, of Oxon Hill plantation, a chaplain of the Senate also served as rector here. St. Matthew's is situated in a large graveyard containing some early stones, the most notable being that of Benjamin Stoddert, the first Secretary of the Navy. On August 24, 1814, Addison’s Chapel was reportedly used as temporary British headquarters as they marched up Addison Road before the Battle of Bladensburg.

Darnall’s Chance House Museum

When several captured British soldiers were incarcerated in the jail in Queen Anne, General Robert Ross demanded their release and threatened to burn the town of Upper Marlborough in retaliation.   John Hodges of Darnall’s Chance was asked by his neighbors to negotiate the exchange. This was accomplished but, Hodges, for his part in the return of the soldiers, was indicted for treason. At his trail in 1815 he was defended by the illustrious lawyer, William Pinkney and found not guilty by a jury who considered that the “circumstances under which he acted formed a good and sufficient excuse.”

Dr. Beanes' Grave

Dr. William Beanes’ home in Upper Marlboro was used by the British as their headquarters during their occupation of the town. Dr. Beanes was an ardent Federalist and reportedly had dinner with Major General Robert Ross at his home on August 22, 1814. Rear Admiral George Cockburn was also at the Beanes residence on the morning of August 23 where he met with General Ross to discuss the advance on Washington.

“I proceeded by land…to Upper Marlborough, to meet and confer with General Ross as to our further operations against the enemy, and we were not long in agreeing on the propriety of making an immediate attempt on the City of Washington”
-Rear Admiral G. Cockburn to Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane, August 27, 1814.

When several British deserters were imprisoned in the county jail, British General Ross was furious.  He believed Dr. Beanes had betrayed him and had Dr. Beanes was captured and held onboard a British ship until after the Battle of Baltimore.

“To our surprise we saw our friend Dr. Bean(es) brought in as a prisoner. On enquiring into the cause we learned that as soon as our troops had left the village he had armed his slaves, and sallied forth cutting off all our stragglers. As soon as the General (Robert Ross) heard of it, he sent back our Cossacks (expert) horsemen who took him out of his bed and brought him off a prisoner.”
-Lieutenant George Robert Gleig, August 28, 1814.

Fort Washington

The site of Fort Washington was originally selected by George Washington in 1794 as the location for a fortification to protect the new capital city. It was originally named Fort Warburton after the Warburton plantation, owned by the Digges family, on whose land it was built. The fort was finished in 1809 and re-named in honor of George Washington.

Fort Washington is strategically located along the Potomac River where the channel narrows. The 1809 fort no longer exists but can be detected in aerial views of the site. It was located in front of (on the riverside) the present fort and was star shaped with a circular gun battery. The British described it as “most respectable.”

In August 1814, the Fort was manned by 49 men under the command of Captain Samuel T. Dyson, US Army. On August 27, with British forces in Washington and British warships, under the command of Captain James Alexander Gordon, heading up the Potomac, Captain Dyson ordered the fort destroyed to prevent its capture.

Captain Dyson was arrested, relieved of his command and court-martialed for his actions. He was found guilty of destroying government property and abandoning his post. In his defense, Dyson stated that he was ordered by Brig. Gen. William H. Winder that:

“in case I was oppressed, or heard of an enemy in my rear, to spike our guns and make my escape over the river. The enemy approached by water on the 27th and we had learnt that day…
that the enemy had been reinforced at Benedict…and that they were on the march…Under these circumstances, the officers under my command were consulted, and agreed it was best to abandon the fort and effect a retreat. The force under my command was thought not equal to a defense of the place”. -Captain Samuel T. Dyson to Secretary of War John Armstrong, August 29, 1814

The British were confounded by Gordon’s order to destroy the fort. “We are at a loss to account for such an extraordinary step. The position was good, and it’s capture would have cost us at least fifty men and more if it had been properly defended.” -Captain James A. Gordon, August 27, 1814

Twelve days after the destruction of the fort, orders were issued to construct new defenses; the work was finished by the US Army Corp of Engineers in 1824. 

Magruder’s Landing

On June 17, 1814, the British raided Magruder’s Landing and burned the Moir and Magruder Tobacco Warehouse and hundreds of pounds of tobacco.

“the British have this forenoon Burnt the tobacco warehouse at lower Marlborough and Magruder’s ferry…It would have distressed you to see the tobacco at Magruder’s burning, as I did, this evening. Eleven Hundred Hogsheads, nearly all consumed.” -New York Herald, June 25, 1814.

Mt. Welby

During the War of 1812, Oxon Hill Farm, then called Mount Welby, was the home of Dr. Samuel and Mary DeButts and their family. Their farm was perilously close to the scene of battle as Mary DeButts described to her sister in a letter dated March of 1815:

“The termination of the War has cheered Hearts of thousands but its bitter consequences will be long severely felt. I cannot express to you the distress it has occasioned; at the Battle of Bladensburg we heard every fire (that place being not more than 5 or 6 miles from us). Our House was shook repeatedly by the firing upon forts and bridges, and illuminated by the fires in our Capital.”

According to Dr. Samuel DeButts, Admiral Sir George Cockburn’s British fleet “lay directly before our House.” Indeed, the sitting of Mount Welby would have afforded its residents a clear view of the city of Alexandria, located directly across the Potomac River, as it capitulated to British Naval forces. At one point during the war, the BeButts “found three Rockets on our hill evidently pointed at our House but fortunately did not reach it.” Though the war had come terrifyingly close to harming the DeButts family, they emerged from the conflict unharmed. However, “a most dreadful epidemic” swept through the region during the winter of 1815 killing Dr. Samuel DeButts.

Riversdale House Museum

Riversdale was constructed between 1801 and 1807 for Henri Stier, a Flemish aristocrat, and completed by his daughter Rosalie and her husband George Calvert, grandson of the Fifth Lord Baltimore.

The Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814 directly affected the Calverts as Rosalie described in a letter to her sister soon after the Battle.

My Dear Sister, 30 August 1814
… Since I started this letter we have been in a state of continual alarm…I am sure that you have heard the news of the Battle of Bladensburg where the English defeated the American troops with Madison “not at their head, but at their rear.” From there they went to Washington where they burned the Capitol, the President’s House, all the public offices…During the battle, I saw several cannonballs with my own eyes. At the moment the English ships are at Alexandria which is also in their possession….

After the battle, George Calvert, with the help of the field hands from Riversdale, went to the battle-ground to bury the dead and assist the wounded. The Calverts became friends with several of the wounded British soldiers left behind in Bladensburg.

“Among the wounded in our village (Bladensburg) there were Colonel (William) Wood and a Major Brown, who stayed here two or three months, and whose acquaintance we made.”
Rosalie Stier Calvert to her brother Charles, December 27, 1814.