A conflict that raged in America 200 years ago was remembered Saturday, Sept. 28 at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM) in St. Leonard. The annual 1812 Fair and Reenactment was sponsored by The Friends of JPPM, The Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission and the museum, which is overseen by the Maryland Department of Planning’s Maryland Historical Trust.
The historical period was recaptured through storytellers, musicians, dancers and costumed actors, including those with knowledge of the era’s military tactics.
The park’s visitor center featured four films depicting the struggles of the times. The features included “First Invasion: the War of 1812.”
The daytime fair at the park was followed by the traditional Tavern Night, which raised funds in support of JPPM education programs.
Several travel writers who were visiting the area—along with some members of the local media—took a charter boat ride out of Bunky’s in Solomons during the late afternoon and early evening. The excursion, which was arranged by the Calvert County Department of Economic Development, featured local storyteller Van Ireland.
As the vessel made its way up the Patuxent River, Ireland told the group about the Battle of St. Leonard Creek. The battle occurred in June 1814 and was the largest naval engagement in the history of Maryland.
The fight appeared to be a great mismatch since the British Fleet was the greatest naval power in the world and their opponent was a flotilla of barges converted into gunboats under the command of Commodore Joshua Barney. While Barney had a distinguished career as a naval officer during the Revolutionary War, he had been active as the captain of a privateer just prior to the early 19th century conflict.
As privateer, a benign term for a “pirate,” Barney, said Ireland, “made a not significantly small fortune picking off British ships.”
The British, Ireland explained, cut quite a swath of destruction in the Patuxent region, burning Prince Frederick, Huntingtown, Lower Marlboro, Benedict and St. Leonard and raiding Sotterly Plantation and a few other riverside estates. The Brits not only had a more formidable armada, “they had better charts than even we did,” said Ireland.
British frigates chased Barney’s gunboat fleet up St. Leonard Creek. With the help of land support rendered by the United States’ Army, Marines and militia units, the British subsequently retreated, allowing Barney to escape the creek. Barney subsequently scuttled his gunboats farther up the river. Joining forces with the Army, Barney and his crew participated in the Battle of Bladensburg, an encounter at which he was seriously wounded.
If you missed the Sept. 28 reenactment, there is another discussion of the War of 1812 planned for October. On Sunday, Oct. 20 at 3 p.m. historian James Nelson will present a talk titled “The Near-Shore War: The Naval War of 1812 on the Bays and Lakes” at the College of Southern Maryland Prince Frederick Campus. The lecture is part of the War of 1812: A Legacy of Division series, a project made possible by a grant from the Maryland Humanities Council.
Contact Marty Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org