On September 11, 1814, the lookout at an observation tower on Federal Hill in Maryland sighted a British fleet approaching North Point. When Major General Samuel Smith, commander of nearby Baltimore's defenses, heard the news, he immediately dispatched Brigadier General John Stricker and 3,200 militia to North Point. Smith had guessed that if Baltimore were attacked, the British would most likely land at North Point first.
As the British fleet approached North Point, it also was observed from a cupola on the roof of the Todd House, located about a mile from where the British troops landed. Citizens had organized a system of mounted riders to keep the American forces informed of the enemy's movements.
Just before dawn on the morning of September 12, more than 4,500 British troops began to land at the tip of North Point. Their mission was to attack, burn, and loot Baltimore. Even though the movement of the British troops was being observed, they met no opposition when they landed. Major General Robert Ross commenced to lead his troops on a 12-mile march to Baltimore.
General Ross was considered to be one of England's top military commanders, with a wide range of experience and victories gained in wars all over Europe. Before coming to America, Ross had served under the Duke of Wellington, and had enjoyed a favorable written mention by the duke.
Ross decided to ride ahead of the main body of troops with an advance guard. He was unaware that General Stricker, with his 3,200 men, was only two miles away with his six cannon in place across Long log Lane (North Point Road) waiting for the British.
Rear Admiral George Cockburn warned Ross that he and his escort were getting too far ahead of the rest of the force. Suddenly, sporadic firing broke out. Ross started back toward his own lines when several more shots rang out. The general suddenly sagged, then swayed and fell from his horse. Another series of shots followed and two Americans, Dan Wells and Henry McComas, were shot and killed. They were credited with killing General Ross.
The body was taken to Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane's flagship, and placed in a barrel of rum for preservation. The generalâ€™s remains were taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia. On September 29, they were buried with full military honors in the churchyard of St. Paul's Church in Halifax. The graves of Dan Wells and Henry McComas are marked by a monument on the corner of Aisquith, Gay and Monument streets in Baltimore.
The death of General Ross was a demoralizing blow to the British land forces. As second in command, Colonel Arthur Brooke took over. Brooke was inexperienced, and would prove to be a disappointment to the troops.
By the afternoon of September 12, the British forces had advanced to where they could observe the six American cannon blocking what is known today as North Point Road at Trappe Road. The British also could see what appeared to be a large American force. Shortly after their arrival, both sides exchanged cannon fire, and the battle was on.
As the British advanced, the Americans fired grapeshot, nails, old horseshoes, locks, pieces of broken musket â€" anything that could be crammed down a cannon's muzzle. At the same time, American troops kept up constant musket fire, even as they began to fall back before the British. The Americans had already delayed the enemy â€" as planned by General Smith.
The fighting continued back and forth through the afternoon, with American forces falling back slowly. By late afternoon, the British had had enough of fighting, at least for that day. They had sustained more than 300 killed and wounded. The Americans suffered 150 casualties, of whom 41 were killed. Around sunset, Stricker began an orderly withdrawal from the battlefield, but the British did not march. Instead, they slept on the battlefield near the Methodist Meetinghouse, which was being used as a hospital where surgeons operated on the wounded from both sides. As it turned out, the one-day battle in North Point would prove to be the last of the land fighting.*
On the morning of September 13, the British slowly made their way along the lane when Brooke saw the impressive fortifications of "Rodgers' Bastion." He could not believe his eyes. U.S. Navy Commodore John Rodgers had assembled a large battlement comprising 12,000 men and 100 cannons. As the British troops approached, they soon realized that they could not get past Rodgers' Bastion without heavy losses. So, they withdrew and left Baltimore unscathed.
In 1839, 25 years after the battle, Jacob Houck deeded one acre of the battlefield to the State of Maryland for one dollar. On September 14, 1914, 100 years after the battle, the National Star Spangled Banner Commission erected a monument topped with a memorial cannon, honoring those who fought in the Battle of North Point. Today, that hallowed piece of ground, called Battle Acre, is surrounded by an iron fence, with the monument at its center.
Today in Patterson Park there is a neat row of cannons that were in Rodgers' Bastion during the time the confrontation took place in 1814. They are located in front of the park's famous pagoda.
*On September 13 and 14, the British fleet attacked Baltimore's Fort McHenry after the land attack stalled. The bombardment's failure, and catching sight of the American Flag still flying, prompted Francis Scott Key to compose "The Star-Spangled Banner." See Battle of Baltimore .