Thursday, December 13, 2012

Maps Battle of Bladensburg

On August 24, 1814 just across the river from Bladensburg, a British force under Major General Robert Ross defeated an American army under the command of William Winder attempting to defend the approaches to the city of Washington.  Several maps appeared in the aftermath of the battle, some as manuscripts describing the action and others in published accounts of the battle.

Ormsby 1816
This close-up of the town appears in a hand-drawn map located in the Library of Congress and  listed in its catalog as: Sketch of the action fought near Bladensberg [i.e. Bladensburg], August 24th, 1814 / Thos. Ormsby, Weedon, July 19th 1816.  Geography and Map Division: G3841.S42 1814 .O7 Vault.  Note the indication of a fortified house located near the bridge over the river.  Several accounts of the battle say that British troops took shelter behind a structure near the bridge after their first attempt to cross it was met by heavy fire from the Americans.

Another manuscript map drawn by a British officer, now in the Albert Small Collection at George Washington University provides less detail on structures, but does provide a better sense of the topography and the direction of the Congreve rockets used by the British.
Small 1814
In 1849, Edward D. Ingraham's A Sketch of the Events which Preceded the Capture of Washington, by the British, on the Twenty-Fourth of August, 1814 was published by Cary & Hart of Philadelphia.  This map of the battlefield continues to show the fortified house.

Ingraham 1849

In 1857, John S. Williams published his History of the Invasion and Capture of Washington, and the Events which Preceded and Followed with this map of the battlefield.

William 1857

Maps 18th Century

Welcome to the Bladensburg History Blog!

The purpose of this site is to share information about interesting events, people and places in the historic town of Bladensburg, located in Prince George's County, Maryland.  This blog a project of Doug McElrath, Research Director of the Bladensburg History Project.  As the information on this  site grows, we may decide to create more formal web pages, but for now it will be a place to "park" interesting bits of historic information.

We'll start with early maps of Bladensburg dating from its founding in 1742.  Bladensburg was surveyed and lots laid out by the original town commissions: James Edmonston, Osborn Sprigg, William Mauduit, Thomas Gantt, and Thomas Warren. 

1787 Survey
This is a copy of the 1787 resurvey of the lots in the town, which appears in the records of the Bladensburg Historical Society now housed at the Maryland State Archives.

Question:  Does the original survey still exist?

During the Yorktown campaign in the American Revolution, elements of the French army under the Comte de Rochambeau camped in Bladensburg in 1782.  Rochambeau's engineers created detailed maps of these encampments, including this one showing the town in considerable detail.

Rochambeau 1782
Although there are quite a number of 18th century maps that show Bladensburg as a named place, they do not provide any fine detail.  The Dennis Griffith map of 1794 shows the road network and the relationship of Bladensburg to the newly laid out city of Washington; however, it does not provide any sense of the town plan or location of structures.

Griffith 1794