Above: The Bridge at Bladensburg, the scene of fierce fighting during the battle.
General Ross earned worldwide acclaim at the time for his victory at the Battle of Bladensburg in 1814. The general’s family was awarded the hereditary title ‘Ross of Bladensburg’ by the Prince Regent. At Bladensburg, American militia forces were routed by Wellington ‘Invincibles’ under Ross’ command. The Battle of Bladensburg is notable as the first occasion when the ‘Commander in Chief’ (the US president) was present on a battlefield and under hostile fire. The rout of the American forces famously occasioned a poem entitled the ‘Bladensburg Races’. The embarrassing flight of the American forces from the battlefield, it is worth emphasising, was far from a unique experience at the time. There were several notable examples of regular troops in other conflicts being mocked for fleeing from battlefields. Most strikingly, British troops fled from a combined force of French regulars led by General Humbert and Irish insurgents at Castlebar, County Mayo, in 1798, an event known at the time and ever since as the ‘Races of Castlebar’. Ironically, Humbert also helped to defeat the British at New Orleans in 1815. While American militia performed poorly at Bladensburg for understandable reasons, 120 US marines led by Captain Samuel Miller, fighting alongside 370 US sailors under the overall command of Commodore Joseph Barney, were acknowledged on all sides to have performed heroically, providing inspiration for the further development of the US Marine Corps.