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night at Melwood, but ten or twelve miles from the capital. Breaking camp before daylight next morning, they came soon to a fork of the road, one branch of which ran northward to Bladensburg, distant ten miles, the other westward to the bridge over the Eastern Branch at Washington, distant about eight miles. Here again Ross made a feint of taking the Eastern Branch road, but as soon as his last column had entered it, reversed front and marched along the Bladensburg road toward that town. General Winder with the main body had been stationed to dispute the passage of the Eastern Branch bridge ; but as the route the enemy would take was now apparent, his troops were hurried forward to Bladensburg, where a body of Maryland militia had already been posted to check the enemy, should they advance in that direction.
It is a favorite drive with Washingtonians to-day over the smooth Bladensburg pike to the quaint old village. Dipping into the ravine where Barney made his stand, you have on the right the famous duelling ground enriched with some of the noblest blood of the Union. A mile farther on you come out on the banks of the Eastern Branch, here an inconsiderable mill-stream easily forded, though spanned by a bridge some thirty yards in length. On the opposite shore gleam through the trees the houses of Bladensburg very little changed since the battle day. Some seventy yards before reaching the bridge, the Washington pike is joined by the old Georgetown post-road, which comes down from the north to meet it at an angle of forty-five degrees. The gradually rising triangular field between these two roads, its heights now crowned by an elegant club-house of modern design, was the battle ground.
The entire American army had been posted here, and on a second line of battle a mile in the rear, before the British column appeared in sight across the river. Had General Winder not been hampered with the presence and instructions of his superior officers, President Madison, Colonel Monroe, and General Armstrong, he might have made his dispositions with better judgment. The one earthwork -a barbette battery at the apex of the trianglewas at once occupied by two companies of Baltimore artillery, while the battalion of riflemen commanded by Major Pinckney and two companies of militia acting as riflemen were posted on the right and left, respectively, as supports. Five hundred yards in their rear the heights were posted in a line stretching nearly from road to road the three regiments of Maryland militia, commanded by Colonels Sterett, Ragan, and Schultz,—General Stansbury's brigade, --with Captain Burch's artillery on their extreme left, covering the Georgetown road; and the cavalry beyond the artillery. Between the Battery and its supports and Stansbury's brigade was then an orchard, and a large tobacco storehouse, the position of the latter being in full view of the lower road by which the enemy was advancing.
The army had been posted here to dispute the passage of the bridge. A mile in its rear-far beyond supporting distance—was formed a second line of battle composed of Barney's battery--seamen and
marines,-Lt. Col. Scott's regiment of regulars, Smith's brigade of militia, Major Peters' battery of six guns, Colonel Beall's regiment of Maryland militia, and a few other militia battalions and companies that had composed General Winder's force at the Eastern Branch bridge. Commodore Barney's two eighteen-pounders were planted in the highway at a point where the road dropped into a narrow ravine, with his three twelve-pounders on his right, the seamen acting as artillerists. Peters' battery of six guns was stationed farther to the left on still higher ground, and the infantry were disposed to the right and left as supports. The first line was composed almost entirely of undisciplined militia, half famished and so exhausted with five days and nights of almost continuous marching in search of the enemy that they were in no condition for battle. The Maryland brigade that morning had marched sixteen miles, arriving but an hour before the battle commenced.
Scarcely had General Winder finished his dispositions when the British appeared on the other bank, marching in a line parallel with the American position, and in full view of the troops on the hill; in their red coats, with bayonets glistening, drums beating, and standards waving, making a martial appearance well calculated to overawe untried levies. Here marched the seasoned veterans of Wellington's campaigns, well armed, well officered, fresh from camp; on the other shore awaited them raw militia, hastily levied, badly equipped, and faint from long marching and little food.
Getting into the village, the British began a fire of Congreve rockets, in place of artillery, a new arm of service recently introduced, and from its novelty the more disquieting. Under cover of this fire, they advanced a column upon the bridge, but the Baltimore artillery lodged in the battery so decimated it with round shot and grape, that it broke in an instant and disappeared behind the houses.
Quite an interval now elapsed, employed by the enemy in bringing up his main body, and by the Americans in a steady artillery fire, with a view to silencing the rocketers, who were fast getting the range of the reserve troops on the hill. Very soon a heavier column rushed at double quick upon the bridge; round shot and grape tore through its ranks as before, but the gaps were quickly filled, and a large force was soon over the bridge, and in line under the bluff, where the shot from the battery could not reach it, and where it soon received large reinforcements from the light troops who had forded the river above the bridge. The supporting riflemen, seeing the enemy across the stream, fired two or three ineffectual volleys, and fell back to the right of Stansbury's brigade, which, as we have seen, had been drawn up on the crest of the hill in reserve. General Winder at once ordered the 5th Regiment of this brigade to advance and defend the battery, but as it moved down the slope the rockets began to hiss over the heads of the two remaining regiments, and to cut through their ranks, creating such panic that they fled incontinently, leaving the advancing regiment unsupported. General Winder commanded the latter to halt, and dashed after the fugitives, whom he succeeded in bringing to a halt; then leaving their officers to reform them, he hurried back to the 5th, but on reaching them he found to his dismay that the two regiments he had left were in disorderly flight. Meantime the artillery, left unsupported, had retired from the battery, which, with the barn and orchard, had been occupied by the enemy. At the same moment Winder, observing that a strong column of the enemy had passed up the pike, and was deploying into the field to attack his flank, ordered a retreat. Up to this time the 5th with Pinckney's rifles and the artillery had behaved well, but to retreat in the face of the enemy-almost an impossibility with veteran troops-was too great a trial of their endurance. They broke into disgraceful flight, and hurried after the other fragments of the shattered army.
The British, having thus disposed of the first line, pressed on down the Washington pike, and at the distance of a mile met the second line or reserve, which up to this time had taken no part in the battle, and which received few accessions from the first line, as the routed militia had fled by way of the Georgetown or post road. This line the enemy attacked simultaneously on both flanks, as he had the first, Colonel Brooks of the 44th Regiment marching up the Georgetown road, and taking it on its left, while Colonel Thornton attacked its extreme right on the Bladensburg pike. The latter force first met Commodore Barney's battery, which, as we have seen, had been planted in the main road beyond the