The Battle of Bladensburg; Page 2

The British Advance Up the Hill

With many of the American guns taken and the militia scared away from the bridge and orchard, the British reformed their lines and advanced up the hills toward the second American line of militia.

In this line, however, were Commodore Barney's sailors and marines; battle tested, true fighting men rather than weekend warrior wannabes that grow faint at the first sign of danger. These men were not frightened by the professional, controlled movements of the British soldiers.

A detachement of United States Infantry, however, on Com. Barney's right, whom we would expect to also be battle-hardened, retreated as the British approached. The crowds of militia and gun crews on the left of Com. Barney also retreated and left.

These departing men not under Barney's command were ordered to retreat by Gen. Winder, who did not feel that Com. Barney was also under his command. Some of these departing soldiers were not happy to retreat, and some were mortified to tears. Most were frightened and quite willing to retreat, if not run.

Many have debated whether the retreat was the fault of Gen. Winder, or of his soldiers. We can actually settle this question easily by looking at Col. Ragan's men in the orchard earlier. These Baltimore Militia broke and ran. Col. Ragan stayed and ordered them to return. Some did, but most did not. When the Colonel realized too many had fled, he allowed the rest to retreat. He, himself, was wounded and remained. He was soon captured. This strongly indicates that the same would have happened had Gen. Winder not ordered a retreat. But it still would have been better had he not, and done as Com. Barney and Col. Ragan. At least then he would have proved the issue. Gen. Winder lived only four more years after that taxing episode in his life. Who knows how much it troubled him.