Walk the Battle of Bladensburg
The Battle of Bladensburg was fought in August 1814 on a large, open field and orchard, just south of the town of Bladensburg. Today, that field has become the communities of Cottage City and Colmar Manor. The primary fighting was on the Washington to Baltimore Turnpike, now Bladensburg Road or Alternate US Route 1. The only remaining witnesses to the history are the historic homes in the Town of Bladensburg. The historic homes of Bladensburg, including the George Washington House, Magruder House, Bostwick House, and Market Master House are private and only open for special events. All may be viewed from the exterior. No battlefield has been preserved but decades of research and interpretative efforts have created worthwhile and enjoyable ways to explore the area including through parks, trails, and at several historic sites.
To experience the remaining battlefield and views, start at Bladensburg Waterfront Park (BWP) (4601 Annapolis Road, Bladensburg, MD), once the site of the deepwater tobacco port, now a park owned by Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and great place to paddle a kayak. British soldiers would have crossed a bridge of similar length and width as the one here for pedestrians and bikes. You may follow the bike trail (marked in green on the map) or travel by car along the former turnpike. Travel south to the Bladensburg Dueling Grounds (3505 38th Ave, Colmar Manor, MD) to see where British forces encountered the stiffest resistance from American forces — and where over fifty duels were fought.
Then, visit Fort Lincoln Cemetery (FLC) (3401 Bladensburg Road, Brentwood) where the Third Line stood under Barney’s command at the top of the hill. The historic mausoleum and Little Chapel are approximately where charging British forces overwhelmed the line. The view from this point gives a wide sweep over the former battlefield. Finish at the Undaunted Monument (UM) (Upshur Street at Baltimore Avenue, Bladensburg MD — near the Peace Cross), dedicated in 2014 to those who fought in the Battle of Bladensburg.
Walking Tour of Historic Sites of Bladensburg
Bladensburg, established in 1742, was started as a “port town” where large ships could arrive and be loaded with tobacco and wares. However, by the time European colonists arrived and began working the soil in a more drastic way than the native population had, the river began to silt in. By the War of 1812, the river north of the bridge was already “fordable” by the British. Down river was still navigable for about 20 more years, but by the 1830s the port was closed. The community remained a commercial and industrial area but became overshadowed by those communities that were on the rail line and trolley lines.
Several historic buildings still remain in town with interpretive signs on their grounds for you to explore, however, the buildings are not open to the public. Please contact the owner if you would like to arrange a visit.
Starting at Bladensburg Waterfront Park (4601 Annapolis Road, Bladensburg, MD 20710) proceed from the Park out towards Annapolis Road, Route 450. If traveling by foot or by bike, please use the sidewalk as 450 is a heavily traveled road. We do recommend walking over a car since the parking is limited at each site. Turn right (east) toward the Magruder House.
Hilleary Magruder House (4703 Annapolis Road, Bladensburg MD 20710), built in 1746, is one of only four remaining structures that bore witness to the Battle of Bladensburg. Several years earlier, its owner hosted President Washington to dinner. Reports from the time indicate that many of the houses nearby were used for field hospital type uses. This building is used as a private business, but owned by Prince George’s Heritage, Inc. (For potential access, contact AEON Preservation Services.)
You'll find the Market Master House Historic Site (4006 48th St, Bladensburg, MD 20710) at the corner of Annapolis Road and 48th Street. Originally used as a tobacco market and mail stop for the regional trade and shipping of tobacco in the Bladensburg area, Market Square has a small store located at the back corner which would have been closest to the docks. The “house” was actually used as a store and post office, one of the oldest remaining in the nation. At this point, the British troops, having marched from Long Old Fields and Upper Marlboro would have turned from the “river road” on to the main road leading to the port and sighted the Americans for the first direct contact. This is a private home, no access is available.
From the Market Master House turn right onto 48th Street until Quincy Street and the Bostwick House (3901 48th St Bladensburg, Maryland, 20710 ). Built in 1746, the house is a 2-1/2 story Georgian brick house, with high buttress at south gable end and kitchen wing at north. There are several mid-twentieth century historic farm outbuildings. Bostwick was built by Christopher Lowndes, merchant and Town Commissioner. The house became the home of Lowndes’ son-in-law, Benjamin Stoddert, who was the first Secretary of Navy. The top of Lowndes Hill had been intended to be the American defenses and some earthworks were developed. However, when the British rode in, the Americans had abandoned the high ground for the other side of the bridge. The British used this house to scout down the hill towards the American positions. Located on 48th Street, this road, now a small side street, was originally the “river road” on which the British marched coming from Upper Marlboro. The route roughly follows a line through Seat Pleasant and then on to the Old Marlboro Pike. Today, the building is used by the University of Maryland Preservation Program for hands-on teaching and the house is going through a major restoration by the Aman Trust. Although the home is owned by the Town of Bladensburg, there is very limited access. (For potential access, contact the Town of Bladensburg.)
From here, return back on 48th Street and cross Annapolis Road/MD450 at the crosswalk. Return west toward Peace Cross. Off of Annapolis Road at 47th Street, you'll find St. Paul’s Church (4107 47th Street, Bladensburg, MD 20710 ) (formerly also Free Hope Baptist Church and currently Kingdom Missionary Baptist Church) located behind the Ernst Maier concrete block factory, the church has been home to African American congregations since the Federal period. The current structure, built in the mid-19th century has endured in spite of heavy industrialization of the area. Members of the Plummer family, who were enslaved by C.B. Calvert at his Riversdale plantation (Riversdale House Museum, 4811 Riverdale Road, Riverdale Park, MD 20737) were instrumental in its successful establishment and growth. The building is not open to the public and there is heavy traffic to access the site.
Continue along Annapolis Road to the traffic circle around the Peace Cross and turn right to head north as the road becomes Baltimore Avenue. The large cross is the Peace Cross, built for the World War I veterans. World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and 9/11 memorials are nearby an accessible through Bladensburg Waterfront Park.
At Baltimore Avenue and Upshur Street, cross the street to Balloon Park. The Battle of Bladensburg “Undaunted” Monument has been built in the former Balloon Park, named for the first unmanned ascension of a balloon in America which happened near Bladensburg. The Undaunted Monument was designed and sculpted by Joanna Blake with funds raised by the Aman Memorial Trust.
Now looking across Upshur Street, you'll see the George Washington House (4302 Baltimore Ave Bladensburg, MD 20710). Extant at the time of the Battle of Bladensburg, the building functioned as a store, with the Ross Tavern/Indian Queen Tavern next door. At that time these buildings would have backed up to the Anacostia River which has since receded in the early 20th century. Joshua Barney was brought to the Ross Tavern, roughly located where the retail businesses are located. Somewhere near George Washington House, British located batteries of congreve rockets reported to be effective in frightening the inexperienced American Militia units into an early exit from the battlefield. These rockets became known as the “rockets red glare” in Key’s poem turned National Anthem. (For potential access, contact the Anacostia Watershed Society.)
Historic Sites of Upper Marlboro
Prince George’s County was impacted in multiple sites during the War of 1812. Upper Marlborough, the County Seat, was both impacted by the military movements and by the capture of an important Town leader, who would eventually shape one of the most important events in the War of 1812. Upper Marlboro today is a compact, walkable downtown, with multiple options for dining, as well as governmental offices. Buses are available from downtown to the Show Place Arena, a major events site.
On the afternoon of August 22nd, British forces marched into the mostly deserted town of Upper Marlborough, with little or no American resistance. Dr. William Beanes, a well respected doctor and Town elder, hosted British Major General Ross, who had chosen Dr. Beanes’ home as his headquarters for the night. The following morning, British Rear Admiral George Cockburn met with Ross at Dr. Beanes’ home, where they made the momentous decision to attack Washington.
Four days later, on August 26th, the British forces returned to Upper Marlborough after the Battle of Bladensburg, and burning the Capitol. Though the soldiers left the next day, some stragglers remained behind to loot the Town. Dr. Beanes helped capture the looters, who were then sent to Queen Anne’s Town for confinement. When Major General Ross learned of this, he sent horsemen to Upper Marlborough to arrest Dr. Beanes. The British threatened to burn the Town if their soldiers were not released. Dr. Beanes was taken to Ross and Cockburn’s ship in the Chesapeake Bay. John Hodges of Darnall’s Chance (14800 Governor Oden Bowie Drive, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772), complied with their demands, riding to Queen Anne’s Town to retrieve the soldiers and thereby saving Upper Marlborough from destruction. Hodges would be the only American tried for treason in the War of 1812 – he was found not guilty.
Fearing that Dr. Beanes would be hanged, the Town elders asked Georgetown lawyer Francis Scott Key and U.S. Agent for Prisoner Exchange John S. Skinner to help negotiate Dr. Beanes’ release from captivity. From the deck of a flag-of-truce boat, all three men witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry. As dawn approached, they were able to see our flag still flying above the Fort. For these reasons, we say, if it had not been for Upper Marlborough, Bladensburg, and Prince George’s County, there would have not been the Star Spangled Banner.
Dr. William Beanes & Mrs. Sarah Beanes Graves (Corner of Elm and Water Street across from the Post Office) are located on a hillside near the old Upper Marlboro School. Just outside the Town boundaries, there are several other War of 1812 sites such as: Mt. Calvert (Jackson’s Landing), the Compton-Bassett House, Nottingham, Pig Point and Hill’s Bridge, where Commodore Joshua Barney sank his flotilla to keep it from falling into British hands. A portion of the National Park Service Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail runs through the Town from Route 4 Pennsylvania Avenue and along Old Marlboro Pike.
There remain many historic homes and sites that dot the landscape throughout the Town that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and/or the Prince George’s County’s Inventory of Historic Sites. They include: Content, the Brooke-Herring House, the Traband House, the Digges-Sasscer House, the Trelawn (Roberts) House, the Talbott House, the Thomas J. Turner House, the Jarboe-Bowie House, Kingston and the Crandell- Rothstein House. Also listed are: Trinity Episcopal Church, Union (Memorial) Methodist Church, St. Mary’s Beneficial Society Hall, the Robert Crain Highway Monument and Darnall’s Chance House Museum. (Remember, many of these are private residences and not open to the public.)
The residential neighborhoods of the Town are located mainly west of downtown are a good number are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The downtown area is located along Main Street. There are restaurants, attorney’s offices, insurance agents and a variety of retail establishments. The downtown area houses county and state operations, the majority of which are the County Administration Building and the Courts.
Potomac River/Crooms Road Tour
We encourage visitors to experience this region by water on the Potomac River. However, if you are looking for some of the experience by land – here is a quick overview of the great places to visit by vehicle or bike.
Start at Fort Washington (1355 Fort Washington Road, Fort Washington; 301-763-4600). Operated by the National Park Service, Fort Washington is built high on a bluff over the Potomac River. Construction was started in 1808 as an earthworks. When the British detachment from the Chesapeake crew sailed up the river, the Fort was ordered destroyed by the Fort’s commander. He was found guilty of abandoning his post and destroying government property – eventually dismissed from service. The new fort was finished in 1824 but was significantly remodeled prior to the Civil War.
To get a sense of Prince George's County life just before war broke out, visit the Accokeek Foundation and the National Colonial Farm (3400 Bryan Point Road, Accokeek, Maryland; 301-283-2113), located just south of Fort Washington via Indian Head Highway/Route 210. Through its colonial living history museum, organic farm, heritage breed animals, agricultural and stewardship programs, and gardens, the Accokeek Foundation provides a wealth of opportunities for unique outdoor experiences. To complement the surroundings, the Park has, in addition to a public fishing pier and two boardwalks over fresh water tidal wetlands, a variety of nature trails, meadows, and woodland areas, each with unique features. Do not miss the view across the Potomac River to George Washington's Mount Vernon.
Next up is Harmony Hall (10702 Livingston Rd, Fort Washington, MD 20744), a National Park Service site that was the site of a major moment during the War of 1812. African American men seeking to enlist with the British would organize at Harmony Hall whenever their ships passed by Fort Warburton and its ruins on their way to Washington. They hailed them from shore by waving white cloth.
Passing Harmony Hall on Livingston Road, you have entered the Broad Creek Historic District. This region, once known as Aire, was a large tobacco station and port. During the period of 1812 to 1815 this region was a large scale agriculture supplier for the new Federal City, with major fisheries.
Reaching Old Fort Road, turn right toward Maryland Route 210 (Indian Creek Highway) and head north. Turning left will bring you toward Fort Foote, an earthenwork fort from the Civil War. Exit at Maryland Route 414, Oxon Hill Road. Turn left at Oxon Hill Road, under Maryland Route 210 (Indian Head Highway). Turn right just after this overpass on to Bald Eagle Road, the entrance for Oxon Cove Park.
Mount Welby, a part of Oxon Cove Park (6411 Oxon Hill Road, Oxon Hill, MD; 301-839-1176), was the 1811 era home of Dr. Samuel DeButts. Mary Welby DeButts wrote letters detailing the British approach up the Potomac River – including Congreve rockets which landed near the house. The site has plenty of kid’s friendly activities, including farm animals and hands-on activities.
Croom Road Driving/Biking Tour
Leading up to the Battle of Bladensburg, the British came ashore off the Patuxent River. They landed in Benedict in Charles County, Maryland first, but then came ashore in Nottingham in Prince George’s County. This drive – and biking route – is a pleasant way to explore the history of the area, but also see some pristine agricultural landscapes in Prince George’s County.
The best way to experience this ride, which is very bike friendly, is from the Upper Marlboro area moving south. This route follows the British invasion in reverse. Starting out of Upper Marlboro head south and east on Old Crain Highway. Intersect with US Route 301 (Crain Highway). Turn left on to Croom Road (Maryland Route 382). You are now on the same route the British would have taken.
One of the interesting stops along the way is Mount Calvert Historical and Archaeological Park (16302 Mount Calvert Road, Upper Marlboro MD; 301-627-1286). This plantation house, circa 1790, has amazing views of the Patuxent River and also is a great place to launch a canoe or kayak. The Royal Marines disembarked here to join the British Army marching toward Upper Marlboro. This site was once the site of Charles Town, a tobacco port, and the ongoing archaeological work is trying to discover much of this landscape.
Further south, is St. Thomas Episcopal Parish. This church was the home church of Anglican Bishop Thomas John Claggett and the possible burial site of seven British soldiers. These locations may be the flat, concrete squares along the Berry plot. (There are no public hours at St. Thomas, but the grounds are open.) Turn left at St. Thomas and follow St. Thomas Church Road until it makes a sharp right and becomes Fenno Road.
Fenno Road, is the historic road that the British followed, looking much as it did in 1814. Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary is accessible from this road. Fenno Road intersects with Nottingham Road. Take a left and you will arrive in the community of Nottingham. Signage can be found at the historic Nottingham School (17400 Nottingham Road, Upper Marlboro, MD) and a canoe launch under the Patuxent Riverkeeper is planned. The U.S. Chesapeake Flotilla (under Commadore Joshua Barney) was here in July and August, but was abandoned when the British arrived. Residents of the town left so quickly, the story goes, that bread was left baking in the oven.
Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine
The valiant defense of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812's Battle of Baltimore on September 13-14, 1814 inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words that became the U.S. national anthem. The fort's history holds many other stories too, from the Civil War to WWII.
The fort is self-guided. There are several virtual and self-guided tour options that allow visitors to view all exhibit areas and have a guided experience via smart device. Fee collection of $15 for visitors, ages 16 years and up, has resumed for entrance to the historic fort. Daily entrance tickets are good for 7 days and can be purchased prior to visiting online at recreation .gov or in the park visitor center. Onsite registers are open from 9:00 AM-4:00 PM September-May, and 9:00 AM-5:00 PM in the Summer (Memmorial Day-Labor Day). Other federal passes such as the Senior Pass, Annual Pass, and the Access Pass will be accepted. America the Beautiful passes can be purchased onsite or ordered online at the USGS Store. Your fee dollars allow the parks to complete important historic restoration projects that preserve our nation’s treasures.
Visitors to Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine can start their visit before leaving home. Download the new NPS App which is the official app for all 420+ NPS sites. The NPS App will act as your virtual visitor center! You can also see the movie that is usually shown in the visitor center which is available on our multimedia page on our website and is a good way to become familiar with the park’s history. Virtual tours, self-guided tours, other videos, and photo galleries are also found on the same page on our website.
Battle of Bladensburg Trail Cache
This 1.3 mile (one-way) walking or biking trail starts at Bladensburg Waterfront Park on the Anacostia River and continues through the American 1st and 2nd lines to the Dueling Grounds and Fort Lincoln Cemetery with interpretative signage along the way. Find the cache using the trail map and puzzle sheet provided.
Star-Splangled Banner Cache
The Star-Spangled Banner was shaped by events during the War of 1812. Commemorate the dramatic chain of events, people and places that led to the birth of our National Anthem. Visit the locations that provide touchstones to the past with national significance, physical integrity, and the potential for contemporary recreation and interpretation.