The Enemy Nearly All Round Us - Website about Annapolis and the War of 1812


"...their country is just defenceless"

Rough plan of the defences of the harbour of Annapolis in Maryland, [1814], by William Tatham. Library of Congress

Five months after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the British Navy turned its focus towards the Chesapeake. Rear Admiral Pulteney Malcolm, on the HMS Royal Oak, wrote to his wife: "The Americans must make Peace their country is just defenceless [sic] and if we pleased we might destroy as much as was conceived necessary."

British navy captain and commanders' coat button, 1795-1812. The Lost Towns Project of Anne Arundel County

On August 20, 1814, the HMS Menelaus arrived in the Chesapeake and anchored six miles from Annapolis. Captain Sir Peter Parker and his officers observed the city closely through their spy glasses. Annapolis, "is very pretty," wrote Royal Marine Lt. Benjamin G. Beynon in his diary, "the finest building is the state House which is in the centre of the Town, its built of brick, on the top of it is a large dome . . ."

But the British Navy had come to Annapolis not to invade but to stir up trouble and keep a close watch on their enemy. Annapolitans' constant fear of attack, and an offer of freedom made to slaves who sought refuge on their ships, ensured that local eyes were equally focused on the British as well.