Battles at Sea and on Lakes
The Marines’ participation in the War of 1812 was both on land and aboard vessels sailing the high seas and lakes. In four major sea battles, Marines helped win three, and earned a reputation for deadly marksmanship.
In September 1813, Marines and woodsmen fought with Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s fleet that defeated the British in the bloody Battle of Lake Erie. This battle ended British and Indian attacks on the frontier, and opened the Northwest for American expansion.
Two hundred Marines fought during the crucial battle of the war. A Navy/Marine force met the lead elements of the Duke of Wellington’s 28,000 man British Army, fresh from victory over Napoleon at Waterloo, and defeated them on Lake Champlain.
Marines also fought on land, most notably at Bladensburg, Maryland, and at New Orleans.
The Battle of Bladensburg
In August of 1814, at Bladensburg, Maryland about 13 miles from our nation’s capital, 103 Marines and 400 sailors made a vain attempt to block a force of 4,000 disciplined British troops from advancing on Washington. The Marines stopped three headlong charges before both their Commanders (a Navy Commodore and a Marine Captain) were wounded and captured.
They were finally outflanked and driven back. The Commanding Officer of the British reported, “They have given us our only real fight.”
Andrew Jackson at New Orleans
Nine thousand British troops sailed from Jamaica and landed near New Orleans. An occupation force of Navy and Marines skirmished with the British in the bayous, killing 300 British and buying nine days for Major General Andrew Jackson to organize a defense of the city. For almost two weeks, beginning on 28 December 1814, the British shelled and assaulted the American position.
On 8 January 1815, an over-confident British commander led two regiments in a frontal assault across a flat plain into Jackson’s lines. 2,100 British were shot down in twenty-five minutes. The next day the British left American shores, badly beaten. Major General Jackson commended the Marines for their conduct and heroism, as did Congress, by passing an official resolution commending the “high sense of valor and good conduct” of the Marines.