Thursday, March 21, 2013

Finding Fort Hollingsworth: Part III

Jim Gibb continues the story of Fort Hollingsworth in this third post in a series about the discovery and exploration of this Cecil County fort...

It wasn’t until the spring of 1814 that the British attempted a landing at Elkton, and just eleven ‘guns,’ or rounds fired, from the fort discouraged the effort:
Five barges were discovered on the [Elk] river and about one o’clock they opened upon our view from behind a point, and point blank shot, say ½ a mile. We gave them in all eleven guns, so well directed, that they hastily put about and retreated down the river having fired but three at us, which did us no injury (Gen. T. M. Forman to Martha Ogle Forman, 12 July 1814; quoted in Eshelman et al., 2010: 111).
The 1814 season was the most devastating part of the two and a half year war for the people of the Chesapeake region. British attacks became more common, more destructive, and more audacious. One British officer characterized Admiral Cochrane’s attacks on Havre de Grace and other settlements on the upper portion of the Bay as devoid of tactics. Plans were rudimentary and the strikes opportunistic. Their tenor was that of punishment for affronts to the dignity of the King and his Navy, the excessive and uncontrolled anger of an abusive parent. British plans to use the Upper Bay in an attack on Philadelphia, if ever seriously considered by the Admiralty, were abandoned. The British Navy sought to punish and to encourage the United States to settle a treaty as quickly as possible.

When the British marines rounded Cedar Point in the early afternoon, the defenders of Fort Hollingsworth likely knew of their approach from militia patrols along the lower portion of the Elk River. Arrogantly, the attackers approached the fort in daylight, without benefit of surprise. And they were met by eleven guns—which is to say, they were fired upon by the militia eleven times (not by eleven cannons). They responded with three cannon shots, but retreated: an attack would have yielded too many casualties and uncertain rewards.

When word of the treaty between the USA and Great Britain reached Maryland in February 1815, the people of Cecil County celebrated at Fort Hollingsworth. From then on the historical record is silent with the exception of the reminiscences of an elderly judge in Ohio published in the Cecil Whig in the 1880s, recounting his experiences at age 14. The fort was abandoned and, presumably, demolished.

More to come...

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