Experience one of the most dramatic, but lowest points in the War of 1812 on a free walking tour with actors and music Aug. 25 at an Oxon Hill, Maryland national park outside Washington.
“A Star-Spangled Summer – The War of 1812 Comes to Mount Welby” offers a unique look at the Battle of Bladensburg, Maryland on Aug. 24, 1814. That defeat cleared the way for the British to occupy and burn much of the nation’s capital.
On Aug. 25 at the Mount Welby manor site at Oxon Cove Park in Oxon Hill, actors will portray the English-born mistress of Mount Welby; her American-born son, a citizen solder of the Maryland Militia; a British Royal Navy officer; and one of many slaves who fought on both sides of the 1812 war.
After a quarter-mile historic walking tour, the re-enactors will answer visitors’ questions. Then, early American music historian David Hildebrand will discuss and play some War of 1812 music.
Mount Welby mistress Mary Welby DeButts wrote a letter describing the British advance up the Potomac, and the Battle of Bladensburg about five miles away. “…(W)e heard every fire. Our House was shook repeatedly by the firing upon forts & Bridges, & illuminated by the fires in our Capitol. It was indeed a Day & night of horrors…”
Historian Ralph E. Eshelman, a consultant to the National Park Service’s “Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail” in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia, wrote, “(S)urely the lowest point in the war was the humiliating defeat at the Battle of Bladensburg followed by British occupation of the nation’s capital and the burning of many public buildings.”
Eshelman’s books include “A Travel Guide to The War of 1812 in the Chesapeake” and “The War of 1812 in the Chesapeake”, co-authored with Scott S. Sheads, and Donald R. Hickey (both books published by Johns Hopkins University Press).
Here’s an eyewitness description by Maryland slave Charles Ball, who was at the Battle of Bladensburg as a cook under Commodore Joshua Barney.
The American militia “ran like sheep chased by dogs,” Ball wrote in his memoirs, published in 1836.
Speaking of animals, visitors can enjoy the park’s Oxon Hill Farm, with cows, horses, goats, pigs, and a turkey.
For more info and reservations: “A Star-Spangled Summer – The War of 1812 Comes to Mount Welby”, Aug. 25, noon to 3:30 P.M., Oxon Cove Park, www.nps.gov/oxhi, Oxon Hill, Maryland. Free event, but reservations are encouraged. Contact National Park Ranger Marilyn Cohen-Brown, 301-839-1176, for reservations and additional info.