Barges, Boats, & Frigates
— The Opposing Forces —
During the Battles of St. Leonard Creek, the United States Chesapeake Flotilla consisted of the sloop Scorpion armed with four cannon, 13 barges with two cannon each, the one-gun row galley Vigilant, and a lookout boat and two gunboats, each armed with a single cannon.
The American guns ranged in size from 12-pounders to 41-pounders with 18-and 24-pounders the most numerous. Barney was opposed by a British fleet that outgunned him by more than four-to-one, even without including the 74-gun ship-of-the patrolling at the mouth of the Patuxent River.
The British ships stationed off the mouth of St. Leonard Creek were the 38-gun frigate HMS Loire, the 18-gun frigate MHS St. Lawrence, and the 18-gun sloop HMS Jaseur.
Fortunately, these vessels were too large to sail very far into the creek.
To engage the United States Chesapeake Flotilla within the creek, the British relied on 21 barges and two small schooners, each carrying a single cannon.
In addition, the British had a small boat armed with their newest weapon—-the terrifying Congreve rocket.
Following the First Battle of St. Leonard Creek, the British were reinforced by the 32-gun frigate HMS Narcissus and several smaller boats. Despite the overwhelming strength of the forces aligned against him, Commodore Joshua Barney with the assistance of hastily erected shore batteries, was able to escape up the Patuxent in late June o 1814.
(Inscription beside the image in the lower center) British Rocket Boat, Illustration by Carl E. Franklin.
Rockets Red Glare
Ballistic Warfare-Congreve Rockets-Developed by William Congreve in 1804, these self-propelled projectiles carried an incendiary or explosive charge for a distance of up to two miles. A sheet iron tube containing the propellant charge was attached to a long wooden shaft which served as a stabilizer during flight.
The "rockets red glare" in the song "The Star-Spangled Banner" refers to these rockets, which were used both at the Battle of Baltimore and here at the Battles of St. Leonard Creek.
Because of the rockets' unpredictable flight, they terrorized both the military and civilians, but did relatively little damage to their intended targets.
(Inscription below the drawings on the right) Congreve 32-pr Carcase Rocket—circa 1813. Reconstructed after an example in the Smithsonian Institution, Catalog No. 77229M. Illustration by Carl E. Franklin.
Funding provided to the Friends of Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, Inc. by the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network, National Park Service.