BLTC Press Titles

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Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian

Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley

The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison

Notions of the Americans picked up by a travelling bachelor

by James Fenimore [Cooper


I confess I had thought it surprising that so small a force (about 5000 men) could have taken possession of the capital of so powerful a nation; but a nearer view has entirely dissipated the wonder, ft was a point where the Americans, having nothing of mili


"tary importance to defend, had assembled no force, SLnd there is not probably on the whole line of their coast, a more deserted and tenantless region than the country traversed by the invaders. The troops rallied to resist the English, as their intention became known, were merely the citizens of the adjoining country, who assembled in a very imperfect state of preparation, and who were very little, if at all, superior in numbers to their antagonists. They had not even the ordinary inducements to risk their lives against those of hireling troops ; for, even to this hour, it is difficult to find what object General Ross could have had in hazarding his army in an expedition that might have been attended with destruction. A man like Jackson to oppose him would have insured it.

I alighted at Bladensburgh, and, accompanied bj my friend, walked in advance of the carriage over the ground, attended by a sufficiently intelligent man who had witnessed the whole affair. As it is a little in your way, the details I gleaned shall be rendered as an offering to your military gout. Should they fail of the interest which has so often been thrown over the entrances of Moscow and Paris, you know how to make allowances for an inferiority in dramatic effect, which is no more than a natural consequence of the difference between the conquest of a city of half a million of inhabitants, and of a town of eight or nine thousand.

The country around Bladensburgh is gently undulating and moderately wooded. A small stream lies near the village, and between it and the capital. It is crossed by a wooden bridge. So much hurry and indecision appear to have existed among the defenders, that even this bridge was not destroyed, though it might have been rendered impassable in ten minutes. It would seem, however, that many of their troops, such as they were, only reached the ground at the critical moment when they were wanted in the combat. The dispositions for resistance were made along the crest of a gentle acclivity, at the distance of rather more than a mile from this bridge. The centre of their position was on the highway, and its defence was intrusted to a few seamen and two or three hundred marines, the only disciplined forces on the ground. A few light troops (all militia) were pushed in front to the banks of the stream, and two pieces of artillery were placed at a point to command the passage of the bridge. There was a little skirmishing here; and it seems, by the English accounts, that they suffered severely from the artillery in crossing the bridge. The ground in front of the seamen and marines was a gentle acclivity, and perfectly open. Here there was some sharp fighting. The British columns were obliged to open, and General Ross began to manoeuvre. But the militia did not wait to be turned, for they retired to a man (the skirmishers excepted), without firing a gun. The seamen and marines stood well, and were necessarily brought off to prevent capture. The artillery was all, or nearly all, taken. This is, in substance, what is called the Battle of Bladensburgh. The American loss was trifling, less than two hundred, and that of the English perhaps three or four hundred.

It is easy to criticise the disposition of the American commander. This gentleman was an able lawyer of the adjoining State of Maryland, who had listened to the whisperings of that uneasy ambition which sometimes makes men heroes. He had quitted the gown for the sword a short time before, and probably knew as little about his new profession as you know of the one he had deserted. Lawyer or not, had this gentleman placed his fellow-citizens (for soldiers they cannot be called) in and about the Capitol, and had they only fought as well as they did, he taking care not to give them any particularly favourable opportunity of dispersing, I think General Ross


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