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To James Madison from James Monroe, 20 August 1814

From James Monroe

Acquasco Mills 7 miles from Benedict
August 20th 1814 1 OClock PM.

Dear Sir

I arrived here this morning at 8 OClock, and have been since within 4 miles of Benedict, at Butler’s mill, where it was reported the enemy, on their march, had arrived. The report was unfounded. The enemy landed yesterday at Benedict, and had advanced their pickets, within a mile and a half of that mill, for security only.1 From a height, between that mill and the Patuxent, I had a view of their shipping; but being at the distance of three miles, and having no glass, we could not count them. We shall take better views, in the course of the evening, and should any thing be seen, material, I will immediately advise you of it. The general idea is, that they are still debarkng their troops, the number of which, I have not obtained any satisfactory information of. The general idea also is that Washington is their object, but of this I can form no opinion at this time. The best security against the attempt is an adequate preparation to repel it. Respectfully Your friend & servt.

Signed James Monroe

Tr (DNA: RG 233, Committee Reports and Papers, 13A–D15.3).

1On 18 Aug. 1814 a British fleet entered the mouth of the Patuxent River. It carried a force of nearly 4,500 men under the command of Maj. Gen. Robert Ross, many of whom had just arrived from Europe and were veterans of Great Britain’s Peninsular War. Word of the fleet’s arrival reached Washington the same day, and Monroe volunteered to head a scouting party to investigate and report on further British movements. After landing at Benedict on 19 Aug., the invading army marched eighteen miles upriver over two days, reaching Nottingham on 21 Aug. The following day they proceeded toward the Woodyard, where Monroe had joined the U.S. forces under Brig. Gen. William H. Winder, but then turned north and encamped that night at Upper Marlborough. Meanwhile, Winder’s army moved northwest to Long Old Fields, where JM and members of his cabinet spent the night and reviewed the troops the next morning. The British took up their march toward the American position on the afternoon of 23 Aug., and Winder, wishing to avoid a night battle, ordered his men to retreat to Washington. On the morning of 24 Aug., the British advanced toward Bladensburg (Quimby, U.S. Army in the War of 1812, 2:640, 655–56, 661–71, 678–79).

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