Extremely rare, unrecorded proof (or first) state, by an American participant, of the September 1814 Battle of North Point, at which Maryland militia stoutly defended Baltimore against a large force of British regulars.
The early land campaigns of the War of 1812 took place along the Canadian border, but in mid 1814, the British shifted their strategy and sent an expeditionary force under General Ross and Admiral Cochrane into the Chesapeake Bay. On August 24th they captured and burnt Washington, DC, allegedly in retaliation for the American sacking in 1813 of York, the provincial capital of Upper Canada. A few days later Alexandria, Virginia—at the time a major port—surrendered almost without a fight. The young nation seemed on the verge of suffering conquest and subjugation to its former master. British troops then re-embarked, sailed further up Chesapeake Bay, and on the morning of September 12th landed at North Point on Patapsco Neck, several miles east of Baltimore. Marching toward the city they encountered a forward unit of the Third Brigade of the Maryland Militia, General John Stricker commanding. During the encounter General Ross was mortally wounded by American sniper fire. The British then advanced until they ran into the main body of the militia at Bolden’s Farm, where a sharp fight ensued. The militia ultimately retreated in good order, but not before inflicting nearly 300 British casualties. The British, now commanded by Colonel Arthur Brooke, paused overnight to regroup and tend to their wounded. This gave the Americans time to organize the main defenses around Baltimore, and, following a failed naval attack on Fort McHenry, the British withdrew, re-embarked and headed out to Chesapeake Bay.
This somewhat primitive but compelling view depicts the main encounter that took place at Bolden’s Farm along the road to Baltimore. At the bottom of the view, the Maryland militia is depicted in a line of trees on either side of the road to the city, facing oncoming British regiments assaulting their center. At right British riflemen rush into the trees, presumably to take up flanking positions, from which to snipe at the Americans. At left a British regiment is shown attempting the flanking maneuver that ultimately forced the American retreat.
All examples of the view we have found include a small vignette of Ross’s death at upper right, as well as several dead or wounded British soldiers lying on the battlefield. They also include an addition to the legend--“O GEN ROSS”—squeezed in at lower left. These features are all absent from our example, and the quality of the engraving on it indicates that they were introduced as revisions rather than burnished out. These differences are not noted in the bibliographies, and we believe our example of the print to be a hitherto unrecorded first or proof state.
The print was likely based on a drawing by Corporal Andrew Duluc, a member of the Baltimore Jaegers whose unit met the first British assault at the small log house shown in flames at lower right. Duluc advertised his drawing in the Baltimore American on September 28, 1814, a mere two weeks after the battle:
"Battle of Patapsco Neck. ANDREW DULUC Has the honour of offering to his friends and the public in general, a subscription for an engraving, representing the first view of the engagement. The engraving will be 18 by 16 inches, to be seen at Mr. Phil’n Towson’s tavern, North Gay street. The offerer has been favored by the help of Capt. Bouldon, part owner of the ground, and surveyor of the county.
A. D. does not prize the talent of the artist, but rejoices at the idea of having seen fall in the battle one of the oppressors of our liberty.
N. B. A few alterations will be made in the drawing which is now exhibited at Mr. Towson’s.”
It is impossible to say for certain, but the “small alterations” noted in the advertisement could well be the vignette of Ross’s death and other additions noted above.
The print bears no engraver’s credit, however McCauley cites an argument in The Old Print Shop Portfolio in favor of John Bower, engraver of the iconic View of the Bombardment of Fort McHenry. The grounds are the general similarity of the “primitive style” and the “identical” lettering of the capital letters in the title. I am not quite sold by the “primitive style” argument, but the title lettering does appear essentially identical.
Only a handful of early strikes of this print are known: According to McCauley, impressions are held by the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Maryland Historical Society, Peale Museum (since absorbed by the Maryland Historical Society), and in the private collections of the Commercial Credit Company, Robert G. Merrick, and Baetjer and Howard Venable, all of Baltimore. Another is held by the Library of Congress. The original copper plate survives at the Maryland Historical Society. Restrikes were made from it later in the 19th century, but these are readily recognizable as they were printed on heavier sheets of wove paper.