“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Havre de Grace in Harford County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Surprise Attack

Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail

Surprise Attack Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bill Pfingsten, July 12, 2012
1. Surprise Attack Marker
Inscription.  Cannon and rocket fire shook residents of Havre de Grace from their sleep as the British attacked at dawn May 3, 1813. An eyewitness reported: "Distressed people, women and children half naked" ran from their homes. The local militia fled, too, overwhelmed by 19 barges carrying 400 enemy troops. The attackers burned and plundered the town, torching 40 of the 62 homes.

The British then crossed into Cecil County and destroyed Principio Iron Works before re-boarding their ships the same day. The Principio Foundry produced cannon for Maryland privateers and the U.S. Navy. As "one of the most valuable Works of its Kind in America," it was an important British objective in the Upper Bay.

"The enemy robbed every house of everything valuable that could be carried away...and what they could not take conveniently they destroyed..."

- Eyewitness account in Baltimore Niles' Weekly Register, May 22, 1813

Nearby places to learn more about the War of 1812 in the Upper Bay:
• Elkton Visitor Center - Information on Elk Landing, and the town that twice fended off the British
• Rodgers Tavern, Perryville

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- Owned by family of Commodore John Rodgers; views of Upper Bay, access to the Susquehanna River
• Historic Elk Landing - Site of Fort Hollingsworth, a defensive earthwork that protected Elkton
• Lower Susquehanna Scenic Byway - 33-mile driving route from Havre de Grace to Perryville, including the historic mill and recreational features at Susquehanna State Park
• Havre de Grace Visitor Center - Information about local 1812 sites
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War of 1812. In addition, it is included in the Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail series list. A significant historical month for this entry is May 1901.
Location. 39° 32.92′ N, 76° 5.451′ W. Marker is in Havre de Grace, Maryland, in Harford County. Marker is on Pennington Avenue. Marker is at the Havre de Grace Visitor's Center. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Havre de Grace MD 21078, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. War in the Chesapeake (here, next to this marker); "O! say can you see…" (here, next to this marker); "The People of Havre de Grace" (a few steps from this marker); No Respect (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Out of the Flames (about 500 feet away); Rochambeau Plaza (about 500 feet away); 'We used to have a race track'
Map of the area image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bill Pfingsten, July 12, 2012
2. Map of the area
(approx. 0.2 miles away); "Dream Race at the Graw" (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Havre de Grace.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on September 27, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 523 times since then and 12 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on September 27, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.

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Sep. 30, 2023