Oxon Hill in Prince George's County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
“Rockets on the Hill”
Oxon Hill Farm - Oxon Cove Park
We found three rockets on our hill evidently pointed at our house but fortunately did not reach it” Mary DeButts, writing to her sister Millicent on March 18, 1815
Samuel and Mary DeButts were lucky not to be home when three Congreve rockets landed on their farm. By all accounts, the rockets were terrifying. They spewed flames and sparks in flight, changed direction unpredictably, roared as they flew by, and often exploded overhead, showering down hot fragments and powder.
The rockets were named for their inventor, William Congreve of Great Britain. They were light, had a range of more than a mile, and did not recoil like a cannon, which made them easy to fire from the deck of a ship. Although they petrified soldiers and citizens who had never seen them before, and sometimes caused fires where they landed, they usually did less damage than a cannonball.
Despite Mary DeButt’s worries, the rockets probably were not aimed at her house. They might have been a signal to other British ships anchored some twenty miles away in the Patuxent River.
Congreve rockets have a special place in American history. They supplied the “red glare” that Francis Scott Key remembered as he wrote the poem “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Left: This painting by N.C. Wyeth, By the Dawn’s Early Light shows Francis Scott Key (center) gazing at Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. Image used with permission of New York Life Insurance Company.
Background: Attack on Fort Washington on Potomac, 17 August 1814, watercolor by Irwin Bevan, 1852-1940. Courtesy of The Mariner’s Museum, Newport News, VA.
Erected by National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
Location. 38° 48.178′ N, 77° 0.584′ W. Marker is in Oxon Hill, Maryland, in Prince George's County. Marker is on Oxon Hill Farm Trail west of Bald Eagle Road, on the left when traveling west. Touch for map. Bald Eagle Road is accessible south of the the Capital Beltway (I-95/495) from Oxon Hill Road west of Indian Head Highway (MD 210). Marker is at or near this postal address: 6411 Oxon Hill Road, Oxon Hill MD 20745, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. War Comes to Mount Welby (within shouting distance of this marker); The DeButts Family Comes to Maryland - Mount Welby The Burning of Washington, D.C. (about 400 feet away); Root Cellar (about 500 feet away); Oxon Cove, the Potomac, and the Chesapeake (about 500 feet away); Wheat and Tobacco (about 500 feet away); Why a Brick Stable? (about 700 feet away); The Capture of Alexandria (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Oxon Hill.
Additional keywords. Mount Welby; Royal Navy
Categories. • Notable Events • War of 1812 • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page was last revised on December 25, 2016. This page originally submitted on October 30, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 524 times since then and 57 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on October 30, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 3, 4. submitted on December 24, 2016, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.