U.S. Marine Corps Private Charles Dechard stood next Captain Samuel Miller, watching with a mixture of horror and rage as the American army defending Washington, D.C., disintegrated around them. Everywhere, it seemed, frightened soldiers were running as fast as they could from the fields around Bladensburg, Maryland.
The Marines could see the reason for the panic—a line of red-coated soldiers advancing inexorably across the field. Small groups of American defenders clustered around the Marines, taking heart from the grim manner in which the blue-clad leathernecks held their ground. There was nothing else the Marines could do. Miller, Dechard, and the 112 other Marines in Miller’s command knew they were all that stood between the advancing enemy and the nation’s capital.1
To the right of the Marines, 400 men from Captain Joshua Barney’s Chesapeake Flotilla also prepared to meet the oncoming enemy. The flotillamen and Marines were well acquainted. They had fought together since June and had far more trust in one another than they did in the army to which they were now attached.