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Thousands attend 199th March Across Prince George’s events

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Photo courtesy of Re-enactments of the War of 1812 and other events took place throughout Prince George’s County over the weekend.

Photo courtesy of Re-enactments of the War of 1812 and other events took place throughout Prince George’s County over the weekend.

Published on: Thursday, August 29, 2013

By Tracey Gold Bennett

Have you ever taken a look around your town and wondered how it might have looked 200 years ago?

Well, Maryland Milestones, a program of Anacostia Trails Heritage Area Inc. is working to help residents gain a comprehensive understanding of what life in Prince George’s County was like during the War of 1812.

Through Thursday, the organization is holding several history-themed events to engage and educate the public about the War of 1812.

“This weekend was a series of events that started with the War of 1812 Night at the Bowie Baysox. Fireworks, in-game contests and giveaways were all part of the evening. Even with the rain, we had over 7,500 people participating,” said Aaron Marcavitch, executive director of Maryland Milestones and AHTA Inc.

More than 750 participants took part in demonstations, games and a large battle re-enactment in the annual Encampment at Riversdale on Saturday. Several hundred people attended programs Sunday at Fort Washington Park, Oxon Cove Park and in Bladensburg, Marcavitch said.

A veritable font of information about county history and key battles that preceded the War of 1812,  Marcavitch explained how The March across Prince George’s County and the Battle of Bladensburg were the lead-up to the burning of Washington in August 1814.

“These were the culmination of the British raid on the United States at the end of the War of 1812. War had been raging since 1812 in what is now Canada and the northern border of the United States. Issues related to ownership of Canada and the ‘impressments of sailors’ were some of the causes, but the burning of Washington had quite a bit to do the symbolism and revenge for the burning of York (now Toronto),” he said.

Marcavitch described what then happened when British sailors reached the Patuxent River and marched across the county.

“They marched across the county toward Bladensburg, where they knew of a place to ford the river and where the British Prisoner Exchange Officer lived in Bostwick,” he said. “They marched along what is basically Route 4, then up through Forrestdale and Addison Chapel. They pushed through a hastily assembled group of American troops and militia.”

It was a short-lived battle.

“The key moment was Commodore Joshua Barney’s leadership of Navy troops and Captain Miller’s leadership of Marines at what is now Eastern Avenue. They held back the British long enough for many of the most important documents to be moved,” Marcavitch said.

Soldiers who marched across Prince George’s County were significant in a broader context of U.S. history, Marcavitch said.

“Marching through Upper Marlboro, a local leader — Dr. William Beanes — ordered the arrest of several British soldiers who were looting the area. The commander of the British fleet ordered his arrest,” he said. “Members of the Town of Upper Marlborough requested support from the American prisoner exchange officer, John Skinner, and a lawyer from Georgetown — Francis Scott Key. These two would be on the ships as they approached Baltimore.  Once there, Key would see the battle play out in front of him and he would be struck to write lyrics to a well-known tune—lyrics which started, ‘Oh, say can you see?’”

It was the beginning of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

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