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Joint Base Andrews Features

NEWS | Aug. 22, 2014

Redcoats marched through Andrews to Battle of Bladensburg

By Airman 1st Class J.D. Maidens and John Deshetler 11th Wing Public Affairs

Echoes of battles past whisper through the landscape of many military installations. But, 200 years ago, elements of the British army marched through the hills and woods of what is now Joint Base Andrews.

The redcoats landed in Benedict, Maryland, under the command of Maj. Gen. Robert Ross in 1814 with the goal of sieging Washington's population of 8,000.

After landing, they marched through narrow paths, many of which have since been widened into roads and clearings for electrical transmission lines.

Because of the defensive destruction of bridges by American forces commanded by Brig. Gen. William Winder, the British were directed away from the shorter western road, and had to march northwest then south toward Washington.

The British troops would have baked under thick, red coats while carrying heavy packs and .75-caliber "Brown Bess" muskets in the hot August sun. The slow, arduous march in the heat meant they had to stop frequently, and would have followed creeks to replenish their canteens.

The natural springs on the Belle Chance property, a former plantation that still stands here, would have been a viable source of water and served as a resting area for the large troop movement.

Two hundred years ago, British soldiers could have patrolled the same ground Security Forces does today, camping on the main gate or cleaning weapons where the Jones Building now sits. The British may have fixed wagon wheels on the grass field that is now the flight line, where the Army Air Corps would prepare P-47 Thunderbolts for war and where the United States Air Force now maintains helicopters, jets, cargo aircraft and Air Force One itself.

The landscape of JBA is completely different now; the only thing remaining from the British occupation in 1814 is the forest. The Chapel 2 building did not undergo initial construction until 1854, and the original Belle Chance house was destroyed in a fire and rebuilt in 1909.

The only original elements still around since 1814 are the ponds and some of the trees around JBA. But if the trees could talk, they would confirm that the British marched and camped here 200 years ago.

If the trees could talk, they would tell of more than redcoats, but also the blue and grey coats of Civil War soldiers on the way to war.

They would remember the green jackets of early airmen on what was Andrews Field, and later Andrews Air Force Base.

They see all of the colors of coats on the flight line waiting for the arrival and departure of presidents, kings and popes, and they remember those wounded rushed by to undergo care.

Most of all, the trees of JBA would tell of honor rendered on those who have fallen as they passed through as they themselves stand tall, rooted in the historic ground that makes up JBA.