On August 9, 1832 in a deposition before a Notary Public, Sailing Master Beverly Diggs (c.1783-1862) gave narrative of his role on September 12, 1814 as the British fleet made their appearance that morning entering the Patapsco River and later advanced up to begin the bombardment of Fort McHenry the next morning. Diggs commanded U.S. Barge No. 7 of the blue squadron of the U.S. Chesapeake Flotilla, then under the command of Captain Solomon Rutter, 1st officer of the flotilla. The flotilla’s commander Commodore Joshua Barney has been wounded at Bladensburg on August 24, 1814 and was recovering at his home in Elk Ridge, Anne Arundel County.
At dawn on September 13th at 6:30am upon the approach of the bombardment squadron Diggs and his crew proceeded in their barge,
“…to the wharves & take such [merchant] vessels as were ballasted and could be easily Sunk without regard to whom they might belong and to sink them in the River between Fort McHenry & the Lazaretto [Northwest Branch]; also across the Ferry Branch. That Deponent took three vessels towed them down and Sunk them agreeable to orders; such was the haste in which they were required to perform this duty; that no attempt was taken or any attempt made to save any articles that might have been on board…it was deemed proper to take an Axe & after careening the vessel, cut a hole in her bottom, let her right & sink the Enemy having their Bomb Ships moored & Commencing the Bombardment….As it was evident to all that the obstructing of the Channels was the greatest, if not the only real preservation of the City of Baltimore.”
Of the dozen or so merchant vessels sunk in both channels it was not until the following year in the spring of 1815 were they raised – but by then the winter ice and mud had nearly destroyed them. It would not be until 1832-34 that the vessels owners would be compensated for their loss.