William Henry Winder, (USA) (1775 - 1824)

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About William Henry Winder, (USA)

By the time the War of 1812 began, Baltimore’s William Winder had acquired a reputation as one of the best lawyers in Maryland. When the war started, he was given the rank of colonel and sent to the Niagara under Brigadier General Alexander Smyth. He was promoted, and took part in Henry Dearborn’s invasion of Canada at Fort George in May of 1813.

During the invasion, Winder was sent off with eight hundred men to pursue the British army, which was retreating towards Burlington Heights in Upper Canada. Winder was joined by five hundred troops under Brigadier General John Chandler. Neither general bothered to take proper precautions on the night of June 5, 1813. Shortly before dawn the British counter-attacked. During the ensuing Battle of Stoney Creek both Winder and Chandler stumbled into the British lines and were captured. Winder was eventually paroled back to the U.S.

In the spring of 1814, with rumours abounding about a projected British attack on the American capital, President James Madison placed Winder in charge of the defense of Washington and Baltimore. Secretary of War John Armstrong objected strongly to Winder’s appointment. When Winder wanted to mobilize the militia, Armstrong opposed him on grounds that the militia fought better when called up at the last possible moment.

Once the British landed at Benedict in August of 1814, Winder was finally allowed to mobilize the militia. But he still couldn’t make up his mind whether the British were aiming for Washington or Baltimore. His response was to split his forces and send more than half of them to Baltimore. When it became obvious that the British objective was Washington, the remaining troops were sent to Bladensburg to stop them.

Winder was late in arriving at the Battle of Bladensburg. In his absence Secretary of State James Monroe arranged the militia forces in such a way that they couldn’t support each other. Winder arrived too late to do anything about it. When the British fired their Congreve rockets and charged, the Americans panicked and ran in what would later become known as the “Bladensburg races.” The British entered Washington the same evening.

Winder suffered the brunt of the blame for the burning of Washington, but Secretary of War John Armstrong also received a large share of it and had to resign. Winder went on to serve under General Samuel Smith in the defense of Baltimore on September 13. He then returned to the northern frontier for the remainder of the war.

After the war, Winder returned to legal practice. He never quite lived down his less than brilliant performance in the defense of Washington when he died in 1824 at age forty-nine.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_H._Winder

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Brig. General William Henry Winder, USA's Timeline

1775
1775
1800
February 7, 1800
Age 25
1824
1824
Age 49
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