Leading up to the Battle of Bladensburg, the British came ashore off the Patuxent River. They landed in Benedict (Charles County) first, but then came ashore in Nottingham in Prince George’s County. This drive – and biking route – is a pleasant way to explore the history of the area, but also see some pristine agricultural landscapes in Prince George’s County.
The best way to experience this ride, which is very bike friendly, is from the Upper Marlboro area moving south. This route follows the British invasion in reverse. Starting out of Upper Marlboro (see the Upper Marlboro Walking Tour) head south and east on Old Crain Highway. Intersect with US Route 301 (modern Crain Highway). Turn left on to Croom Road (Maryland Route 382). You are now on the same route the British would have taken.
One of the interesting stops along the way is Mount Calvert Historical and Archaeological Park (16302 Mount Calvert Road, Upper Marlboro MD; 301-627-1286). This plantation house, circa 1790, has amazing views of the Patuxent River and also is a great place to launch a canoe or kayak. The Royal Marines disembarked here to join the British Army marching toward Upper Marlboro. This site was once the site of Charles Town, a tobacco port, and the ongoing archaeological work is trying to discover much of this landscape.
Continuing south on Croom Road, another potential stop is Jug Bay Natural Area, accessible via Croom Airport Road. (Croom Airport is a historic African American owned and operated airfield.)
Further south, is St. Thomas Episcopal Parish. This church, was the home church of Anglican Bishop Thomas John Claggett and the possible site of seven British soldiers. These locations may be the flat, concrete squares along the Berry family plot. (There are no public hours at St. Thomas, but the grounds are open.) Turn left at St. Thomas and follow St. Thomas Church Road until it makes a sharp right and becomes Fenno Road.
Fenno Road, is the historic road that the British followed, looking much as it did in 1814. Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary is accessible from this road. Fenno Road intersects with Nottingham Road. Take a left and you will arrive in the community of Nottingham. Signage can be found at the historic Nottingham School (17400 Nottingham Road, Upper Marlboro, MD) and a canoe launch under the Patuxent Riverkeeper is planned. The U.S. Chesapeake Flotilla (under Joshua Barney) was here in July and August, but was abandoned when the British arrived. Residents of the town left so quickly, the story goes, that break was left baking in the oven.
Although the first landing of the British were in the small town of Benedict, just across the border in Charles County (Southern Maryland Heritage Area), just north of the landing, the British raided Magruders Landing and burned the warehouse. Although today there are just some pilings, these are post-1812. Following Croom Road (Maryland Route 382) north and turn right into Nottingham Road.