Nova Scotia Archives

A Nova Scotian Observer at the Burning of Washington, August 1814

Letter from Dr. John Fox, Assistant Surgeon, HMS Majestic, Chesapeake Bay, to his father, Cornelius Fox.  5 September 1814. — Page 3 of 4: 27 x 34 cm.   Nova Scotia Archvies MG 100 vol. 35 no. 105 (accession no. 1983-279).

click to view transcript  next

Some of our Officers had recourse to Mr. Madison's wardrobe where they Shifted their linnen & Remained in the City until six oclock the next morning, from thence our army proceeded to Nottingham where we lay, about 20 miles from Washington after burning A large frigate on the stocks & destroying about 60 pieces of Cannon — after which they Embarked in the different Ships & we are now all together proceeding down the River, our loss in killed & Wounded does not Exceed 200 & that of the Enemy supposed to be near 10 times that Number — another attack is Meditated, but whether upon New London, Annapolis, Norfolk, or where I cannot say, the Remainder of Lord Hills army / about 14,000 / is hourly Expected —

I have now but little Room left for domestic Concerns My other ½ doz. Shirts &c. had not arrived when we saild, the Prize money we had paid was but A small proportion amounting to £8 after Deduction for Miss Supplies with which he furnished us in Bermuda & some small advances he has. A Considerable sum of Prize money belonging to us yet in hands Exclusive of ¼ of the Frigate which will be paid in England — even this small division was not paid until we were almost down to the light house, as we were the last Class that was paid & then beating out of the harbour, so that it was out of my power to pay Mr. Dennison or Bennet — the latter of which I rec.d A line from, but did not think it necessary to call on him until Prize money was paid which was done too late — I still owe [???] [???] Taylor as many others on Board, about 14 for which he promises to wait until I rec.d it in Prize money — Indeed it is out of his Power to do any thing else. — As you had foretold I was teased by Doct Baxter & to appease him gave him an order on Dougan for £20 — well knowing as I told him that it would not be paid, as Dougan has A particular order from the Captn to pay no Bills or Orders — I recd A letter from you by W. Baxter & French Grammar

transcribed by Nova Scotia Archives staff 2014



Dr. John Fox, a native of Cornwallis Township, Nova Scotia, was Assistant Surgeon on HMS Majestic. The Majestic joined the squadron of Admiral Sir Alexander Cochran in Chesapeake Bay for the attack on Washington, D.C., by British forces commanded by Major-General Robert Ross. A large part of the city was burned on 24 August 1814.