Indian Head is a town located on the Potomac River in western Charles County. During the War of 1812, it was the site of a gun battery commanded by Oliver Hazard Perry, which was erected to hinder the British advance up the Potomac.
Perry had a very distinguished record of service during the War of 1812. In February 1813, he was stationed in Erie, Pennsylvania and established a fleet that could engage the British on the Great Lakes. Perry engaged the British forces and ultimately achieved victory through the bold tactic of sailing directly into the British lines to broadside their ships.
Perry’s victory at the Battle of Lake Erie strengthened the position of the United States in the Northwest, after two failed invasions of Canada. His actions during the battle also gained him distinction as an important military hero.
Perry was already a national celebrity when he commanded the Indian Head battery in 1814. Perhaps his military renown contributed to the claims of the Daily National Intelligencer, a Washington D.C. newspaper, that “there is no doubt but Perry has severely mauled the enemy, and, upon the whole, that his vessels have been so severely handled he will not hastily venture up this river again.”
However, a few days later, the paper was forced to eat its words when it published a letter from Captain Perry to the Secretary of the Navy. In his letter, Perry explained that “the Battery under my direction at the Indian Head, was of too small calibre to make much impression on the enemy.”
Despite the failure to prevent or even hinder the British advance, Perry tried to preclude any criticism for the loss by commending his men for their “usual bravery” and noting that “every officer and man did his duty.”
“The Battles Below,” Daily National Intelligencer,September 7, 1814.
“Copy of a Letter from Capt. Perry to the Secretary of the Navy, Dated George-Town, Sept. 9, 1814,” Daily National Intelligencer, September 12, 1814.
Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Oliver Hazard Perry,” accessed April 18, 2012, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/452624/Oliver-Hazard-Perry.