The Brightside: The Town that Tricked the British
When you look at St. Michaels today it looks like a gorgeous little resort town where many affluent people vacation.
But this town has a gritty past that might surprise you.
It played a big role in the war of 1812.
“This was a big ship-building center at the time. It wasn’t a big tourism draw like it is today. They were actually building a warship in this harbor.”, says local historian and author, Jim Duffy.
The town’s industry at the time made St. Michaels a target of the British Navy since many wars were won or lost on the water during this time period.
So in the summer of 1813, the Brits made their way to Kent Island.
It wasn’t long before they set their sights on St. Michaels.
But locals knew they were in the line of fire, so they immediately started counter-measures.
“The militia blocked off the harbor so they wouldn’t be able to get any boats in the harbor. So the British circled around town and landed outside of town and started moving up by land.”, says Duffy.
Local Historian, Jim Duffy, says the militia gave the Brits a run for their money during the land attack but eventually the red coats decided to retreat and wage an attack by water.
However the plucky and determined militia had a few tricks up their sleeves they hoped would drive the British away… once and for all.
They decided to give the war ships a target that would overshoot the town.
“They turned out all the lanterns and candles and they put lanterns super high up on the masts of ships in the harbor and super high in the trees behind town.”, beams Duffy.
The plan worked.
When the British fleet started bombing the town that night those cannon balls went right over the town.
“They missed with almost all their shots. There is a place here called the Cannon Ball house over on Mulberry Street and it was one of a couple of places that did get hit.”, recounts Duffy.
Historians like Duffy say a cannonball came down the chimney and rolled down the stairs, but didn’t hurt a soul inside.
As far as the British knew, they had ravaged the town, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Unaware of their failure they sailed back over to Kent island.
Somehow this amazing feat never made it into any history books.
“This story didn’t really surface until almost 80 years later when the children of some of the soldiers who fought in the battle relayed the family lore. “, says Duffy.
Today, as you drive into town, a sign greets you saying “Welcome to the Town that tricked the British”.
Its just one small reminder of the ingenuity of the people who took on the British Empire…and won.