Camp Selden was named for the Selden family, owners of Salvington, a large 18th century plantation overlooking Potomac Creek in Stafford County built by Samuel Selden’s father, Joseph. His widow, Ann Mercer Selden, lived at the house in 1814 from a life interest in the property, although her son Wilson Cary Selden was the rightful owner.Presumably, Camp Selden was situated on the Selden property, probably on the lowlands closer to Potomac Creek; Selden’s first wife was Mary Thompson Mason, sister of George Mason IV, of Gunston Hall; his second wife was Sarah Ann Mason Mercer, a first cousin; Selden’s son Wilson Cary Selden married Sarah Mason Cooke, a grand-daughter of George Mason IV; Members of Captain Menifee’s command of Virginia militia cavalry from Culpeper County also joined Hungerford at Camp Selden attached to General Madison’s Brigade; Flournoy 1892:407.
Camp Selden was either on the bluffs overlooking Potomac Creek on the Selden property, or down on the floodplain near the Belle Plain plantation wharf owned by Sidney Wishart.
In late August 1814, the British sent warships up the Potomac River to assist in the attack on Washington.As they passed by the mouth of Potomac Creek on the morning of August 25th, they saw a ship at the wharf.HMS Seahorse sent some small boats up Potomac Creek near Marlboro Point in Virginia to engage an American schooner they had observed at Sidney Wishart’swharf at Belle Plains.The squadron did not know if the schooner was armed or simply a transport vessel.The vessel was a 50 to 70 ton “staunch” vessel owned by John Hansbrough.Hansbrough, worried about the British attacking along the Potomac, had sent his wife and children away.
Several Virginia militia units had joined Brigadier General Hungerford’s group at Camp Selden, by then, as many as 2,000 strong.They came down to the shore of Potomac Creek to watch the squadron and saw the guard boats moving towards the schooner.By 9:30 a.m. Euryalus mentioned Seahorse’s boats were still investigating the suspicious schooner, and the guard boats commenced firing at horsemen on the Virginia shore by 10 am.
As the encounter escalated, the British attempted to land at the wharf.Three times the British attempted to set the schooner on fire, but were unsuccessful.After removing the rigging, the fourth try was made and took, and the vessel burned uncontrolled.
However successful the British were in relation to the burnt schooner at Belle Plains Landing but were forced back to their ships by the Virginia militia.
Extract of a letter from General Parker to the Adj. Gen. dated
Potomac Creek, August 25.
Two barges from the fleet (which is now opposite the mouth of Potomac Creek and some above it) attempted a landing today at Mr. Sidney Wishart’s, and were repulsed.One of our men wounded and a small vessel burnt.
From the Coffee-House Books
Fredericksburg, August 25
To Mr. Lynch
Sir, by express just arrived from Potomac Creek, information is received that the enemy are landing, what force is not said.All the troops from this place march in half an hour, other rumours are afloat, but I cannot say any thing that can be relied on…
P.S. I am just informed by a gentleman from Washington that that place was burnt yesterday, at half after 4 o’clock.
Around noon, Euryalus log stated there was heavy firing on shore and between the small British boats and the American schooner, which suggests the boat was indeed armed or at least resisting being boarded by the British.At noon, Meteor mentioned the British boats were engaged off Marlboro [Point] with an enemy schooner and some field pieces.
At 1:40 p.m., a severe storm came from the west and struck the squadron.The same storm was ravaging Washington and causing havoc for the British Army as they were leaving Washington.The ships were tossed around during the storm, as they could not maneuver into the wind, heeling over, masts snapping, sails ripping and supplies falling overboard.Meteor was blown onto a sand or gravel bar and was briefly on her side.Meteor was then blown over the bar into deeper water and righted herself.
Even though the storm lasted less than thirty minutes, the squadron sustained heavy damage from the squall, because the ships could not quickly turn into the storm in the narrow and shallow Potomac River to ride out the storm.Anna Maria reported the damage to some of the ships, mainly the masts.
Seahorse - mizzen mast sprung, jib boom carried away
Euryalus - mast carried away, badly sprung topmast, foremast, and bowsprit
Meteor - mizzen mast and topmast sprung, fore mast carried away, got on shore
Soon after the storm passed, Meteor and Anna Maria reported the American schooner was on fire, but it was not recorded whether the fire originated from the engagement from the British guard boats or from lightning during the storm or whether it had been torched by the Americans to keep it from falling into the hands of the British.The small boats returned by 2:40 p.m. to the squadron.The records do not reveal information on the Virginia militia after the storm passed, indicating the land forces may have been dispersed and no longer a British threat.More than likely, the storm had driven them away from the river as they sought shelter.