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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Historic Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor

Fort McHenry is a National
Monument & Historic

Visitors watch a 10 minute film
about the fort & its important
role in American history.

Fort McHenry is star

This configuration was
common among forts
built in the 1700s.

The entrance is easily secured.

This is the entrance to the

This large, protected room 
is situated beneath the fort.

Soldiers and staff are protected in this highly insulated room during bombardments by enemy forces.  

This small fort has barracks,
 offices & a mess hall within
its walls.

Underground magazines
held the cannon balls &
powder used to defend
Fort McHenry.

Cannons are trained on
Baltimore Harbor.

A 21st century view of
harbor these cannons

This small fort played a HUGE role in the War of 1812.  On September 12, 1814, British troops attacked Baltimore.  They were stopped by Americans who had prepared for the invasion. British ships were sent to Baltimore Harbor to shell the city.

At dawn on September 13 British ships started bombarding Fort McHenry.  The barrage lasted 25 hours.  Between 1,500 and 1,800 cannon balls and rockets were launched at the fort.  Major George Armistead and 1,000 defenders fired at British ship that came into range.

Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer, was in Baltimore to meet with representatives of the British Navy negotiate the release of Dr. William Beanes.  He set out on a small boat, under the flag of truce, to meet with the Royal Navy flagship to complete his assigned task.

Key boarded the HMS Tonnant to meet with British representatives.  The release of Dr. Beanes was secured, but Francis was not allowed to leave the ship until after the British attack on Fort McHenry.  

Through the smoke and haze on the morning of September 14 Francis Scott key glimpsed the American flag, still waving, above the fort.  He wrote the following poem:

The Defence of Fort M'Henry

O! say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming? 
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there -
O! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave? 

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? 
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream -
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havock of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more? 
Their blood has wash'd out their foul foot-steps' pollution,
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave; 
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov'd home, and the war's desolation,
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd us a nation! 
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto - 'In God is our trust! '
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

The British attack on Baltimore failed.

Key's poem was published in newspapers across America and was eventually set to music. People began calling the song The Star Spangled Banner.  In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson recommended that it be played at all official events.  It became our country's national anthem in 1931.

Fort McHenry remained a military installation for many, many years.  Soldiers trained at the fort during the Mexican-American War (1846 - 1848).  The fort became a prison during the Civil War (1861 - 1865). Members of the Maryland Legislature were imprisoned here in 1861 to prevent them from voting on Maryland's Secession from the Union.  The fort was then used as a prison for Confederate following the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.  The 6th U.S. Artillery trained here before shipping to Cuba in the Spanish-American War (1898).  During World War I (1917 - 1919) , Fort McHenry became General Hospital No. 2.  Wounded soldiers returning from fighting in Europe were treated here.  

The fort became a National Monument in 1939.  During World War II (1941 - 1945), a portion of Fort McHenry's property was leased to the Coast Guard for port security.

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