Fort McHenry

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Fort McHenry National Monument
FortMcHenryAerialView.jpg
Location Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Coordinates 39°15′47″N76°34′48″W / 39.26306°N 76.58000°W / 39.26306; -76.58000 Coordinates: 39°15′47″N76°34′48″W / 39.26306°N 76.58000°W / 39.26306; -76.58000
Area43.26 acres (17.51 ha) [1]
AuthorizedMarch 3, 1925 (1925-March-03)
Visitors635,736(in 2018) [2]
Governing body National Park Service
Website Fort McHenry National Monument

Fort McHenry is a historical American coastal pentagonal bastion fort located in the Locust Point neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. It is best known for its role in the War of 1812, when it successfully defended Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British navy from the Chesapeake Bay on September 13–14, 1814. It was first built in 1798 and was used continuously by the U.S. armed forces through World War I and by the Coast Guard in World War II. It was designated a national park in 1925, and in 1939 was redesignated a "National Monument and Historic Shrine".

Bastion fort fortification

A bastion fort or trace italienne, is a fortification in a style that evolved during the early modern period of gunpowder when the cannon came to dominate the battlefield. It was first seen in the mid-15th century in Italy. Some types, especially when combined with ravelins and other outworks, resembled the related star fort of the same era.

Locust Point, Baltimore Neighborhood of Baltimore in Maryland, United States

Locust Point is a peninsular neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland. Located in South Baltimore, the neighborhood is entirely surrounded by the Locust Point Industrial Area; the traditional boundaries are Lawrence street to the west and the Patapsco River to the north, south, and east. It once served as a center of Baltimore's Polish-American, Irish-American and Italian-American communities; in more recent years Locust Point has seen gradual gentrification with the rehabilitation of Tide Point and Silo Point. The neighborhood is also noted as being the home of Fort McHenry.

Baltimore Largest city in Maryland

Baltimore is the largest city in the state of Maryland within the United States. Baltimore was established by the Constitution of Maryland as an independent city in 1729. With a population of 602,495 in 2018, Baltimore is the largest such independent city in the United States. As of 2017, the population of the Baltimore metropolitan area was estimated to be just under 2.802 million, making it the 21st largest metropolitan area in the country. Baltimore is located about 40 miles (60 km) northeast of Washington, D.C., making it a principal city in the Washington-Baltimore combined statistical area (CSA), the fourth-largest CSA in the nation, with a calculated 2018 population of 9,797,063.

Contents

During the War of 1812 an American storm flag, 17 by 25 feet (5.2 m × 7.6 m), was flown over Fort McHenry during the bombardment. It was replaced early on the morning of September 14, 1814 with a larger American garrison flag, 30 by 42 feet (9.1 m × 12.8 m). The larger flag signaled American victory over the British in the Battle of Baltimore. The sight of the ensign inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem "Defence of Fort M'Henry" that was later set to the tune "To Anacreon in Heaven" and became known as "The Star Spangled Banner", the national anthem of the United States.

Battle of Baltimore War of 1812 battle

The Battle of Baltimore was a sea/land battle fought between British invaders and American defenders in the War of 1812. American forces repulsed sea and land invasions off the busy port city of Baltimore, Maryland, and killed the commander of the invading British forces. The British and Americans first met at North Point. Though the Americans retreated, the battle was a successful delaying action that inflicted heavy casualties on the British, halting their advance consequently allowing the defenders at Baltimore to properly prepare for an attack.

Francis Scott Key American lawyer and poet

Francis Scott Key was an American lawyer, author, and amateur poet from Frederick, Maryland who is best known for writing a poem which later became the lyrics for the United States' national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner".

To Anacreon in Heaven drinking song

"The Anacreontic Song", also known by its incipit "To Anacreon in Heaven", was the official song of the Anacreontic Society, an 18th-century gentlemen's club of amateur musicians in London. Composed by John Stafford Smith, the tune was later used by several writers as a setting for their patriotic lyrics. These included two songs by Francis Scott Key, most famously his poem "Defence of Fort McHenry". The combination of Key's poem and Smith's composition became known as "The Star-Spangled Banner", which was adopted as the national anthem of the United States of America in 1931.

History

18th Century

Fort McHenry was built on the site of the former Fort Whetstone, which had defended Baltimore from 1776 to 1797. Fort Whetstone stood on Whetstone Point (today's residential and industrial area of Locust Point) peninsula, which juts into the opening of Baltimore Harbor between the Basin (today's Inner Harbor) and Northwest branch on the north side and the Middle and Ferry (now Southern) branches of the Patapsco River on the south side.

Patapsco River river in Maryland, United States

The Patapsco River mainstem is a 39-mile-long (63 km) river in central Maryland which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The river's tidal portion forms the harbor for the city of Baltimore. With its South Branch, the Patapsco forms the northern border of Howard County, Maryland. The name "Patapsco" is derived from the Algonquian pota-psk-ut, which translates to "backwater" or "tide covered with froth."

The Frenchman Jean Foncin designed the fort in 1798, [3] and it was built between 1798 and 1800. The new fort's purpose was to improve the defenses of the increasingly important Port of Baltimore from future enemy attacks.

Port of Baltimore shipping port in Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore is a shipping port along the tidal basins of the three branches of the Patapsco River in Baltimore, Maryland on the upper northwest shore of the Chesapeake Bay. It is the nation's largest port facilities for specialized cargo and passenger facilities operated by the Maryland Port Administration (MPA), a unit of the Maryland Department of Transportation.

The new fort was a bastioned pentagon, surrounded by a dry moat—a deep, broad trench. The moat would serve as a shelter from which infantry might defend the fort from a land attack. [4] In case of such an attack on this first line of defense, each point, or bastion could provide a crossfire of cannon and small arms fire.

Moat dry or watery ditch surrounding a fortification or town

A moat is a deep, broad ditch, either dry or filled with water, that is dug and surrounds a castle, fortification, building or town, historically to provide it with a preliminary line of defence. In some places moats evolved into more extensive water defences, including natural or artificial lakes, dams and sluices. In older fortifications, such as hillforts, they are usually referred to simply as ditches, although the function is similar. In later periods, moats or water defences may be largely ornamental. They could also act as a sewer.

Fort McHenry was named after early American statesman James McHenry (1753–1816), a Scots-Irish immigrant and surgeon-soldier. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress from Maryland and a signer of the United States Constitution. Afterwards, he was appointed United States Secretary of War (1796–1800), serving under Presidents George Washington and John Adams.

James McHenry American politician

James McHenry was a Scotch-Irish American military surgeon and statesman. McHenry was a signer of the United States Constitution from Maryland and the eponym of Fort McHenry. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress from Maryland, and the third United States Secretary of War (1796–1800), under the first and second presidents, George Washington and John Adams. He married his wife, Peggy Caldwell, on January 8, 1784.

United States Secretary of War

The Secretary of War was a member of the United States President's Cabinet, beginning with George Washington's administration. A similar position, called either "Secretary at War" or "Secretary of War", had been appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation between 1781 and 1789. Benjamin Lincoln and later Henry Knox held the position. When Washington was inaugurated as the first president under the Constitution, he appointed Knox to continue serving as Secretary of War.

George Washington First President of the United States

George Washington was an American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father who also served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. He led Patriot forces to victory in the nation's War for Independence. He presided at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 which established the U.S. Constitution and a federal government. Washington has been called the "Father of His Country" for his manifold leadership in the formative days of the new nation.

19th Century

War of 1812

Bombardment of Fort McHenry Ft. Henry bombardement 1814.jpg
Bombardment of Fort McHenry

Beginning at 6:00 a.m. on September 13, 1814, British warships under the command of Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane continuously bombarded Fort McHenry for 25 hours. [5] The American defenders had 18-, 24- and 32-pounder (8, 11, and 16 kg) cannons. The British guns had a range of 2 miles (3 km), and the British rockets had a 1.75-mile (2.8 km) range, but neither guns nor rockets were accurate. The British ships were unable to pass Fort McHenry and penetrate Baltimore Harbor because of its defenses, including a chain of 22 sunken ships, and the American cannons. The British vessels were only able to fire their rockets and mortars at the fort at the weapons' maximum range. The poor accuracy on both sides resulted in very little damage to either side before the British, having depleted their ammunition, ceased their attack on the morning of September 14. [6] Thus the naval part of the British invasion of Baltimore had been repulsed. Only one British warship, a bomb vessel, received a direct hit from the fort's return fire, which wounded one crewman.[ citation needed ]

The Americans, under the command of Major George Armistead, lost four killed—including one African-American soldier, Private William Williams, and a woman who was cut in half by a bomb as she carried supplies to the troops—and 24 wounded. At one point during the bombardment, a bomb crashed through the fort's powder magazine. However, either the rain extinguished the fuse or the bomb was a dud. [7]

Star Spangled Banner

Flag that flew over Fort McHenry during its bombardment in 1814, which was witnessed by Francis Scott Key. The family of Major Armistead, the commander of the fort, kept the flag until they donated it to the Smithsonian in 1912. Fort McHenry flag.jpg
Flag that flew over Fort McHenry during its bombardment in 1814, which was witnessed by Francis Scott Key. The family of Major Armistead, the commander of the fort, kept the flag until they donated it to the Smithsonian in 1912.

Francis Scott Key, a Washington lawyer who had come to Baltimore to negotiate the release of Dr. William Beanes, a civilian prisoner of war, witnessed the bombardment from a nearby truce ship. An oversized American flag had been sewn by Mary Pickersgill for $405.90 [9] in anticipation of the British attack on the fort. When Key saw the flag emerge intact in the dawn of September 14, [6] he was so moved that he began that morning to compose "Defence of Fort M'Henry" set to the tune "To Anacreon in Heaven" which would later be renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner" and become the United States' national anthem.

Civil War

During the American Civil War the area where Fort McHenry sits served as a military prison, confining both Confederate soldiers, as well as a large number of Maryland political figures who were suspected of being Confederate sympathizers. The imprisoned included newly elected Baltimore Mayor George William Brown, the city council, and the new police commissioner, George P. Kane, and members of the Maryland General Assembly along with several newspaper editors and owners. Francis Scott Key's grandson, Francis Key Howard, was one of these political detainees. Some of the cells used still exist and can be visited at the fort. A drama beginning the famous Supreme Court case involving the night arrest in Baltimore County and imprisonment here of John Merryman and the upholding of his demand for a writ of habeas corpus for release by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney occurred at the gates between Court and Federal Marshals and the commander of Union troops occupying the Fort under orders from President Abraham Lincoln in 1861. Fort McHenry also served to train artillery at this time; this service is the origin of the Rodman guns presently located and displayed at the fort.

20th Century

World War I

During World War I, an additional hundred-odd buildings were built on the land surrounding the fort in order to convert the entire facility into an enormous U.S. Army hospital for the treatment of troops returning from the European conflict. Only a few of these buildings remain, while the original fort has been preserved and restored to essentially its condition during the War of 1812. [10]

World War II

During World War II, Fort McHenry served as a Coast Guard base. [10] Used for training, the historic sections remained open to the public.

National monument

A replica of the 15-star/15-stripe U.S. flag that currently flies over Fort McHenry Ft mchenry 15starflag.jpg
A replica of the 15-star/15-stripe U.S. flag that currently flies over Fort McHenry

The fort was made a national park in 1925; on August 11, 1939, it was redesignated a "National Monument and Historic Shrine," the only such doubly designated place in the United States. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. It has become national tradition that when a new flag is designed it first flies over Fort McHenry. The first official 49- and 50-star American flags were flown over the fort and are still located on the premises. [11] [12]

Today

The fort has become a center of recreation for the Baltimore locals as well as a prominent tourist destination. Thousands of visitors come each year to see the "Birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner." It's easily accessible by water taxi from the popular Baltimore Inner Harbor. However, to prevent abuse of the parking lots at the Fort, the National Park Service does not permit passengers to take the water taxi back to the Inner Harbor unless they have previously used it to arrive at the monument. [13]

Several authorized archaeological digs have been conducted, and found artifacts are on display in one of the buildings surrounding the Parade Ground. These structures, as well as the Visitor Center, have numerous other exhibits as well that show the fort's use over time.

Every September, the City of Baltimore commemorates Defenders Day in honor of the Battle of Baltimore. It is the biggest celebration of the year at the Fort, accompanied by a weekend of programs, events, and fireworks.[ citation needed ]

In 2005 the living history volunteer unit, the Fort McHenry Guard, was awarded the George B. Hartzog award for serving the National Park Service as the best volunteer unit. Among the members of the unit is Martin O'Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore and Governor of Maryland, who was made the unit's honorary colonel in 2003.[ citation needed ]

The flag that flew over Fort McHenry, the Star Spangled Banner Flag, has deteriorated to an extremely fragile condition. After undergoing restoration at the National Museum of American History, it is now on display there in a special exhibit that allows it to lie at a slight angle in dim light. [14]

The United States Code currently authorizes Fort McHenry's closure to the public in the event of a national emergency for use by the military for the duration of such an emergency. [15]

In 2013, Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine was honored with its own quarter under the America the Beautiful Quarters Program.

On September 10–16, 2014, Fort McHenry celebrated the bicentennial of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner called the Star Spangled Spectacular. The event included a parade of tall ships, a large fireworks show, and the Navy's Blue Angels [16]

As of 2015, restoration efforts began to preserve the original brick used in construction of the Fort, primarily through mortar replacement. [17]

See also

Related Research Articles

The Star-Spangled Banner National anthem of the United States

"The Star-Spangled Banner" is the national anthem of the United States. The lyrics come from the Defence of Fort M'Henry, a poem written on September 14, 1814, by the then 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the large U.S. flag, with 15 stars and 15 stripes, known as the Star-Spangled Banner, flying triumphantly above the fort during the U.S. victory.

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Mary Young Pickersgill maker of the Star Spangled Banner Flag

Mary Pickersgill, was the maker of the Star Spangled Banner Flag hoisted over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. The daughter of another noted flag maker, Rebecca Young, Pickersgill learned her craft from her mother, and, in 1813, was commissioned by Major George Armistead to make a flag for Baltimore's Fort McHenry that was so large that the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a great distance. The flag was installed in August 1813, and, a year later, during the Battle of Baltimore, Francis Scott Key could see the flag while negotiating a prisoner exchange aboard a British vessel, and was inspired to pen the words that became the United States National Anthem.

George Armistead American military officer

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Battle of North Point Battle of the War of 1812

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Defenders Day is a longtime legal holiday on September 12th, in the U.S. state of Maryland, in the City of Baltimore and surrounding Baltimore County. It commemorates the successful defense of the city of Baltimore on September 12th-13th-14th, 1814 from an invading British force during the War of 1812, an event which led to the writing of the words of a poem, which when set to music a few days later, became known as "The Star-Spangled Banner", which in 1931 was designated as the national anthem of the United States.

Star-Spangled Banner (flag) flag that flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812

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William Williams (soldier)

Born Frederick Hall who used the alias William Williams as a runaway African American slave who enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812 and who died from a mortal wound while defending Fort McHenry from the British naval bombardment in 1814.

References

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  6. 1 2 "A Moment of Triumph" . Retrieved 12 January 2009.
  7. "Fort McHenry" . Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  8. "The Star-Spangled Banner, 1814".
  9. "The Star-Spangled Banner: Making the Flag". National Museum of American History . Smithsonian Institution . Retrieved 2009-10-05.
  10. 1 2 Steve Whissen (October 1996). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine" (PDF). Maryland Historical Trust. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  11. "Robert G. Heft: Designer of America's Current National Flag". USFlag.org: A website dedicated to the Flag of the United States of America. Retrieved December 7, 2006.
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  13. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-07-17. Retrieved 2015-08-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  14. "Interactive Flag". (color image of flag as it appears after preservation work)
  15. Elsea, Jennifer K.; Weed, Matthew C. (2011). Declarations of War and Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Historical Background and Legal Implications (PDF) (Report). Congressional Research Service. p. 75. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-08-10.
  16. "Star Spangled 200". Star Spangled 200. Archived from the original on March 19, 2015.
  17. Knezevich, Alison (5 June 2015). "National parks maintenance backlog in Maryland tops $345 million". Baltimore Sun .
  18. 1 2 Lossing, Benson (1868). The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812. Harper & Brothers, Publishers. p. 954.