Friday, November 1, 2013

Fort McHenry, Maryland

After Gettysburg, my mom went back to her home in Virginia.  The boys and I spent the remainder of the week resting and working on college applications.  (Eek!)  On Friday, October 25th, Steve returned from Texas.  On Saturday, October 26th, our family drove to Baltimore to visit Ft. McHenry.
Ft. McHenry was the site of the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812 against the British.  From 1793 to 1815, England and France had been engaged in a war, and each country tried to prevent American merchant ships and cargoes from reaching the other country's ports. Hence, American neutrality was not being honored. The situation was made hotter by British impressment of American seamen into their forces. Finally in 1812, America declared war against England.  For several years, America was just an annoyance to England since their attentions were mostly turned toward the defeat of Napoleon.  But when Napoleon was defeated in 1814, Britain turned its attention toward the pesky Americans. 
Their first conquest was the Battle of Bladensburg and the burning of Washington, D.C.. As they started to turn north toward Baltimore, they had successful battles along the way which made it seem likely that they would take Baltimore.  However, Ft McHenry held its ground and prevented the British fleet from controlling the Chesapeake Bay.
Another thing that makes this battle so noteworthy is that during this battle our national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key.
Francis Scott Key was on a diplomatic mission to negotiate the release of a captured American on one of the British ships, a mission in which he was successful.  However, his ship was detained in the bay by the British fleet because now he knew about the pending British battle plan!  So while the battle raged during the night, he was unsure how Baltimore would fare.  At morning's light, he spied through his telescope the American flag still waving above Fort McHenry.  He was so elated that he felt the occasion warranted a poem to commemorate the occasion.  The Star Spangled Banner was born.
Although the fort never came under enemy fire again, it was used as temporary prison during the Civil War and a military hospital during World War I before becoming a national park in 1925.

While we were at the fort a brisk wind was blowing, and the star spangled banner was indeed yet waving o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.