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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".
|Fort McHenry National Monument|
|Location||Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.|
|Area||43.26 acres (17.51 ha)|
|Authorized||March 3, 1925|
|Visitors||635,736 (in 2018)|
|Governing body||National Park Service|
|Website||Fort McHenry National Monument|
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.
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.
The Frenchman Jean Foncin designed the fort in 1798, 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.
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. 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.
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.
War of 1812Edit
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. 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. 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.
The Americans, under the command of Major George Armistead, lost four killed—including one Black 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.
Fort McHenry flag.jpg|thumb|right|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 (1779-1843), a Washington / Georgetown lawyer from Frederick, Maryland who had come to Baltimore with John Skinner[disambiguation needed], an American exchange agent for war prisoners at the request of President James Madison to negotiate the release of Dr. William Beanes, a civilian prisoner of war who had been arrested by the passing British Army after the Battle of Bladensburg which led to the Burning of Washington, the previous August. Key and Skinner sailed down the Chesapeake Bay and met with the British Royal Navy admirals on their flagship anchored near Tangier Island and won Dr. Beanes release. But the enemy refused to allow them to leave until their attack on Baltimore commenced. So they were held in their truce ship behind the fleet and witnessed the two days and nights bombardment during a heavy rainstorm. An oversized American flag of 15 stars and 15 stripes had been sewn by flag and banner seamtress Mary Pickersgill a year earlier at the request of McHenry's commander Maj. George Armistead in her Jonestown home at Pratt and Albemarle Streets and fitting together by members of her family and household the huge pieces on the floor of a large nearby malt house for $405.90 for which she was given an official military receipt. in anticipation of the British attack on the fort. When Key saw the flag emerge intact in the dawn of September 14, he was so moved that he began that morning to compose "The Defence of Fort M'Henry" and later set to the old English tune "To Anacreon in Heaven" which would later be renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner" and soon spread throughout the war weary United States in weeks. By the end of the 19th century it was accepted by the United States Army and Navy as a song to be played at parades and official ceremonies by military units bands and finally become the United States' national anthem after a long civic/political campaign in 1931.
During the American Civil War (1861-1865) 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 or leaned towards secession. The imprisoned included newly elected Baltimore Mayor George William Brown, members of the Baltimore City Council, and the new City Police Marshal, George P. Kane, along with several members of the Police Board along with numerous members of the state legislature, the General Assembly of Maryland, along with several local newspaper editors and owners. By amazing coincidence, Francis Scott Key's grandson, Francis Key Howard, 47 years later was one of these political detainees and wrote about his interesting personal experience. Some of the small brick barred cells used still exist and can be visited at the fort. A drama beginning the famous Supreme Court case involving the night arrest at his estate in the outskirts of the city in surrounding rural 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 of the United States Supreme Court, Roger B. Taney occurred at the sally port gates between Court and Federal Marshals and the commander of Union troops occupying the Fort under orders from newly elected 16th 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.
Spanish-American War eraEdit
World War IEdit
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.
World War IIEdit
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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- Kaufmann, J. E.; Idzikowski, Tomasz (2005). Fortress America. Da Capo Press. p. 144.
- "Rebuilding the Dry Moat". Fort McHenry Guard. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
- George, Christopher T. (2000). Terror on the Chesapeake: The War of 1812 on the Bay. Shippensburg, Pa.: White Mane Books. pp. 145–148.
- "A Moment of Triumph". Retrieved 12 January 2009.
- "Fort McHenry". Retrieved 24 January 2016.
- "The Star-Spangled Banner, 1814".
- "The Star-Spangled Banner: Making the Flag". National Museum of American History. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
- Steve Whissen (October 1996). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine" (PDF). Maryland Historical Trust. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
- "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.
- Rasmussen, Frederick N. (July 3, 2010). "A half-century ago, new 50-star American flag debuted in Baltimore". The Baltimore Sun.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-07-17. Retrieved 2015-08-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Interactive Flag". (color image of flag as it appears after preservation work)
- 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.
- "Star Spangled 200". Star Spangled 200. Archived from the original on March 19, 2015.
- Knezevich, Alison (5 June 2015). "National parks maintenance backlog in Maryland tops $345 million". Baltimore Sun.
- Lossing, Benson (1868). The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812. Harper & Brothers, Publishers. p. 954.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Fort McHenry.|
- Official website
- Fort McHenry Guard
- British Attack on Ft. McHenry Launched from Bermuda
- Fort McHenry is part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network
- Weather & Maps – Unearthed Outdoors
- Baltimore, Maryland, a National Park Service Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
- Ft. McHenry on Google Street View
- 2008 Photo Feature
- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. MD-63, "Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine, East Fort Avenue at Whetstone Point, Baltimore, Independent City, MD", 32 photos, 11 measured drawings, 78 data pages
- C-SPAN American History TV "Birth of the Star-Spangled Banner" Tour at Fort McHenry
- C-SPAN American History TV "After the Star-Spangled Banner" Tour at Fort McHenry