Fort-McHenry

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September 13th 1814: Defense of Fort McHenry

On this day in 1814, the United States army forces at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland successfully defended the city from the British during the War of 1812. British warships bombarded the fort for over 24 hours, but the American defense held fast and by the morning of September 14th the British were forced to retreat due to lack of ammunition.  The event, particularly the sight of an American flag being raised over the fort at dawn in celebration of victory, inspired Francis Scott Key to write a poem called ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’. Key was a witness to the battle because he was aboard a British ship having been trying to negotiate the release of an American prisoner. The poem was eventually set to the tune of a well-known 18th century British song and the anthem soon became a popular patriotic American song, and was commonly used by the armed forces. On March 3rd 1931, at the urging of many patriotic organisations, a congressional resolution was signed by President Hoover which affirmed ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as America’s official national anthem.

200 years ago today

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September 14 - Report of Lt. Col. George Armistead on the defense of Fort McHenry, September 24, 1814; Records of the Office of the Secretary of War

In this report, American Lt. Col. George Armistead described a bombardment that continued, largely unabated, for 25 hours. When Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer watching the battle from behind the British lines, saw that the American flag was still waving over Fort McHenry on the morning of September 14, he knew the fort’s defenders had prevailed. He was so moved by their heroism, he wrote a poem, whose words became our national anthem on March 3, 1931.

The First Raising of the 49-Star Flag

In honor of Flag Day, here’s the program cover of the First Raising of the 49-Star Flag after Alaska gained statehood.

Many people mistakenly believe that the first raising of the new 49 and 50-star flags took place at the White House with President Eisenhower. In fact, they took place at Fort McHenry with Secretary of the Interior Fred Seaton presiding on July 4, 1959.

Take a look at the complete program from the Eisenhower Library.

Happy Flag Day!

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The Bicentennial of the Battle of Baltimore, September 12-14, 1814:

Letter from Maj. Gen. Samuel Smith to James Monroe about the bombardment of Fort McHenry, September 24, 1814.

List of killed and wounded from Fort McHenry, September 24, 1814.

National Archives, Records of the Office of the Secretary of War

Following the Battle of North Point, British forces moved on the city of Baltimore and Fort McHenry on September 13, 1814, subjecting the fort to an unrelenting naval bombardment.  (As described in the report by the fort’s commander, American Lt. Col. George Armistead.)

When Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer watching the battle from behind the British lines, saw that the American flag was still waving over Fort McHenry on the morning of September 14, he knew the fort’s defenders had prevailed. He was so moved by their heroism, he wrote a poem,  “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” Set to music, the poem eventually became the national anthem.

In celebration of the Bicentennial, these documents are on exhibit in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives through November 3, 2014

Plus:

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Fort McHenry
East Fort Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland
1900
Unidentified photographer
5x7 inch glass negative
Baltimore City Life Museum Collection
Maryland Historical Society
MC2221 .A
MC2221 .B (with detail)

Happy National Park Week! Celebrate by visiting Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. It’s peaceful, beautiful, and a great place to learn some history. (And it looks drastically different from these views from 1900.)

200 years ago today, British forces began bombarding Fort McHenry in Baltimore’s harbor. The attack continued throughout the say and night. All the lights were extinguished in Baltimore, so the only light was given off by the exploding shells over Fort McHenry, illuminating the flag that was still flying over the fort.

Witnessing the attack from a British ship was American lawyer Francis Scott Key, who was being held captive. Inspired by the sight, Key wrote a poem called “Defence of Fort M'Henry.” His poem would later be set to music and renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

A letter from Maj. Gen. Samuel Smith to James Monroe about the bombardment of Fort McHenry and a list of those killed and wounded in the battle are currently on display at the National Archives Museum’s “Featured Documents” exhibit.

Image: “An aerial view of historic Fort McHenry guarding the harbor entrance… 08/25/1994”

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Human Flag, Star-Spangled Banner Centennial Celebration
Fort McHenry, Baltimore
1914
John Dubas (fl. 1904-1973)
8 x 10 inch glass negative
Arthur U. Hooper Memorial Collection
Baltimore City Life Museum Collection 
Maryland Historical Society
MC9570 A

Human Flag (with text added and masked), Star-Spangled Banner Centennial Celebration
Fort McHenry, Baltimore
1914
John Dubas (fl. 1904-1973)
8 x 10 inch glass negative
Arthur U. Hooper Memorial Collection
Baltimore City Life Museum Collection 
Maryland Historical Society
MC9570 C

Who was E. S. Lloyd?

This print was based upon a drawing by a Corporal E.S. Lloyd.  According to the official compilation of men from Massachusetts who served in the Civil War, an Edward S. Lloyd was a corporal in the 3rd Battalion of Rifles, Massachusetts Volunteers, who arrived for garrison duty at Fort McHenry on May 15, 1861, as part of Company D and remained there until the 3rd Battalion departed for Boston on July 30, where they were mustered out.