The 1814 Battle in Baltimore that brought us the Star Spangled Banner
At dawn on September 13, 1814, sixteen British warships, including mortar boats and a rocket ship, all under the command of Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane, started a bombardment against Fort McHenry and its garrison of 1,000 soldiers under U.S. Major George Armistead.
The drone camera is looking Southeast down Baltimore’s Patapsco River towards the Chesapeake Bay. The viewpoint is above Fort McHenry built in 1802 on Whetstone Point.
To the left is the Northwest Branch leading past Fells Point to the Baltimore Inner Harbor.At the time this branch was blocked by sunken merchant ships.
To the right are the Middle Branch and the Ferry Branch of the Patapsco River.
In the distance one can see the outline of the present Francis Scott Key Bridge (approximately 8 miles away.)
The British ships tried to draw closer to the fort but were driven away by the powerful cannons from Ft. McHenry and other shore batteries. The British fleet drew away to a safe distance at the range of their weapons (approximately two and one-half miles) where the American cannons could not reach them. The mortar and rocket bombardment continued the rest of the day and through the night.
At midnight, the British sent 20 small boats manned by sailors and Marines towards the Middle and Ferry branches to attempt a landing to outflank the defenders of the fort, as well as to cause the shifting of American troops away from their defenses on the land side on Hampstead Hill.The attempt was defeated by the defenders of the fort and the other shore batteries.
To the left of our view (about 8 miles away, near the Key Bridge), an American truce ship (the U.S.S. President) was waiting the results of the attack.On that ship was a Maryland lawyer, Francis Scott Key, avidly watching the dramatic scene.
At reveille on the morning of September 14, the Americans raised an oversized garrison U.S. flag over the fort as usual.
It signaled, however, to the British commanders that, after almost 36 hours of nearly-continuous cannon and mortar fire, and having caused some damage and casualties in the American fortifications, the American forces were not going to surrender.
Because their land attack on the defenses of Baltimore on Hampstead Hill on September 12 and 13 was frustrated by the lack of artillery support from the fleet, and the sea attack against Ft. McHenry and the other shore defenses was also unsuccessful, the British fleet on September 14 withdrew and sailed down the Patapsco River to re-embark their land forces and sail away towards their next target: New Orleans, which they would reach in January, 1815.
If you visit Fort McHenry National Monument and National Shrine, bring your walking shoes! In addition to an interactive museum, there are acres of ground to stroll after you’ve climbed the battlements and explored the interior of the Fort. The guides there are excellent. Many days have events like a flag raising and interpretive talks about various aspects of fort life during the various conflicts when it was active (1802-1925). The current layout of Fort McHenry is as it would have been seen during the Civil War.
“Fort McHenry” [Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Baltimore, MD](National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior brochure, 2002.)
“The War of 1812 in the Baltimore Region” (Baltimore National Heritage Area, State of Maryland brochure, ????.)
“Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine” (Evelyn Hill Corporation: Baltimore, MD, 2012.)
Eshelman, Ralph E. “A Travel Guide to the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake” (Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, MD, 2011.)
Neimayer. Charles P.The Chesapeake Campaign 1813-1814.[The U.S. Army Campaigns of the War of 1812] (Center of Military History, United States Army: Washington, D.C., 2014) (CMH Pub. 74-5.)
Guillermo L Bosch MD Baltimore Mar 27, 2023 Heroes Parks War & Peace
Location: Baltimore, MD
Guillermo L Bosch Mar 27, 2023
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