Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Baltimore / Fort McHenry

Historic Fort McHenry
Baltimore Harbor, Maryland
Fort Interior Yard
After our exciting trek across Africa via Baltimore, we headed out to the harbor to see the most famous site from the War of 1812.  The kids didn't seem to share my enthusiasm for visiting historic Fort McHenry? Maybe they were just tired but I had the car keys and even though out voted two to one, we pushed onward.  Fort McHenry was built to defend one of America's most important seaports along the eastern seaboard.  Baltimore was a major economic hub, a port city vital to the young nation's growing economy.  Three weeks earlier the British had successfully invaded the new capital city of the United States of America along the Potomac River.  Originally called Federal City, Washington D.C. became a prime target for the British offensive during the War of 1812.  The District of Columbia was not a geographically strategic target but was the symbol of the new rising American nation the British had recently lost during the American Revolution.   The new capital city was burned to the ground with minimum resistance and the British Army set their sights on the city of Baltimore to the north.    

Defender's of the Harbor
Fort McHenry looked out over Baltimore Harbor with the objective of protecting one of America's most important commercial trade cities.   As the news of Washington's destruction reached Baltimore the garrison of Fort McHenry knew attack was imminent.  The British planned to invade by using the Royal Navy to burst through the front door, by destroying Fort McHenry.  However, the large heavy frigate warships of the Royal Navy could not safely navigate the shallow waters of the harbor.  As a result, they were unable to get close enough to the fort to use their broadside cannons.  Forced to fire from a distance, they pummeled the walls of the fort all night long, hoping to pound Fort McHenry to dust.  The British bombardment lasted for 25 straight hours but when their guns fell silent and the smoke cleared, the large American flag, tattered and damaged, was still there, flying in the coastal wind.

Rotating Gun Batteries
A young American lawyer named Francis Scott Key was aboard a British warship in the harbor working with British officials on negotiations concerning an exchange of prisoners.  He was one of the few Americans to witness the British naval assault from the water.  Like so often happens to most of us, Francis Scott Key was so moved by the sight he pulled out a pen and expressed his intense feelings of nationalism and patriotism by poring out his heart onto paper in the form of a long poem. This happens to me at least once a week!  The Star Spangled Banner was born and was later set to music, becoming our National Anthem.  Play Ball!  After telling the kids this great story from history, I was so moved and caught up in my emotions of the moment that I burst into song!  The kids were soon nowhere to be seen as they retreated and disappeared from view?  Dumbfounded, I strained to regain control of my emotions and then went to see if Katelyn and Tyler were still within the state of Maryland.

 O' Say can you See
Well anyway, after the kids came out of hiding we were ready to head north back to Lancaster County. Now I had the pictures to share with my students during my Fort McHenry lesson presentation and could tell them... I was here!  Maybe I will sing to them... they can't leave / escape the classroom without a hall pass!  It's good to be the teacher!

Guard House Interior

Preserved Flag from Fort McHenry
Smithsonian Institute / Washington D.C.


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