Fort McHenry, Independence Day 2007

National Parks Quest
Note: It’s Flag Day and I’m going over my National Park stuff and on a roll with blogging. Might as well write up this old trip report about a visit to the birthplace of the National Anthem!

Essence of Tampa & Hanover Medley (MP3 file; load it up before you start reading to get the full effect!

On a day trip to Baltimore with Get Out Philly; small but fun group. Had lunch and saw the Aquarium, then went over to see Fort McHenry on the other side of the Harbor.

As we walked up to the fort, we could hear drums echoing from behind the brick walls. As we came up the hill toward the fort, a fife & drum corps was playing a call to arms. The Corps marched out in time with the music and stayed in formation to finish the song as we walked in. With the sun sparkling on the Chesapeake Bay behind and the enormous flag catching plenty of air, it was probably one of the best Independence Day kickoffs I’ve ever had!

The history of the fort was actually pretty interesting. Built in 1802 and shaped like a star, most of the fort’s wartime action was during the War of 1812 and the Battle of Baltimore, on September 13-14, when British troops attacked the city but the troops in the Fort held them off all night long. Francis Scott Key was a prisoner on a British ship in the Harbor during the attack, and wrote a pretty famous song amid the bombardment of the fort during this battle. Fun fact: Key just wrote the lyrics, and the tune was based, somewhat, ironically, on an old British drinking song.

During the Civil War, Union troops occupied the Fort and members of the Maryland Legislature were held as prisoners to keep Maryland from seceding from the Union. They had fairly roomy cells along the outer wall, and we went in some of them. Nearly 7000 Confederate troops were also imprisoned at the fort.

By 1912 the fort was de-commissioned. During WWI, the grounds served as a field hospital, becoming a key surgical center for soldiers returning from battle. In 1939 it became a National Monument and Historic Shrine.
Flag & Cannons
The fort itself displays what life was life during the different periods in the Fort’s history. The music continued as we explored the outside of the Fort and popped in & out all the nooks & crannies. The sun sank a little lower and we watched a park Ranger take the flag down with the help of some Boy Scouts while the musicians played taps. Definitely a great experience. Photos and fancy museum displays are good, but the music took me back a few hundred years and really amped up the learning experience. Time to look up the words to that old drinking song before we head out to dinner at Fells Point!

Re-enactor photos from the Fort McHenry Guard]
Fort & Flag photos from the National Park Service,
Music from Yalesville Fife & Drum Corps


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