Visit the place where the “Star Spangled Banner” was written.
Fort McHenry is a historical American pentagonal-shaped fort on the Maryland coast located outside of Baltimore. Built in 1798, the fort became famous in the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812 when the fort successfully defended Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British navy against all odds. The Battle of Baltimore was the defining moment of the War of 1812. The British were riding a slew of victories and after burning Washington D.C., they set their eyes on Baltimore.
After the land assault on Baltimore was stalled by the American ground defenses, it was now up to the British navy. If the navy ships could get into the harbor to assist the British ground troops, Baltimore would surely fall. However, standing between the British ships and Baltimore was Fort McHenry with its 1,000 troops commanded by Major George Armistead. Thus began one of the longest bombardments in American history. The men were out in the open with no bomb proofs or shelters to protect the soldiers during the attack. A dry moat, about three to four feet deep surrounding the fort was the only place that offered any semblance of protection.
British ships pummelled Fort McHenry with cannons that had a longer range than the ones at the fort, keeping them at a safe distance. Major Armistead commanded his men to continue firing shots back at the ships, to let the inhabitants and defenders in Baltimore know that they would not surrender. After believing they had an inevitable victory, the British naval ships began moving in closer to the fort to strengthen their attack. Once the ships had come within range of the fort guns, Major Armistead ordered an open fire which pushed the ships back after much damage. After an unsuccessful change of attack tactics, the navy retreated, leaving Baltimore and Fort McHenry still standing. The morning of the retreat, a large 30 by 42 foot flag replaced the smaller flag that had flown during the bombardment, signaling the victory over the British. The dramatic events inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem “Defense of Fort McHenry” which later became the National Anthem.
Fort McHenry also played a part in World War l and World War ll. It was designated a national park in 1925, and in 1939 was redesignated a "National Monument and Historic Shrine". Admission to the fort is free for individuals under 16 and $15 for ages 16+. The grounds are open from 9AM - 5PM.