Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Today is the Anniversary of the Bombardment of Fort McHenry, Baltimore!

My latest release, Surrender the Dawn revolves around this great historic event!  At noon on September 11th, 1814, the British fleet sailed to the mouth of the Patapsco River and anchored off North Point, just fourteen miles from Baltimore. Arrogantly spurred on by their successful march into Washington DC three weeks earlier, the British planned to attack the “Nest of Pirates”, as they called the city, from both land and sea. Early in the morning on September 13th, while British troops advanced on land from North Point toward the city, five bomb ships and several other war ships maneuvered into a semi-circle two miles from Fort McHenry. Just after dawn, the bombing commenced.

Major Armistead, commander of the fort, would later estimate that in the next twenty-five hours, the British would hurl at them between 1500 and 1800 exploding shells. A few never hit their mark, but most exploded directly over the fort, showering destruction on the defenders. One bomb exploded on the southwest bastion, destroying a 24-pounder, killing Lt. Levi Claggett, and wounding several men. Soon after, another shell crashed through the roof of the gunpowder magazine. By the grace of God, it did not ignite, and Major Armistead soon ordered the barrels of powder removed and stored elsewhere.

While the British land invasion was failing due to the courage and preparation of Baltimore’s militia, the bombardment of Fort McHenry continued throughout the long night. Finally at 7:00 am on Sept 14, the shelling ceased, and the British fleet withdrew. Major Armistead immediately brought down the dripping storm flag that flew over the fort and hoisted in its place the forty-two by thirty foot flag sewn by Mary Pickersgill, the action accompanied by the fort’s band playing Yankee Doodle.

Eight miles away, aboard an American Truce ship, Sir Francis Scott Key, overcome with emotion at the sight of the flag, penned what would become our National Anthem, The Star-spangled banner. (With a little help from Cassandra)

Miraculously, Baltimore successfully defended itself against an attack by the greatest military and naval power on earth. The humiliating defeat suffered by the British changed the course of the war, and three months later, on Christmas Eve, Britain made peace with the United States at Ghent. In Baltimore, the Niles Weekly Register announced the news with “Long live the Republic! All hail! Last asylum of oppressed humanity!”

May it ever be so!


  1. Every time I heard the national anthem during 9/11 ceremonies last weekend, I thought of Ft. McHenry and of Francis Scott Key writing the song and I couldn't help but think how appropriate it was for 9/11 as well--especially all these years later. After reading that scene in your book I'm not sure I'll ever forget it!

  2. Thanks D'Anne! Yes, I agree. Most people think 9-11 was the first mainland attack by an enemy but no. The British marched into Washington DC and burned it to the ground and they attacked Fort McHenry with ferosity. I learned so much while doing my research.

  3. I agree with Anne, thanks to your novel, I can now visualize Francis Scott Key penning our national anthem and it gives me goosebumps. I love all of the history in this novel, MaryLu, and I am grateful to you for making history interesting for me. This blog is making me want to read Surrender the Dawn again. :)

  4. Awesome!
    Yeah, seriously, when I read this I got goosebumps too. =D
    Surrender the Dawn was fabulous!
    Can't wait to reread the series--again. This time I'll read right after the others too get the full effect.
    ~Rebekah xD

  5. You're welcome, Debbie. I love history. Writing Francis Scott Key into my story was so very cool! I enjoyed every minute of it.
    And thank you too, Rebekah!
    If America would only turn back to God.. I know He would bless us like He used to. :-)