Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Today is the Anniversary of the Bombardment of Fort McHenry, Baltimore!
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!