British History in America Series
The War of 1812, the Battle of Baltimore and Fort McHenry
The August to September 1814, British campaign on the Chesapeake comprised of a naval duel with the Chesapeake Flotilla; the burning of Washington, D.C and a combined land and sea attack on Baltimore, the third largest city in the nation. Unlike Washington, Baltimore prepared earthworks, gun batteries and fortifications. Also unlike Washington, the Americans stood strong in defence and repelled the British overland assault and naval bombardment.
On September 13, 1814, the British Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane ordered the Royal Navy to attack Fort McHenry commanded by Major George Armistead. The fort defended the entrance to Baltimore’s harbour and despite pounding the fort with 1,500 mortar bombs and Congreve rockets they were unable to capture it. A final effort to attack the fort from the west with 1.200 Royal Marines with twenty longboats failed and the British commander ordered a withdrawal early on the morning of September 14, 1814. The battle of Baltimore was the instigation of the national song “The Star Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key, a Maryland Lawyer and was set to an 18th English ballad “Anacreon in Heaven” .
Some of the weapons of the gun battery at Fort McHenry consisted of 18 pound cannon and the Initiative visited the fort as a part of their research into the 18 pound cannon that was used by Commodore John Paul Jones on the Bonhomme Richard in 1779 in Filey Bay.
Under the stewardship of Mr Scott S. Sheads, Historian and Historic Weapons Officer of Fort McHenry, the Initiative were treated to a conducted tour of the partial reconstruction of the batteries at the Fort and were instructed on the features and loading and firing of the 18 pounder.
Scott was the consultant for the research into the American flag by the Smithsonian Institute and is researching the history of Fort McHenry. In addition, he is establishing a War of 1812 Archive and has written numerous books.
Click on the pictures
All the pictures are the copyright of Tony Green 2006