I can only imagine the patriotism that was stirred in the hearts of those who saw our Star Spangled Banner as she flew after the British attacks at Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor in 1813. Standing within the fort my heart swelled imagining those brave souls who risked life and limb for their love of country. If you are fortunate to visit the city of Baltimore, you absolutely cannot miss this incredible historic landmark.
Walking from the visitor center to the fort itself we instantly sensed the intense fortifications of the exterior walls. They were massive. The fort is shaped like a huge star to facilitate cannon fire from all sides.Heading inside we passed a secret passage to the magazine-which we learned is a very well fortified space to hold munitions ( and prevent them from detonating which could devastate the fort). Interestingly Joel noted that the chamber that holds bullets for a gun is also called a “magazine”.
Next we entered the interior space which to this day sports a large flag in homage to the original Star Spangled Banner which now resides in The Smithsonian in Washington DC. Inside you can enter into various spaces that illustrate life at Fort McHenry, each with a unique exhibit some with costumed guides to answer questions. In one we saw a typical barracks set up which would house 2-3 men per bed in both upper and lower bunks. In another, we saw an animated presentation of the British attack on land and sea and how the American’s staved it off on both fronts.
Roaming the interior we also saw guides dressed as military musicians one carrying a snare drum and another a fife. We engaged them in conversation and found out how important the music was for motivating the troops and timing attacks. Their uniforms were historically accurate especially in the stifling heat on the day we visited. We found out their uniforms were made of linen and they wore a leather strap around their necks for protection. Surprisingly, the most uncomfortable part of their uniform though was their hat.
We made our way back to the visitor center and took in the museum-like exhibit which was incredibly interesting. We learned about Francis Scott Key who was on a British ship in the harbor during the attacks negotiating the release of an American captive when he saw the huge flag at “Dawn’s early light” and was moved to write our national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner. Sure we have all learned this history in a book but seeing it all in person makes it come alive. Most importantly, visiting Fort McHenry made us come to appreciate the sacrifices of those brave soldiers and what it meant then and now to serve and protect our country and the freedoms we hold dear. Definitely a DO NOT MISS!!