Rocket’s Red Glare – The Battle of Baltimore and the Birth of the Star Spangled Banner


12 pounder

Figure 1.  A 12 pound solid shot found during dredging in the Patapsco River near Fort McHenry.

Resting for many years deep in the silt at the bottom of the Patapsco River, adjacent to Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, this 12 pound cannonball’s underwater fate belies its brief moment of glory. For this cannonball was fired during the momentous battle that led to the genesis of our country’s national anthem.

We all know the story from our elementary school days. Francis Scott Key, a Maryland-born lawyer, was inspired by the sight of the U. S. flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the September 1814 Battle of Baltimore.  Although British shells rained down relentlessly for 25 hours, the fort held (Lineberry 2007). Key, watching the battle throughout the night from about eight miles away, was relieved to see in “the dawn’s early light” the American flag flying above the fort – a sign of American victory.  Later that morning, Key penned a poem he entitled “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” Within a month, it had been published in at least nineteen American newspapers (NMAH 2016). Key himself set the poem to music, using a popular English melody written around 1775 and entitled “To Anacreon in Heaven”.  The first documented public performance of Key’s work set to music occurred on October 19, 1814 at the Holiday Street Theater in Baltimore (SI 2016).  The song was later retitled “The Star Spangled Banner”.  Although it was a popular patriotic song throughout the nineteenth century, “The Star Spangled Banner” did not become our country’s national anthem until 1931.

Ft._Henry_bombardement_1814

Figure 2.  A View of the Bombardment of Fort McHenry.  Print by J. Bower, Philadelphia, 1816.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort McHenry. 

 

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The War of 1812 in Southern Maryland


Over the last several years, the sesquicentennial of the Civil War has been garnering a lot of attention. But the years 2012 to 2014 also mark the commemoration of another of our nation’s wars—albeit one that has not received nearly as much notice as the more famous War Between the States. Two cannonballs from the lab collections, recovered from military sites related to the War of 1812, are our window into this war in Southern Maryland.

benedict and st leonard creek cannonballs

The larger cannonball was recovered at Benedict and the other from St. Leonard Creek.

Despite a name suggesting otherwise, the War of 1812 was a conflict between the United States and the British Empire that actually spanned 32 months between 1812 and 1815. Trade restrictions imposed by Britain due to their war with France, the forced recruitment of American sailors into Britain’s Royal Navy and British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion were some of the provocations that led President James Madison to declare war in June of 1812 (Stagg 1983). Continue reading

1812 Fair and Reenactment this Saturday. Come Early and Stay for Tavern Night!


 

By Erin Atkinson

JPPM War of 1812

Each September, JPPM holds a War of 1812 Reenactment. This event honors the battle that took place right on St. Leonard Creek in 1814. This year, thanks to Continue reading

Over and Under: A New Exhibit at JPPM


Whole exhibit

There’s a new exhibit at the Visitor’s Center that will run through October 17. The temporary exhibit titled “Over and Under: Accessories and Undergarments of the Early 1800s” features original pieces that went under or over a person’s outfit to create the romantic look that people associate with the early 19th century. Accessories include a dignified top hat, a man’s tobacco pouch, and showy beaded purses, while rare undergarments will educate viewers about clothes not often seen in period art. Highlights include knit socks with the date “1819” on them, a corset and shift marked with the name of their owners, a “figure enhancer” used to strategically stuff a corset, and a pair of silk garters embroidered with the flirty French warning, “Halte la, on ne passe pas” which means “Stop here, go no further.”

Bust Enhancer

The exhibit is designed to coincide with the JPPM 1812 Fair and Reenactment September 22, but the items exhibited show trends in fashion throughout the first half of the 19th century. The objects are not part of JPPM’s permanent collections, but instead came together based on loans offered by JPPM staff. Sara Rivers Cofield, Federal Curator at the MAC Lab, has been collecting clothing and purses since her grandmother, Charlotte Rivers, helped her buy her first antique purse over 20 years ago. Now family heirlooms from Charlotte Rivers, who died last October at the age of 99, are included in the exhibit. Betty Seifert, JPPM Curator, contributed her great grandmother’s knitting needles to the exhibit, and Michele Parlett, Public Services Coordinator, loaned the top hat and its carrying case from her family’s antique shop, Keeper’s Antiques, in Charlotte Hall, Maryland.

Shirt & Hat

In order to flesh out the themes that the staff collections could illustrate, we turned to independent scholar and collector Mary Doering for some additional pieces. Mary, who teaches courses on costume history for the Smithsonian-George Mason University Masters Program on the History of Decorative Arts, often loans her collections to museums and historic sites, including current exhibits on the War of 1812 and the Civil War at the Maryland Historical Society. By combining the high-quality pieces in Mary’s collections with the personal heirlooms and collections of staff, the exhibit offers rare garments and accessories, eye candy, and personal stories. A little something for everyone!

War of 1812 Reenactment at JPPM


Prepare for battle! On Saturday, September 18th from 10am – 5pm, all ages will enjoy discovering the site of Maryland’s largest Naval engagement. This living history event includes battle reenactments with American and “British” reenactors, camp life, craft demonstrations, and hands-on activities. Admission is $3 per person or $10 per car. And don’t forget about Tavern Night! The same evening from 6pm – 10pm, you can celebrate the “high spirits” of 1812 in our version of a 19th-century tavern. Play games, sing songs, and prepare for lively entertainment! Food and beverage available. Admission is $10 per person or $8 for Friends of JPPM members. Dress in period costume for a $2 discount on admission!


Camp life


Reenactors in battle


Firing a cannon