Visiting Fort McHenry was a wonderful experience of connecting with history. We went with some friends from college and timed our visit for one of the Bicentennial events which celebrated the victory during the war of 1812. Although the war began in 1812, it lasted two years and ended in 1814. The Friends of Fort McHenry arranged an annual celebration starting in 2012 and culminating on the 200th anniversary in the fall of 2014.
When We Visited: September 2013
Ages of Kids: 7, 6, 3
Things to Know: The Jr. Ranger Badge is one of the more difficult ones we’ve encountered. You also need to bring your own colored pencils and a pen. Free parking, but its a bit of a walk. Definitely recommend a stroller for little ones.
While Fort McHenry is always there, additional activities included musket demonstrations, bands, plenty of folks in period clothing, and an evening of fireworks. The kids had a bit of trouble with the loud musket demonstrations, but loved exploring the fort and earning their Junior Ranger badges.
While there is plenty of history behind the fort and the War of 1812, our historical realizations focused on three things:
First, the War was all about telling the British: “No, Seriously. We mean it!” The British wanted the American Colonies and came across the ocean to bring us back under the flag of the British Empire. They soon learned that we liked being an independent nation and were not interested in their offer. The war of 1812 also involved the burning of the United States Capital.
Second, was the situation surrounding Mr. Francis Scott Key and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. Mr. Key (a loyal American) was on a British ship out in the bay during the entire event. He was aboard the ship negotiating the release of an American prisoner, and although he secured the prisoner’s release, they overheard the British plans for an attack on Forth McHenry. The British held Mr. Key and his released prisoner on board until after the attack was over. In the morning, Francis Scott Key raised his binoculars and through the smoke saw the Stars and Stripes “gallantly streaming”. He was so inspired, he penned the words to The Star Spangled Banner, a song which would later become our national anthem.
Lastly, we learned that the “Star Spangled Banner” does not references just any American flag. The title specifically applies to the flag with 13 stars and 13 stripes. They fly the Star Spangled Banner at the fort everyday and we were able to help with the lowering of the large day time flag, and the raising of the smaller flag they fly at night.
If you happen to be in the Baltimore area in Fall 2014, be sure to participate in the last Bicentennial Defenders Day Event!