Fort McHenry celebrates the 200th anniversary of the defense of Baltimore in 2014. This defense, immortalized in a poem that evolved into the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, saved the most important seaport in the United States at the time, and helped the nation recover from the embarrassment of the burning of Washington, DC.
Three National Park Service rangers film an educational video at the external battery of Fort McHenry. These three large muzzle-loading cannon are typical of the type used at Fort McHenry during the British bombardment on Sept. 13-14, 1814. The radios, cameras, wrist watches, etc., are not from this era.
The earthen berm in front of the battery was designed to absorb the force of any enemy fire shot at the battery. These external batteries were intended to make attacking the fort, and Baltimore, more difficult.
From outside the fort, you can see the top of one of the brick barracks on the left, posing tourists on top of the outer wall, and the 15-star, 15-stripe flag atop the flag pole.
The flag is just inside the star-shaped fort. The entrance is protected by a long passageway, several heavy doors, and a short, removable bridge.
The barracks at Fort McHenry are constructed of brick. This shallow brick fireplace could provide some measure of heat. Fortunately, a fire extinguisher is handy…
British ships approaching Baltimore from Chesapeake Bay would have found the external batteries hard to target. Unfortunately, the berms provided no protection from plunging fire.
As Fort McHenry sticks out into Baltimore Harbor, surrounded on three sides by brackish salt water, it wasn’t possible to have an underground magazine. Fort McHenry features a large above-ground magazine with a brick exterior and thick walls. Inside, wooden walls and flooring reduce the chance of sparks setting off the black powder.
Several iron and brass cannon are on display at Fort McHenry. These muzzle-loading cannon were designed for use on ships as they were too unwieldy for use on land — except in forts.
Flying over Fort McHenry during the British bombardment was the Great Garrison Flag, a 15-star, 15-stripe flag 30 by 42 feet. This flag was sewn in Baltimore by Mary Young Pickersgill. The original flag, now commonly called the Star Spangled Banner, is preserved at the Smithsonian Museum of National History in Washington, DC.