MJ Adventure Team Goes to MD – Day 6 – Ft. McHenry

It is taking me a long time to tell the rest of the stories about this trip but I want to finish. One reason I do this is that it makes me sort through my photos and jot down some notes before I forget. I also do a little more research into the history part to solidify that in my brain, at least temporarily. That is also why I don’t get too it right away,  because I need the time. I left off in the last post seeing Gettysburg National Military Park and staying in the town of Gettysburg. We planned on two stops on Tuesday before getting to our final destination.

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The first was Fort McHenry National Monument. It’s on that point in the northwest quadrant of the map. Living on the West Coast I haven’t paid much attention to the geography of the East Coast. Until I started trying to figure out where we were going on a map I hadn’t realized how big Chesapeake Bay is and how much water is within the state of Maryland in the form of rivers and marshes.


I was driving this morning so just got a few shots through the windshield. Seeing signs for Washington stood out for me.


This is in Baltimore not far from Fort McHenry. I was surprised at how little traffic we had getting through this industrial area to the fort. In fact, we had little traffic and a relatively small number of people at all the national sites we visited. The wonders of off-season and mid-week travel!


We got to the Visitor’s Center just in time for the 10 minute film about the Battle of 1812 and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner, originally called “Defense of Fort M’Henry”, in which Francis Scott Key described the his sighting of the American flag over the Fort after 25 hours of bombardment by British ships.


The Star Spangled Banner was sung at the end of the film and people stood as the movie screen lifted, revealing the flag flying over the fort. My telling of this doesn’t invoke much emotion, but the film was so well done and the ending so dramatic that when Chris and I looked at each other we both had tears in our eyes.

After that one of the Park Volunteers invited everyone to come outside and participate in a flag ceremony.


Everyone lined up in two rows facing each other.


A flag was brought out of what looked like a large duffel bag and was carried down the line of people. When the entire length was being supported then we all stepped back.


This revealed a replica of the 32′ x 40′ garrison flag constructed by Baltimore seamstress, Mary Pickersgill for Fort McHenry.


Major George Armistead, who commissioned the flag, wanted it to be large enough “that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance.” IMG_9573

We learned that the original flag, which is in the Smithsonian, was made of dyed English wool, except for the stars which were cotton (and are 2′ across!). There were 15 stripes, each 24″, because in 1794 Congress had approved two additional stripes for Vermont and Kentucky be added to the original 13. It wasn’t until 1818 that the stripes were reduced back to 13 to represent the original colonies and a star was added for each new state.


As the Park volunteer tested our new-found knowledge of the flag we rolled it back up stripe-by-stripe. We were then encouraged to learn more at the Fort.


Mary Pickersgill made two flags, the large garrison flag and a smaller storm flag, 17′ x 25′.


That was the one flying on this day. They use the larger flag on days with less wind.

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As we walked to the fort we saw this couple, an interesting contrast with the buildings in the background.

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Inside the Fort, many of the rooms on the lower floor have more information and interpretive displays.


I wonder what how you’d know!


I thought it was interesting to get this perspective. The glass case encloses part of the original oak cross-brace that was underground and anchored the original flagpole. The replica cross-brace above gives perspective of the size and the depth of the lower section.Ft. McHenry-18

The fort is star-shaped. These cannons point down the Patapsco River where the British bomb ships were stationed and toward Chesapeake Bay beyond.

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We could easily have spent more time at the Fort, absorbing more of it’s history, and driven around Baltimore to see the other relevant sites, but that will have to be on the list for a future visit.

Places to go. More things to see. Stay tuned.