Fort McHenry

Baltimore, Maryland

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This is a short walk that’s long on history and rather unforgettable as a result. It was here that Francis Scott Key, one of Maryland’s most famous native sons, penned the poem that would become the American national anthem. Fearing a British attack after our Declaration of Independence, the citizens of Baltimore hastily constructed an earthen fort, Fort Whetstone, on the banks of the Patapsco River. The attack never materialized, but the spot continued to be recognized as particularly strategic. Construction on a more permanent fort with masonry walls began in 1798 and was completed in 1803. It was named after James McHenry, America’s second Secretary of War. It was in the War of 1812 that the fort shined brightest and gave Americans a rallying point that stirs emotions to this day. The feared British attack from decades earlier materialized on September 13–14, 1814. The British had already marched on Washington, burned the Capitol, and now set their sights on Baltimore, then America’s third-largest city and occupying a prime location. Key, on a British warship in the harbor to negotiate the release of Marylander Dr. William Beanes, listened to the bombardment through the night and was shocked and thrilled to see the American flag, that “starspangled banner,” still waving come morning. One thousand brave Americans had repelled the attack, and the fledging nation was on its way to a future of unprecedented prosperity and might. Today Fort McHenry is the only attraction in the National Park System administered as both a Historic Shrine and a National Monument.

Fort McHenry Professional Review and Guide

"This is a short walk that’s long on history and rather unforgettable as a result. It was here that Francis Scott Key, one of Maryland’s most famous native sons, penned the poem that would become the American national anthem. Fearing a British attack after our Declaration of Independence, the citizens of Baltimore hastily constructed an earthen fort, Fort Whetstone, on the banks of the Patapsco River. The attack never materialized, but the spot continued to be recognized as particularly strategic. Construction on a more permanent fort with masonry walls began in 1798 and was completed in 1803. It was named after James McHenry, America’s second Secretary of War. It was in the War of 1812 that the fort shined brightest and gave Americans a rallying point that stirs emotions to this day. The feared British attack from decades earlier materialized on September 13–14, 1814. The British had already marched on Washington, burned the Capitol, and now set their sights on Baltimore, then America’s third-largest city and occupying a prime location. Key, on a British warship in the harbor to negotiate the release of Marylander Dr. William Beanes, listened to the bombardment through the night and was shocked and thrilled to see the American flag, that “starspangled banner,” still waving come morning. One thousand brave Americans had repelled the attack, and the fledging nation was on its way to a future of unprecedented prosperity and might. Today Fort McHenry is the only attraction in the National Park System administered as both a Historic Shrine and a National Monument."

Activity Type: Walking
Nearby City: Baltimore
Distance: 1
Trail Type: Shuttle
Skill Level: Easy
Season: Year-round

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Jun 2018