- Battle of Baltimore
Infobox Military Conflict
caption=Battle Monument, Baltimore
conflict=Battle of Baltimore
War of 1812
September 12– September 15, 1814
Alexander Cochrane Arthur Brooke
John Stricker George Armistead
20 Cannon [Borneman p.245]
12,000 [ [http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h2499.html Battle of Baltimore ] ]
casualties1=650 killed, wounded or missing [Kimball p.204]
50 captured [Borneman p.246] In the Battle of Baltimore, one of the turning points in the
War of 1812, American forces warded off a British sea invasion of the busy port city of Baltimore, Maryland. The American defense of Baltimore’s Fort McHenryin this battle inspired Francis Scott Keyto compose the poem which would become the national anthem of the United States: " The Star-Spangled Banner."
August 24, 1814, the British Armyhad overrun confused American defenders at the Battle of Bladensburgand marched into the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C.. After burning and looting major public buildings there and forcing President James Madison to flee to Brookeville, Maryland, they turned their attention north to Baltimore, where they hoped to strike a knockout blow against the demoralized Americans. Baltimore was a busy port and was thought by the British to harbor many of the privateers who were raiding British shipping. The British planned a combined operation, with Major-GeneralRobert Ross launching a land attack at North Point, and Vice-AdmiralSir Alexander Cochrane laying siege to Fort McHenry, which was the point defensive installation in Baltimore Harbor.
The British landed a force of 5,000 troops who marched toward Baltimore and first met heavy resistance at The
Battle of North Pointwhich was fought only 3 kilometers from the city. The city’s defenses, under the command of Major GeneralSamuel Smith, an officer of the Maryland Militia, blunted the British advance, killing the British General Robert Ross. Therefore the British army halted their advance and awaited the results of the sea campaign.
At Fort McHenry, some 1,000 soldiers under the command of
Major George Armisteadawaited the British naval bombardment. Their defense was augmented by the sinking of a line of American merchant ships at the adjacent entrance to Baltimore Harbor in order to further thwart the passage of British ships.
The attack began on
September 13, as the British fleet of some nineteen ships began pounding the fort with Congreve rockets (from rocket vesselHMS "Erebus") and mortar shells (from bomb vessels HMS "Terror", HMS "Volcano", HMS "Meteor", HMS "Devastation", and HMS "Aetna"). After an initial exchange of fire, the British fleet withdrew to just beyond the range of Fort McHenry’s cannons and continued to bombard the American redoubts for the next 25 hours. Although 1,500 to 1,800 cannonballs were launched at the fort, damage was minimal. [cite web
url = http://www.bcpl.net/~etowner/battle.html
title = The Battle of Baltimore
publisher = The Patriots of Fort McHenry, Incorporated
archiveurl = http://web.archive.org/web/20070608020336/http://www.bcpl.net/~etowner/battle.html
archivedate = 2007-06-08
quote = ]
After nightfall, Cochrane ordered a landing to be made by small boats to the shore just west of the fort, away from the harbor opening on which the fort’s defense was concentrated. He hoped that the landing party might slip past Fort McHenry and draw Smith’s army away from the main British land assault on the city’s eastern border. Operating in darkness and in foul weather, Armistead's guns opened fire onto the landing party and the diversionary attack failed. [Borneman p.246] On the morning of
September 14, the convert|30|ft|m|abbr=on × 42 ft oversized American flag, which had been made a few months before by local flagmaker Mary Pickersgilland her 13 year old daughter, flew over Fort McHenry.
Brooke had been insrtucted not to attack the American posistions around Baltimore unless he was certain they could be taken. Seeing that Cochrane had failed to subdue the Fort, Brooke withdrew from his posistions, and returned to the fleet. [Borneman p.247]
An American lawyer and amateur poet,
Francis Scott Key, was on a mercy mission for the release of Dr. William Beanes, a prisoner of the British. Key showed the British letters from wounded British officers praising the care they received from Dr. Beanes. The British agreed to release Beanes, but Key and Beanes had to stay with the British until the attack on Baltimore was over. Key watched the proceedings from a truce ship in the Patapsco River. On the morning of the 14th, Key saw the American flag waving above Fort McHenry. Inspired, he began jotting down verses on the back of a letter he was carrying. He composed the words to an old British drinking song, " To Anacreon in Heaven." When Key reached Baltimore, his poem was printed on pamphlets by the Baltimore American. His poem was originally called "Defence of Ft. McHenry." The song eventually became known as " The Star-Spangled Banner." Congress made it the National Anthemin 1931.
Colonel Brooke’s troops withdrew, and Admiral Cochrane’s fleet sailed off to regroup before his next assault on America at New Orléans, Louisiana. Armistead was soon promoted to
lieutenant colonel. Much weakened by the arduous preparations for the battle, he died at age 38, only three years after the battle.
The battle is commemorated in the
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.
References and further reading
*cite book|last=Borneman|first=Walter R.|authorid=Walter R. Borneman|title=1812: The War That Forged a Nation|location=New York|publisher=Harper Perennial|year=2004|isbn=ISBN 9780060531126
* George, Christopher T., "Terror on the Chesapeake: The War of 1812 on the Bay", Shippensburg, Pa., White Mane, 2001, ISBN 1-57249-276-7
* Pitch, Anthony S."The Burning of Washington", Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000. ISBN 1-55750-425-3
* Whitehorne, Joseph A., "The Battle for Baltimore 1814", Baltimore: Nautical & Aviation Publishing, 1997, ISBN 1-877853-23-2
War of 1812
List of conflicts in the United States
* [http://www.warof1812.ca/northpoint.htm Battle of North Point by John Pezzola]
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