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The Battle of Baltimore,Fort McHenry

As Fort McHenry mounted its successful defense of Baltimore during the War of 1812, a significant, though much lesser known, land battle was taking place to the east of Baltimore.

Known as the 'Battle of North Point', a series of skirmishes and battles occurred between the British troops and the defending American regulars and militia. These clashes took place over a two day period concurrent with the attack on Fort McHenry.

Washington, D.C. was already in flames, and on this September day in 1814 the full might of the British invasion force, land and sea, was directed at Baltimore. Privateers sailing from this port had done tremendous damage to British shipping throughout the War of 1812 and Baltimore had reason to fear retribution. Fort McHenry, named after a local Revolutionary War hero and completed in 1803 to protect the harbor, was in disrepair and lightly armed. Published reports already were calling Baltimore "a doomed town."

A young Georgetown attorney, Francis Scott Key, was aboard a sloop in the British fleet. He carried a letter from President James Madison asking for the release of a Key family friend who had been arrested by British troops. But before any decision could be made on the request, orders for the attack on Fort McHenry were received. Key was interned until the battle was over and watched in dread as the fury of the British guns was turned on its outmanned defenders.

But the fort withstood the bombardment, and when the British tried to carry it by amphibious assault the landing forces were driven into the Patapsco River. As the guns fell silent and Key saw the American flag still flying, he sat down and wrote the verses which 102 years later became, by presidential proclamation, the National Anthem. Fort McHenry has been restored to its approximate appearance at the time of its finest hour. Many of the buildings in the star-shaped fort contain historical displays. There is an orientation film in the Visitor Center and military drills by the Fort McHenry Guard. And the Star Spangled Banner still waves, 24 hours a day, from the same place Key had seen it.