Fort McHenry
Fort McHenry, in Baltimore, Maryland, is a star shaped fort best known for its role in the War of 1812 when it successfully defended Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British navy in the Chesapeake Bay. It was during this bombardment of the fort that Francis Scott Key was inspired to write " The Star-Spangled Banner", the poem that would eventually be set to the tune of the " To Anacreon in Heaven", to become the national anthem of the United States. Designed by Frenchman Jean Foncin in 1798 and named after James McHenry, a Scots-Irish immigrant and surgeon-soldier who became Secretary of War under President Washington, Fort McHenry was built after America won its independence to defend the important Port of Baltimore from future enemy attacks. It was positioned on the Locust Point peninsula which juts into the opening of Baltimore Harbor, and was constructed in the form of a five-pointed star surrounded by a dry moat " a deep, broad trench. The moat would serve as a shelter from which musketmen might defend the fort from a land attack. In case of such an attack on this first line of defense, each point, or bastion, was fortified, so that the invading army would be caught in a crossfire of cannon and musket fire.

War of 1812
Beginning at 6:00 A.M. on September 13, 1814, British warships continuously bombarded the fort for 25 hours. The American defenders had 18, 24, and 38 pound (8, 11 and 17 kg) cannons with a maximum range of 1.5 miles (2.4 km). The British had a range of 2 miles (3 km) with their cannons, and their rockets had a 1.75-mile (2.8-km) range, but they were not very accurate. The British ships were unable to pass Fort McHenry and penetrate Baltimore Harbor because of defenses including a chain of 22 sunken ships, and the American cannon. They were, however, able to come close enough at maximum range to fire rockets and mortars on the fort. Due to the poor accuracy of the British weapons at maximum range, and the limited range of the American guns, very little damage was done on either side, but the British ceased their attack on the morning of September 14, 1814, and the naval part of the British invasion of Baltimore had been repulsed. Only one British warship, a bomb vessel, received a direct hit from the fort's return fire which wounded one crewman. The Americans were under the command of Brevet Lt. Col. George Armistead. They did suffer casualties, amounting to four killed and 24 wounded, including one African American soldier and a woman who was cut in half by a bomb as she carried supplies to the troops. At one point during the bombardment, a bomb crashed through the fort's powder magazine. Fortunately for the defenders, either the fuse was extinguished by the rain or the bomb was merely a dud.

Star Spangled Banner
Francis Scott Key, a Washington lawyer who had come to Baltimore to negotiate the release of Dr. William Beanes, a civilian prisoner of war, witnessed the bombardment from a nearby truce ship. An oversized American flag had been sewn by Mary Pickersgill for exactly $405.90 in anticipation of the British attack on the fort. When Key saw the flag emerge intact in the dawn of September 14, he was so moved that he began that morning to compose the poem "The Defence of Fort McHenry" which would later be renamed " The Star-Spangled Banner" and become America's national anthem.

Prison
During the American Civil War, the area where Fort McHenry sits served as a military prison, confining both Confederate soldiers as well as a large number of Maryland political figures who were suspected of being Confederate sympathizers. Among the imprisoned were Baltimore Mayor George William Brown, the city council, and the police commissioner. Ironically, Francis Scott Key's grandson, Francis Key Howard, was one of these political detainees. Fort McHenry was also used as an artillery training post during this time period, from when the Rodman guns presently located and displayed at the fort originated Jim Bailey, National Park Service.

Hospital
During World War I, an additional hundred-odd buildings were built on the land surrounding the fort in order to convert the entire facility into an enormous U.S. Army hospital for the treatment of troops returning from the European conflict. Only a few of these buildings remain, while the original fort has been preserved and restored to essentially its condition during the War of 1812.

Coast guard base
During World War II Fort McHenry served as a Coast Guard base, helping to defend the port of Baltimore from invasion.

National monument
The fort was made a national park in 1925; on August 11, 1939, it was redesignated a " National Monument and Historic Shrine," the only such doubly designated place in the United States. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. It has become national tradition that when a new flag is designed it first flies over Fort McHenry. The first official 49 and 50 star American flags were flown over the fort and are still located on the premises. The Fort has become a vital center of recreation for the Baltimore locals as well as a prominent tourist destination. Thousands of visitors come each year to see the "Birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner." It's easily accessible by Water Taxi from the popular Baltimore Inner Harbor, which increases its appeal with tourists. Every September the City of Baltimore commemorates Defenders Day in honor of the Battle of Baltimore. It is the biggest celebration of the year at the Fort, accompanied by a weekend of programs, events, and fireworks. In 2005 the Living History volunteer unit, the Fort McHenry Guard, was awarded the George B. Hartzog award for serving the National Park Service as the best volunteer unit. Among the members of the unit is Martin O'Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore, and current Governor of Maryland, who was made the unit's honorary colonel in 2003. Fort McHenry was named after early American statesman James McHenry (November 16, 1753 ”“ May 3, 1816), who was a signer of the United States Constitution from Maryland. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress from Maryland, and the third United States Secretary of War (1796”“1800), under presidents George Washington and John Adams. The flag that flew over Fort McHenry, the Star Spangled Banner Flag, has deteriorated to an extremely fragile condition. After undergoing restoration at the National Museum of American History it is now on display there in a special exhibit that allows it to lie at a slight angle in dim light.

Building Activity

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