Travel: Fort McHenry Honors War of 1812, Star Spangled Banner


This year commemorates the end of the War of 1812, a conflict that turned on an autumn night outside Baltimore. 

On September 13-14, 1814, the British Navy looked to attack and burn down Baltimore in a major push to limit American expansion. Small Fort McHenry stood at the mouth of the inner harbor — the primary defense for Baltimore. The fort withstood hours of British battering, standing firm until the English fleet retreated. It was the beginning of the end for the British war effort, preserving the northeastern U.S. as we know it today.

During the battle, Francis Scott Key looked on from a safe distance through the night as the battle raged. The next morning, Key saw that the American flag still flew above the fort. He was inspired to write a poem about the survival of that Star Spangled Banner, and our National Anthem was born.

Related: Radisson Serves Tour Through Baltimore

During a tour of Radisson Hotels through Baltimore, travel writers had a chance to visit the Fort McHenry National Shrine during the 200th anniversary year of the battle that inspired our national song. We attended the opening of the fort and museum, including the presenting and raising of a replica of the Star Spangled Banner (as the original is on permanent display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, DC).

The Forest Ranger on duty offered one of us a chance to raise the replica flag. When my fellows hesitated, I jumped in and enjoyed the honor. I thought it was just a cool, bucket list experience until I realized I had to make sure this giant flag never hit the ground. So, it was “…pull, boy, pull…” with all my strength and dexterity until it flew safely over the fort for the day. I admit I embraced some unashamed patriotism that day as that banner was my flag for at least a little while. 

I include a few images from the Fort McHenry National Shrine below — including a closeup of the Star Spangled Banner replica I got to run up the flagpole.