Hey everyone! Welcome back. Today I’m going to introduce you to the park where I work, and give you a bit of a history lesson on what happened here! This will be in two parts, since as I started typing I realized the amount of information was going to be too much for one post. This post will focus on the War of 1812 and the build up to the Battle of Baltimore.
If you’re like me, you probably didn’t get a ton of history lectures about the War of 1812. I find that an explanation of the larger picture may help when explaining the specific Battle of Baltimore later. The War of 1812 was fought between the United States and the United Kingdom. Since the beginning of the 19th century, Great Britain was at war with France. In order to prevent supplies from reaching each other, both sides blocked any trade from the United States. In 1807, Britain passed the Orders in Council, which required all neutral countries, such as the United States, to obtain a license before trading with France or French colonies. The Royal Navy also began a practice of impressment. Impressment was the forceful removal of American seamen from merchant vessels who were then impressed into the British Navy.
Closer to home, the United States was also attempting to contain the native populations. When the United States successfully won the Battle of Tippecanoe, the natives in the Northwest Territory realized that they needed British support to stop American expansion into their lands. This realization alarmed the Americans, who were fighting for control of these native lands and did not want British intervention. With members of the “War Hawks” in Congress mounting pressure on President Madison, and with so many varying factors fighting for a declaration of war, Madison finally relented. President Madison signed the declaration of war against Great Britain on June 18, 1812.
By the early 1800’s, the population of Baltimore was close to 50,000. It was one of the fastest growing harbor cities in the United States, and with successful shipbuilding and their central location for trade, it was also becoming an important international seaport. When France and Great Britain set up trade blockades, Baltimore was directly impacted. Not only were sailors impressed into the British Royal Navy, but if caught in the blockade all goods on-board were confiscated. Once war was declared, Baltimore’s ship owners began turning their vessels into privateers. Baltimore, expecting an eventual attack on the city, began preparing. A 3 mile wide earthwork was created on Hampstead Hill, and Fort McHenry under the command of Major George Armistead began preparations. A 32-pound cannon batter was upgraded along the water’s edge, fortifications at Lazaretto Point were updated, and barges were stretched across the water to create choke points. MG Samual Smith, commander of the state militia, predicted the route of march along North Point and prepared defensive positions.
In August, 1814, British troops marched on Washington D.C. and easily scattered the American forces, leaving the White House and the surrounding city defenseless. The British burned the White House, and then turned their attention to Baltimore. Privateers out of Baltimore were causing considerable havoc on the British. Hoping to destroy Baltimore’s ship building facilities and stockpiled naval stores, the British marched the 40 miles by land, while simultaneously sailing towards the harbor in Baltimore.
Accused of harassing British troops while marching through Upper Marlboro, Maryland, the British took Dr. William Beanes into custody and moved him aboard HMS Tonnant. Friends of the doctor asked local lawyer Francis Scott Key for assistance in releasing Dr. Beanes. Key sailed out to the British, who agreed to release Beanes…after they attacked Baltimore.
More to come! Follow this blog for updates!