Fort McHenry

Joey Kim - Period 3 - Anderson

Description of Place

Fort McHenry is located in Baltimore, and was built between 1799 and 1805. This fort guarded the access to the Baltimore’s harbour. It was a pentagonal ring with five bastions which gave it the shape of a five pointed star. It played an important role in the defence of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Fort McHenry was a stone and masonry fort that was built soon after the Revolutionary War. It was armed with 30 guns and a water battery.

History of Place

During the war of 1812, the fort’s garrison stood firm during a severe naval bombardment by British forces. The successful defence of the fort saved the city of Baltimore and raised American morale. Following the Revolutionary war, Fort McHenry was one of the first forts built. It served as primary guardian of Baltimore’s harbour for more than a century.

During the Civil War, the fort was instrumental in securing Baltimore for the Union cause. From 1917 to 1923, the fort served as U.S. Army General Hospital #2. Around 30,000 wounded veterans received medical care there. During World War II, the fort served as a U.S. Coast Guard training facility.

Importance of Place

Fact 1 The fort's role in the War of 1812

Francis Scott Key, who saw the fort withstand the severe British bombardment, captured the sensations and emotions in a poem which became America’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”. The poem written by Key contributed greatly toward making the American flag the national icon it is today.

Fact 2 The fort's role in the America Civil War

The fort functioned as a prison for suspected Union-sympathetic Marylanders during the Civil War. These prisoners were given one blanket, but received no bedding, eating utensils, and other basics of life. The meals consisted primarily of hardtack, a bland cracker made from flour and water. Because of the role the fort played, it was called “The Baltimore Bastille”. The capture of the fort was important to bring the Union fighters towards victory.

Fact 3 The fort's role in World War I

The fort’s most active period was in World War I. It functioned as a hospital for sick and injured soldiers. Construction of the hospital began in 1917 and the hospital was closed down in 1923. During the period that incapacitated soldiers were in the hospital, spanning from 2 weeks to up to 2 years, soldiers were given courses in many disciplines to build skills to allow them to find a career after being released from the hospital. This was the first serious attempt to give disabled American veterans real employment. The fort’s role as hospital also saw the emergence of women as prominent players in the military. These women were nurses who managed to hold the weight of the soldiers who contracted the flu virus from the nationwide epidemic following WW1.

Importance to Community

The fort was important to the community because it played key roles in large scale conflicts over times. The fort during 1812, played a key role in defending Baltimore. Otherwise, the War of 1812 could have had a completely different outcome. During the World War I, if Fort McHenry had not functioned as it did at the time, many soldiers may have died, or have been left in poverty and unemployed.