The Significance of Fort McHenry & The Creation of The Star Spangled Banner

London, Paris, and New York. I think I am one of the privileged few who have got a chance to visit the holy trinity of the must-visit cities for most of the travelling enthusiasts. New York happened just a few days back when I was on a holiday in US. I was almost in a tizzy and it seems quite surreal! Then I was in Baltimore for the second half of my just-ended US sojourn. Now what do you see in Baltimore? What is Baltimore famous for? Amongst a zillion other things, here is one thing which is a must see when you are Baltimore. I was extremely happy that I could make it there. I am talking about the birth place of USA’s National Anthem – “The Star Spangled Banner” – Fort McHenry National Monument.


What is Fort McHenry?

Fort McHenry is basically a historical coastal bastion fort which is pentagonal in shape, located in the Locust Point neighbourhood in Baltimore, in the state of Maryland. It was built on the site of the former Fort Whetstone. It played a major role in the battle of Baltimore, defending the city and its people. It was one of the turning points in American history. Named after an American statesman James McHenry, it was designed by a Frenchman, Jean Foncin, in 1798. The construction of the fort went on from 1798 to 1800. It is surrounded by a dry moat, which adds to its uniqueness.

What Makes Fort McHenry So Special?

So what does Fort McHenry symbolize? This naval fort has been etched on the minds of the locals and the Americans overall because of its involvement in the Battle of Baltimore. Infact, if there would have been a film on it, this legendary fort may well have been the hero of the film – courageous, full of valour, and never-say-die attitude! The story goes long way back when, on a foggy, cool morning in September in 1814, British warships bombarded the fort for more than 24 hours, continuously. The fort was zealously guarded by the soldiers. However, inaccuracy in the usage of firearms resulted in hardly any damage to property. There was hardly any loss of life too, luckily. So eventually, the next day, when an oversized American flag flew high over the fort, it was a sight to behold for all the citizens of Baltimore. A wave of relief spread across the entire nation as well. Falling of Fort McHenry would have given a huge advantage to the British, which they were ultimately denied.

The Star Spangled banner

The Significance & Emergence of The Beloved Star-Spangled Banner

Fort McHenry’ is significant for another reason, apart from being the guardian fort for Baltimore. A Washington lawyer, Francis Scott Key, who was a civil prisoner of war, was in Baltimore during the battle. He was one of the witnesses to the bombardment of the Fort from his ship. On seeing the American flag fluttering proudly over the fort as dawn came upon the city, he got immensely sentimental. In that emotionally charged moment, he composed a poem named as “Defence of Fort M’Henry”. Interestingly, it was later set to the tune “To Anacreon in Heaven”. Then again it was renamed as The Star-Spangled Banner”. That ultimately became the United States’ national anthem. So in a sense, the American national identity was bolstered here, with the flag and Key’s poem. This a major reason there is huge celebration happening at this fort in 4th if July.

Most Appealing Aspects About Fort McHenry For Me

Being a history enthusiast, I loved reading the small boards all around the area, having information about it. Further, since it was a beautiful sunny day, it was perfect for a day picnic! I mean scintillating views of the harbour with lush greenery all around – what more can you ask for! A walk around the fort is something which is a must do. Oh and yes, you have got to feel the canons! And don’t miss the film about the Battle of Baltimore before you see the fort. I was almost in tears. The views of the harbour from the Fort McHenry are simply mesmerizing. The Atlantic stretches infront of you like a dream. You can see the coastal area dotted with umpteen ships – of different shapes and sizes, and for varied purposes. Inside, a few rooms have been maintained almost as they were, a few hundred years back with restoration work done here and there. That gave me goose bumps – to be where soldiers who fought so bravely for their liberty, rights, and justice lived once. It was a moment worth soaking in completely.

The Scintillating View of the Atlantic At Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

Reaching Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine & Entrance Fees

After reading all the above, I am optimistic that atleast some of you would be interested in visiting the fort, if you haven’t already. So just some details to wrap up! Once you are in Baltimore, you can simply take a cab or can try the local transport. All you have to do is put in your address on google maps and you will find the best way to get there from wherever you are in the city. Depending on where you are in the city, should not take you more than an hour, at the most, depending on the traffic situation!

The entrance fee to the historic area of the park is $10.00 to $15 for adults 16 years of age and older. It is free for children 15 and younger. This fee provides the visitor with a 7-day entrance permit to Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.

Baltimore and its inner harbour seen from Fort McHenry with Canons in the Foreground

All in all, what makes Fort McHenry so special is the fact that the soldiers here stood guard against the mighty British naval force and did not give up. There are of course conflicting and contradicting views about the purpose of the fort later. But the fact remains the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic shine symbolizes never-say-die attitude and a sense of nationalism and bravery at its best. It’s the people who fold fort, in such strategic places, that’s why perhaps; I feel that they are called forts, most of all!

One thought on “The Significance of Fort McHenry & The Creation of The Star Spangled Banner

  1. We were in Fort McHenry last fall – beautiful views. I wish I’d known all of this while we were there 🙂


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