|Fort McHenry is forever associated with Francis Scott Key’s composition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Built as part of the East Coast defense system, Fort McHenry replaced Fort Whetstone. During the War of 1812, the British moved north to invade Baltimore after burning Washington, D.C. When they failed to take Fort McHenry, their plans were abandoned. Key spent the battle on a small American truce vessel in Baltimore Harbor; and his view of the fort’s flag remaining aloft inspired him to write the national anthem.
The five-bastioned trace design of Fort McHenry, built between 1794 and 1803, is based upon a French design that dates from the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715). The V-shaped outwork opposite the fort entrance is a ravelin strategically designed and placed to protect the entrance from direct attack. Inside the fort are the soldier’s barracks, officer’s quarters, powder magazine and restored commander’s quarters. Fort McHenry served as a prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, and from 1917 until 1923, a U.S. Army General Hospital was established at the fort to serve returning veterans of World War I.
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is three miles from the center of Baltimore, and is readily accessible over East Fort Avenue at Locust Point. Fort McHenry, administered by the National Park Service, is open to the public and visitor information is available at 410-962-4290.
Fort McHenry National Monument
Photos by National Park Service staff