Fort McHenry – named after James McHenry - is a historic fortress positioned on the Locust Point peninsula, built in order to defend the important port of Baltimore from possible enemy attacks from the sea. Constructed after the America had won its Independence, it was made in the form of a five-point star, and surrounded by a dry moat, in line with a defensive design popular in the 17th century.
But only once did the fort come under attack, during the Battle of Baltimore. Beginning at dawn of September 3, 1814, the fort withstood 25 hours of virtually continuous bombardment from the British warships under pouring rain.
Fort McHenry’s multi-layered defense successfully held off the barrage and prevented the British from reaching Baltimore Harbor. The repulsion of British invasion at Baltimore has been hailed as one of the greatest moments in the American colonial history.
It was this pounding of the Fort McHenry, which the Washington lawyer, Francis Scott Key, had been witnessing from a nearby truce ship, that inspired him to pen the poem "The Defense of Fort McHenry." The poem was later renamed "The Star Spangled Banner" and was adopted as America's National Anthem.
After the Battle of Baltimore, Fort McHenry continued to function as a military post off and on for more than 100 years. It was made a National Park in 1933 and has been designated as a "National Monument and Historic Shrine," - the only such doubly designated place in the US – in 1939. Today, Fort McHenry occupies a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
It has become a national tradition that a newly designed flag first flies over the Fort McHenry. The first official 49- and 50-star American flags were hoisted here and are still there on the premises.
Now, Fort McHenry is a prominent tourist destination in Baltimore. Defenders Day – commemorated in September every year to honor the service and sacrifice of Americans in the Battle of Baltimore – is the biggest celebration in the fort. The festivities are usually accompanied by a weekend of programs, events, and fireworks.
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