One of the pure joys of being off with my children these summer months is exploring the various tributaries along Chesapeake Bay, as well as the Bay itself. Earlier this week, we revisited North Point and Fort Howard Park along Chesapeake Bay in eastern Baltimore County. My kids had many questions about the prison cells and cannons that, for the most part, have been left to rot away and fade into the all-but-forgotten history of our great state, our great country.
I begin by saying I’m guilty of being 44 years old and not even knowing the park existed. Yet, there it was, with guns pointed east toward Chesapeake Bay, waiting for an attack from some one, at some time.
What I didn’t know is that North Point and Fort Howard were pivotal in the Battle of Baltimore, which was the occasion when Francis Scott Key penned “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
What I’ve learned since visiting the park is this: The British troops launched their assault on Baltimore on September 12, 1814, and their plan was to more through North Point and converge on Baltimore as other British troops attacked Fort McHenry. The Baltimore troops anticipated the attack well enough to actually initiate the battle, and in so doing, were able to take out British General Robert Ross, a stunning blow both militaristically as well as to the morale of the British soldiers. After heavy battling and casualties, the British troops retreated as Francis Scott Key wrote our National Anthem two days later as a prisoner on a British ship with Fort McHenry in his sight.
And to think that we were on the shores of such an important battle fought for the independence of our nation, nearly 200 years ago.
Today, as you can see in the pictures below, it is hardly treasured as such. The entire place is breaking down, and many of the prison cells (built, I believe, in 1896 by the government to fortify the borders along the Chesapeake in anticipation of battles during the Spanish-American War in 1898), are used now for some sort of haunted house event during Halloween. My younger daughter pondered on the way out of the park, “Boy, for a State Park, the State doesn’t do a very good job of taking care of the things it wants to preserve.”
Well said, Madelyn. Well said.