Another song about the defense of Baltimore
On Sept. 2, during this years Defenders’ Day at Fort Howard, some of us got to enjoy something unexpected. Thanks to a grant from Maryland Humanities, Dr. David Hildebrand, a musicologist from the Peabody Institute, presented for us another set of lyrics composed to the same tune as our National Anthem, but this one is about the Battle of North Point.
To date, the lyrics of “The Battle of North Point” are known to have been published in 1836 in “United States Songster” and in 1942 in “The American National Song Book”. There may be still an earlier printing waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately, in neither the 1836 or the 1842 is the author identified.
The words of the 14 stanza “The Battle of North Point” as well as those of Key’s 5 stanza composition can be readily obtained online. The tune for which both compositions were written is “To Anacreon in Heaven”, a British drinking song composed in the late 1700‘s and well know in America during the colonial era. Actually, Dr. Hildebrand informed us that there are over 100 known lyrics composed for this tune in America during the late 1700‘s and early 1800‘s.
In comparing the lyrics of the two composition, it appears that the author of “The Battle of North Point” puts more effort into conveying as much historical information as possible than at evoking emotions. In contrast, Francis Scott Key concentrates more on evoking patriotic emotions that on presenting historical information.
This year, the Defenders’ Day event is again the consequence of many members of the Dundalk community volunteering their unique talents under the leadership of the DundalkPatapsco Neck Historical Society. The Defenders’ Day event at Fort Howard not only keeps alive the memor y of the Battle of North Point and the Defense of Baltimore Sept. 12 to 14, 1814, but also educates and informs us about our local and national histor y.