Vol­un­teers make plea to pre­serve Dun­dalk’s his­tory

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By MIKE URS­ERY murs­ery@ches­pub.com

Dun­dalk is rich in his­tor y from events that hap­pened dur­ing the War of 1812, with the Bat­tle of North Point be­ing one of the most no­table events.

Vol­un­teers, like those from Clean Bread and Cheese Creek, give their own time, money and ef­fort to pre­serve that his­tory. Last Satur­day, vol­un­teers were out pick­ing up trash at Bat­tle Acre Park, North Point State Bat­tle­field and the site of the Methodist Meet­ing House.

The site of the Methodist Meet­ing House could po­ten­tially be al­tered in the near fu­ture, be­ing that the property where that site is lo­cated is owned by Prime Stor­age. The busi­ness has plans to build an ex­ten­sion that could im­pact the site of the old Methodist Meet­ing House.

In an open let­ter to Prime Stor­age from this past Fe­bru­ary, the Dun­dalk Re­nais­sance Cor­po­ra­tion (DRC) asked the busi­ness to “re­con­sider ad­di­tional de­vel­op­ment of the stor­age units at your property that would detri­men­tally im­pact the his­toric site of the Old Methodist Meet­ing House and ad­ja­cent wa­ter­way known as Bread and Cheese Creek.”

“While we are work­ing to sup­port ad­di­tional de­vel­op­ment in Dun­dalk more broadly, that progress should not come at the ex­pense of a well-doc­u­mented his­tor­i­cal site, which, once al­tered, is per­ma­nently erased from the land­scape,” the let­ter said.

Prime Stor­age did not re­spond to our re­quest for com­ment.

John Long, the founder and pres­i­dent of Clean Bread and Cheese Creek, said the Methodist Meet­ing House was used as a surgical hos­pi­tal dur­ing the War of 1812. Both Bri­tish and Amer­i­can fight­ers were treated, he said.

“Un­for tu­nately, the [Methodist Meet­ing House] was pur­chased and de­stroyed in or­der to build a stor­age shed,” Long said. “There’s a mon­u­ment there that has long been ne­glected. When we first started tak­ing care of it, it was so over­grown that you couldn’t see it.”

Long said that he started Clean Bread and Cheese Creek around 11 years ago, af­ter he took a free tour of his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ments in the Dun­dalk area, of­fered by the War of 1812 So­ci­ety. He was “shocked and de­plored” at the con­di­tion these mon­u­ments were in, he said.

“I de­cided that we should do some­thing about it,” Long said. “It doesn’t mat­ter if it’s been one year or 200 years. If you died de­fend­ing our coun­try, then your mem­ory de­serves to be hon­ored.”

Clean Bread and Cheese Creek vol­un­teers cleaned up at three places that Satur­day morn­ing – the site of the Methodist Meet­ing House, Bat­tle Acre Park, and North Point Bat­tle­field Park.

Long said that Bat­tle Acre Park is one of the old­est es­tab­lished bat­tle­field parks in the US. It was an area that was a part of the Bat­tle of North Point bat­tle­field that was ded­i­cated in 1839 to com­mem­o­rate those who fought in the Bat­tle of North Point on Sept. 12, 1814.

The Bat­tle of North Point is, ac­cord­ing to the United States Army Na­tional Mu­seum, a bat­tle saved Amer­ica. Bri­tish forces trav­eled up the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay in Au­gust of 1814 and made an attack on Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Sev­eral fed­eral build­ings, in­clud­ing the US Capi­tol build­ing and the White House, were set on fire.

The Bri­tish then set their sights on Bal­ti­more, a strate­gic com­mer­cial and naval cen­ter. Com­manded by Ma­jor Gen­eral Robert Ross, three brigades of in­fantry, a com­pany of Royal Sap­pers and a con­tin­gent of Bri­tish Royal Marines made their way up what is now Old North Point Road. They were met by 3,185 Amer­i­cans, com­manded by Bri­gadier Gen­eral John Stricker. This in­cluded 3,000 ci­ti­zen sol­diers of the Mary­land mili­tia.

Seven miles into their march, the Bri­tish stopped to eat break­fast. Ross ex­posed him­self as a tar­get, and two Amer­i­can teenagers – Pri­vates David Wells and Henry McCo­mas – were sent by US Army Capt. Ed­ward Asquith to fire a shot at him. Ross was wounded in the arm, but where the mus­ket round came from is dis­puted. Wells and McCo­mas were both killed in ac­tion shor tly af­ter that in­ci­dent.

Ross even­tu­ally died from his wounds, and on Sept. 12, 1814, Amer­i­can de­fend­ers slowed the Bri­tish ad­vance on Bal­ti­more. The Bri­tish made a siege on Fort McHenry the fol­low­ing day. Fran­cis Scott Key, an Amer­i­can prisoner on a Bri­tish ship, watched the 25-hour siege. His van­tage point was just beyond where the Fran­cis Scott Key Bridge now sits on In­ter­state-695. That is where he wrote “The StarS­pan­gled Ban­ner,” a poem that even­tu­ally be­came the na­tional an­them.

The Amer­i­can flag was raised over Fort McHenry at dawn on Sept. 14, and the Bri­tish ended their assault on Bal­ti­more. Long said that af­ter the War of 1812, vet­er­ans would re­turn to Bat­tle Acre Park on Mary­land De­fend­ers’ Day (Sept. 12) to have cel­e­bra­tions.

“This is hal­lowed ground. Peo­ple died on it,” Long said.

Long said that North Point Bat­tle­field Park is Dun­dalk’s only state park, which was es­tab­lished in 2015 and is dif­fer­ent from North Point State Park, which is lo­cated in Edge­mere. De­fend­ers’ Day is cel­e­brated at North Point Bat­tle­field Park ev­ery year, ex­clud­ing 2020. This year’s cel­e­bra­tion has been canceled due to the eco­nomic im­pact wrought by the COVID-19 pan­demic.

“Some of the trees here were ac­tu­ally around dur­ing the War of 1812,” Long said. “When they were build­ing this park, there were a cou­ple of mus­ket balls that were re­cov­ered from some oft he older trees that were ail­ing and had to be taken out.”

“This is also a large part of the bat­tle­field. It was pre­served with nat­u­ral plant­ings so it has a meadow ef­fect. It’s meant to be a re­spectable park for peo­ple to walk around and be con­tem­pla­tive and med­i­ta­tive, a very low-key and nat­u­ral park.”

Long said that a price can’t be put on his­tory, and once it’s gone, it will not come back. See­ing the way Dun­dalk’s his­tory is ne­glected makes him sad, he said.

“A na­tion’s soul is writ­ten in the blood of its pa­tri­ots,” Long said. “As you get rid of the mem­ory of these pa­tri­ots, and the mon­u­ments of these pa­tri­ots, you lose more pieces of the soul.”

PHOTO BY MIKE URS­ERY

Pic­tured here, vol­un­teers with Clean Bread and Cheese Creek stand in front of a mon­u­ment ded­i­cated to the site of the Old Methodist Meet­ing House, which served as a surgical hos­pi­tal for both Bri­tish and Amer­i­can sol­diers dur­ing the War of 1812. Vol­un­teers cleaned up trash around three War of 1812 lo­ca­tions dur­ing the morn­ing on July 11.

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