Time Line

Where Baltimore - - Where now -

The sweep of events that be­gan in 1807 with the Bri­tish takeover of a ship named The Ch­e­sa­peake fig­ured seven years later in Bal­ti­more with the re­buff of Bri­tish ships and land forces. The scrappy port of mer­chant wealth and ship­yards, then Amer­ica’s third largest city, wit­nessed and par­tic­i­pated in many key moments dur­ing the fi­nal months of the strug­gle. Soon af­ter, Bal­ti­more erected Amer­ica’s first War of 1812 memo­rial, the 52-foot-tall Bat­tle Mon­u­ment on Calvert Street, now de­picted on the city’s of­fi­cial shield and flag.

1812 The United States, en­raged by Bri­tish plun­der and im­press­ment of sailors, de­clares war against Great Bri­tain. Bal­ti­more, with no in­ter­est in a peace ac­cord, im­me­di­ately iden­ti­fies it­self as an anti-roy­al­ist hot­bed. Cit­i­zens’ schooners seize Bri­tish ships and cargo and earn the city a nick­name—“nest of pi­rates.” JULY 26 A Fed­er­al­ist news­pa­per edi­tor, op­pos­ing war, be­comes the tar­get of a pro-war Repub­li­can mob. Af­ter two nights of mur­der and may­hem, a cit­i­zen mili­tia quells the ri­ots.

1813 When Bri­tish war­ships in­vade the Ch­e­sa­peake re­gion and burn towns and plan­ta­tions, even paci­fist Amer­i­cans ex­pe­ri­ence a change of heart. Bal­ti­more’s cit­i­zens dig trenches around the eastern out­skirts, load guns onto har­bor barges and of­fer speedy, civil­ian ships as armed “pri­va­teers.”

A Bal­ti­more mer­chant, politi­cian and Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War vet­eran Sa­muel Smith, as newly minted Ma­jor Gen­eral, leads the de­fense prepa­ra­tions.

Seam­stress Mary Pick­ers­gill, fol­low­ing Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Ge­orge Amis­tead’s in­struc­tions, sews a flag “so large that the Bri­tish will have no trou­ble see­ing it from a dis­tance.” Pick­ers­gill’s daugh­ter, two nieces and Grace Wisher help her stitch the 30-by- 42-foot ban­ner that troops later raise at Fort McHenry.

1814 The Bat­tle of Bal­ti­more AU­GUST 14 Bal­ti­more­ans see a red glow in the south­ern night sky. The Bri­tish have set wide­spread fires in the cap­i­tal of Wash­ing­ton. AU­GUST 27 The Bri­tish schooner Jane, sound­ing chan­nel depth, sails into the Pat­ap­sco River within sight of Fort McHenry. Cit­i­zens ready for a Bri­tish navy at­tack. SEPTEM­BER 11 Can­non fire three shots from Fed­eral Hill to warn the city that the Bri­tish have landed at North Point, the mouth of the river. On this van­tage point to­day rise mon­u­ments to Ma­jor Gen­eral Smith and Fort McHenry com­man­der Ar­mis­tead. SEPTEM­BER 12 Bri­tish Ma­jor Gen­eral Robert Ross, who or­dered the cap­i­tal burned, en­gages in bat­tle. His 5,000 men over­whelm 3,000 Amer­i­cans, but he falls from a sniper’s bul­let, his death at­trib­uted to Daniel Wells and Henry McComas, young mili­ti­a­men who died in the same skir­mish. In east Bal­ti­more’s Ashland Square, an obelisk rises above their graves.

POW agent John Skin­ner and Fran­cis Scott Key, a 35-year- old Wash­ing­ton lawyer, sail un­der a flag of truce on a mercy mis­sion to a Bri­tish flag­ship an­chored in the Pat­ap­sco River, their goal: res­cue cap­tive Wil­liam Beanes, an Amer­i­can physi­cian who had nursed wounded Bri­tish pris­on­ers. With let­ters of pe­ti­tion from those soldiers, Key wins the doc­tor’s re­lease but is de­tained, be­cause the Bri­tish as­sault be­gins. SEPTEM­BER 13 Shortly af­ter mid­night, 19 ves­sels with apoc­a­lyp­tic names like Ter­ror, Vol­cano and Devastation launch nearly 2,000 can­non­balls at 1,000 soldiers de­fend­ing Fort McHenry. For more than 25 hours, through thun­der and rain tor­rents, the scene re­sem­bles, in one lo­cal’s words, the “por­tals of hell.”

SEPTEM­BER 14 In predawn gloom and eerie quiet, Key and Skin­ner peer to­ward Fort McHenry to de­ter­mine which flag flies. A brief wind lifts and a streak of sun­light il­lu­mi­nates the Stars and Stripes.

1815 MARCH 10 The last of the Bri­tish war ships, the HM frigate Or­lando, leaves the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay. MARCH 18 Cit­i­zens post sig­nal flags on Fed­eral Hill and gather to watch the sleek schooner Chas­seur re­turn to the har­bor.

The famed high-seas preda­tor is soon rechris­tened The Pride of Bal­ti­more. Since 1988 that name graces its near replica (above), a good­will am­bas­sador of­ten docked at 1801 South Clin­ton Street.

1931 Key’s words, de­scribed by John Philip Sousa as “soul-stir­ring,” be­come the na­tional an­them.

2014 At a press con­fer­ence, Gov­er­nor Martin O’Mal­ley re­minds, “In Bal­ti­more, we’ve been do­ing home­land se­cu­rity since 1814.”

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