By Meghan McCloskey, guest blogger
O Say Can You See the Sights of the War of 1812
Can you spot a star spangled banner? After visiting the sights along Maryland’s Spangled Banner Trail, you will learn to spot the 15-star and 15-stripe flag like the one that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the song that became our national anthem during the War of 1812. Massachusetts has the Freedom Trail, Pennsylvania has Gettysburg, Virginia has Williamsburg, but don’t forget the waters and shores of Maryland for easy access to historic treasures.. By land or by sea, discover why the often over-looked War of 1812 is often called the “Second War of Independence.”
The city of Baltimore was a natural target for the British in the War of 1812 due to its status as the nation’s third largest city, hub of shipbuilding and center for international trade, but today it remains Maryland’s cultural, culinary and financial capitol. Old powerhouses, given a facelift by bold origami structures containing museums and restaurants reflect upon the slate blue water of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. This eclectic background to your visit can be appreciated from your window at Hyatt Regency Baltimore. The Inner Harbor will fill with a parade of international tall ships and naval vessels as Blue Angels fly over-head for the Star Spangled Sailabration, June 13-19.
Cruise the Inner Harbor to the spot where Francis Scott Key watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry from the deck of a ship and jotted down a few lines on an envelope when he saw the flag in the early morning’s light. Jump on the Banner Route of the free Charm City Circulator (starting in June) to visit Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, where brave Americans fought off the British invasion in a 25-hour barrage during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814. Get there by 9:30 am to help the park rangers with the daunting task of raising a colossal American flag to the same staff that once held the original Star Spangled Banner over the land of the free.
Mary Pickersgill was contracted to design the Star Spangled Banner so large that the British would have no trouble seeing it – a magnificent 30-foot by 42-foot symbol of freedom. Take a tour of her home, The Flag House, and dress in 19th century clothes to cook a dinner over a wood-burning stove and create your own flag as she did. Become a historical sleuth to decipher what words Francis Scott Key scratched out on the original document of the National Anthem housed at the Maryland Historical Society.
Put on your eye patch and head to Fell’s Point for a bite to eat, once known to the British as the “nest of pirates” due to the number of privateers based in the area. Everything from crab cakes to baklava has a touch of honey at the Greek-American fusion restaurant, Meli’s Bistro and Patisserie. Watch your pizza be cooked in 90 seconds flat at local favorite, Chazz, owned by Oscar-nominated actor Chazz Paliminteri.
Take the Star Spangled Banner Trail south to Calvert County along the tranquil bank of the Patuxent River to Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum. It’s hard to believe that this marine playground was once a war zone full of British vessels and American military during the Battle of St. Leonard Creek. Imagine it as you take an interpretative hike along the river or see history being made as you watch archeologists uncover and preserve artifacts like mighty cannons behind the scenes at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. You can even discover your own artifact as you assist archeologists sift through dirt to unearth the secrets of the War of 1812.
Across the meandering river at Sotterley Plantation, you will see the contrast between the extravagant life of a wealthy landowner and the humble, floorless hut of the enslaved people dating back to 1703. As historical actors lead you through the grounds, you’ll have the opportunity to step into the shoes of an enslaved person during the War of 1812, faced with the decision to leave the plantation and join the British naval fleets – a frightening choice that many people made.
Dock your ship (or car) at The Back Creek Bistro at Calvert Marina in Solomons and try some local fare caught in the bay. Marylanders say that Chesapeake Fried Oysters or Jumbo Lump Blue Crab cakes are always better doused with a heavy sprinkle of Old Bay Seasoning. Hilton Garden Inn Solomons offers comfortable rooms with an expansive breakfast buffet, conveniently located for exploring Calvert County.
Finish your journey in Annapolis at the U.S. Naval Academy where midshipmen march along the cobblestone paths past stately mint green roofed halls in training to become our nation’s defenders and leaders. The U.S. Naval Academy Museum displays miniscule replicas of the ships of combat in 1812 and an important flag bearing the dying words of James Lawrence to his crew aboard the USS Chesapeake in battle with British HMS Shannon. It reads, “Don’t Give up the Ship”, the Navy’s battle cry that inspired the privateers to secure victory during the war, the words that kept us free for the last 200 years.