It’s been exactly a month since I visited “the birthplace of the National Anthem” for the 200th anniversary of the “Star Spangled Banner,” but I am only just getting around to writing a post about it. I’m happy to report that my latest manuscript is with the editor so I have time to take care of the things that I put off while trying to get it finished.

I only live an hour or so from Baltimore so it’s sad that I never visited Fort McHenry until this past September. The fort is famous for its role in defending Baltimore from the British in 1814, but its valued service continued well past the night when the sight of the 30-by-42-foot American flag waving in the breeze inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the words that became “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Historical Fiction author Jessica James visits Fort McHenry
Inside Fort McHenry.
Following the War of 1812, Fort McHenry continued to be used as an active Army post, and played a role in the Civil War. Federal troops garrisoned the fort, and it served as a prison for Confederate soldiers and civilians suspected of being loyal to the South. Even Francis Scott Key’s grandson was imprisoned in the fort as a Confederate sympathizer.

During World War I, the U.S. Army converted the fort into one of the largest hospitals in the U.S. Over 100 buildings surrounded the fort with 4,000 patients and hospital staff in residence. Advances in plastic surgery and some of the first programs for disabled American veterans were promoted at the hospital.

Historical fiction author Jessica James visits Civil War fort.
The guns that defended Fort McHenry and Baltimore from the
British during the War of 1812.
After the Army transferred the fort to the National Park Service in 1933, part of it was still used by the Coast Guard as a training base.

Today, Fort McHenry is one of five sites in the world where the U.S. flag flies 24 hours a day. The others are Iwo Jima Memorial, the White House, Washington Monument and U.S. Ports of Entry.

If you ever visit the Baltimore area, make sure you put this fort (built in 1797 and named after Colonel James McHenry, our second Secretary of War), on your “to-do” list.

Part of the festivities of the celebrated 200th anniversary of
the writing of the Star Spangled Banner.
Fort McHenry has been visited by 11 U.S. presidents, including the current one, who, sadly, marred the festive and patriotic atmosphere of the highly-anticipated 200th anniversary celebration when he forced its closure for a fundraiser on the busiest day of the century. (But that’s another story).

I’m hoping to get back to Fort McHenry to make up for the time lost when my visit was cut short. There is a lot of history in the Baltimore area that I have yet to see and experience.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll stumble across a story from the War of 1812 to write about for my next novel.

Until next time,
Jessica James


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