Tag: Defender’s Day

200 years after the original Defender’s Day, we continue to remember the Battle of Baltimore

Today we are sharing the first in a new series of posts from local preservationist Auni Gelles as she works on our new Battle of Baltimore website and soon-to-be-launched app. Auni tells the story of the city’s first Defender’s Day celebration and shares how we are carrying on this legacy of commemoration and education two centuries later.

Since 1815, Baltimoreans have celebrated the bravery of those “Old Defenders” who guarded against the British at sea (at Fort McHenry) as well as on land (at North Point) during the September 1814 Battle of Baltimore. This battle, near the end of the War of 1812, had implications for defense, trade, and perhaps most significantly, the identity of our city and country. The Americans’ success in Baltimore inspired Maryland attorney Francis Scott Key to write “The Defence of Fort M’Henry”—which we know today as our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. Key’s lines, which gained near-instant popularity, transformed the flag from a straightforward military sign into a symbol of American patriotism. The event quickly became an integral part of the city’s understanding of itself in the new republic.

Photograph of the Old Defenders by W. Ashman, Druid Hill Park, c. 1876-1880. Maryland Historical Society, GPVF.
Photograph of the Old Defenders by W. Ashman, Druid Hill Park, c. 1876-1880. Maryland Historical Society, GPVF.

This September will mark 201st anniversary of the Battle and the the 200th anniversary of the city’s the first Defenders’ Day commemorations. Baltimore marked first anniversary of the battle with a ceremony that laid the cornerstone for the Battle Monument—a symbol has appeared on the city seal since its completion in 1825. Anniversaries of this major Battle presented an opportunity for Baltimoreans to recall their city’s moment of national importance. 19th century Baltimoreans celebrated Defenders’ Day annually with parades, artillery salutes, fireworks, speeches, banquets, performances, and, until the last veteran passed away in 1894, reunions of the Old Defenders. President Benjamin Harrison was in attendance for the 75th anniversary in 1889 and witnessed a 15,000-person parade, battle reenactments, and a rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner performed by a 415-piece band and a chorus 500 voices strong. The week-long centennial celebration in 1914 featured an “auto parade,” a carnival of electric lights, a military ball, an outdoor concert, fireworks over Fort McHenry, a display of visiting ships in the harbor, and schoolchildren forming form a human flag (sound familiar?).

A crowd gathers at the Battle Monument as part of the Star-Spangled Spectacular, the bicentennial commemoration of the defense of Baltimore, in 2014.
A crowd gathers at the Battle Monument as part of the Star-Spangled Spectacular, the bicentennial commemoration of the defense of Baltimore, in 2014.

The team at Baltimore Heritage is developing a new platform for exploring the Battle of Baltimore and its legacy, thanks to a grant from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority. A new website and smart phone app will share short place-based stories related to the battle and its revered place in the city’s history. Like Explore Baltimore Heritage, the Battle of Baltimore website will use the Curatescape platform to plot these sites on a map and integrate individual stories into thematic tours. Some of the buildings integral to city life in and around 1814 are no longer extant, but we will seek to tell those stories with period illustrations and excerpts from 19th century publications.

As a graduate student in public history at UMBC, I will assisting with researching, writing, editing/formatting and publishing these stories for my thesis. I will also create blog posts as well as activities for engagement with this content, such as quizzes, lists, and shareable graphics.

Do you have questions about the project? Suggestions for sites to highlight? We’d love to hear your feedback!

Be sure to check out Auni’s 2014 post for the National Museum of American History with the story behind a modest piece of charred timber set on fire by British troops in 1814. You can also follow Auni on Twitter @aunigelles and share your comments on this post in the Bmore Historic Facebook group.

Monuments to George Armistead and Samuel Smith rededicated and celebrated for Defender’s Day Weekend

Thanks to Kathleen Kotarba, Executive Director of Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, for sharing a guest post on the Defender’s Day Weekend rededication of two War of 1812 monuments in Federal Hill Park and the story behind their conservation.

Baltimore from Federal Hill, ca1822
Federal Hill, courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-pga-0019.

Join Governor Martin J. O’Malley, former Senator Paul Sarbanes, Congressman John Sarbanes, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Major General Jeffrey S. Buchanan, Commanding General of the Military District of Washington, and South Baltimore neighbors celebration and rededication of the Sam Smith Monument and Armistead Monument at Federal Hill Park. The US Army 3rd Infantry’s “Old Guard” Fife and Drum Corps, the Maryland National Guard Honor Guard, and the Maryland Defense Force Buglers will perform, accompanied by a Military Retreat and lowering of Federal Hill’s distinctive 15-Star Flag.

Celebrate and Rededicate War of 1812 Monuments on Federal Hill

Saturday, September 14, 2013, 5:00pm
Federal Hill Park, 300 Warren Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21230

The ceremony is co-hosted by South Harbor Renaissance, Inc. and the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, with the cooperation of the Maryland Military Monuments Commission and the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation.

Major General Samuel Smith Monument, 1917

The Samuel Smith Monument was one of several sculptural monuments commissioned in recognition of Baltimore’s Centennial of the War of 1812. General Smith was commander of the Maryland forces that repulsed and defeated the British in the Battle of Baltimore at North Point and at Fort McHenry on September 12-14, 1814. Previously, Smith had been a hero of the Revolutionary War. After his exemplary military career, he continued his public service by serving forty years in Congress including becoming President of the U.S. Senate, serving as Secretary of the U.S Navy, and at the age of 80 serving as the Mayor of Baltimore.

Prominent Baltimore sculptor Hans Schuler received three commissions during the Centennial of the War of 1812, including the monument to General Smith. Schuler’s sculpture artfully presents the strength of the General, standing in his military uniform from the War of 1812. This 1917 monument has been relocated twice and was originally located in the southeastern edge of Wyman Park. In 1953, the monument moved to a park named for Samuel Smith at the corner of Pratt and Light Streets. In 1970, General Smith’s monument was moved to its current Federal Hill Park location, overlooking the grand view of Baltimore’s harbor and skyline.

In January of 2012, the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) determined that structural conditions within the monument’s base required the City’s immediate attention. In Summer of 2013, CHAP engaged Conservator of Fine Art, Steven Tatti, to conduct a comprehensive conservation of the monument, including the necessary reconstruction of the base.

The bronze statue of Samuel Smith was removed and secured to allow for the dismantling of the granite base. The statue of Smith was carefully cleaned and the bronze received a heated wax conservation treatment. The granite sections of the monument base were completely dismantled and placed adjacent to the monument. The existing structural pad was then cleaned and prepped for the reconstruction of the base. The one broken section of granite was repaired prior to reinstallation. The granite sections were gently cleaned to avoid potential damage. The monument base was then reconstructed and repointed, course by course, to restore its stability. It was very important to get each course level and plumb to insure that the bronze statue could be reinstalled securely.

Once the granite base was reconstructed, the bronze statue of Smith was returned the top of the monument. The projected was funded by the City of Baltimore, through CHAP’s Monument Restoration Program in the Department of Planning, with additional contributions of the Maryland Military Monument’s Commission.

Colonel George Armistead Monument, 1882

Armistead's Monument from The pictorial field-book of the war of 1812 (1896), California Digital Library.
The pictorial field-book of the war of 1812 (1896), California Digital Library.

The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore erected the Colonel George Armistead Monument on Eutaw Place on September 12, 1882. Armistead was commander of Fort McHenry during the British attack of September 13-13, 1814. The architectural firm of G. Metzger designed this monument that features the outline of Armistead’s career in the inscription on the shaft. The marble block of fourteen feet rests on a base a foot and a half high. This monument was commissioned as a “substitute” for an earlier ca. 1828 tablet of commemoration that became defaced and destroyed by time.

As with the Samuel Smith Monument, the Armistead Monument was moved from its original location. Designed for its initial installation on Eutaw Place, the monument was subsequently moved to Federal Hill after residents protested that its height did not harmonize with the loftiness of their homes. Today, the strong architectural presence of the Armistead Monument anchors the Federal Hill overlook in close proximity to the Samuel Smith Monument.

In summer of 2013, CHAP engaged Conservator of Fine Art, Steven Tatti, again to conserve the Armisted Monument. The original lower tier of the stacked stone foundation was cleaned and shimmed as needed. The stone foundation, as well as the joint between the foundation and the monument base, was then repointed with an appropriate sand cement mortar mix. The monument itself was gently washed, carefully avoiding damaging the fragile stone. The ornamental fence was then cleaned, prepped and repainted with alkyd black semi-gloss paint. The projected was funded by the City of Baltimore, through CHAP’s Monument Restoration Program in the Department of Planning, with the additional contributions of the Maryland Military Monument’s Commission and the City-wide Adopt A Monument Fund.

This post is based on the September 2013 Monument Project Conservation Report available from CHAP.

Defender’s Day Run & Ride! Two fun and athletic tours to remember the War of 1812 in September

Fort McHenry Bombardment, 1814When Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry as a captive aboard a British ship, he was one of thousands of Baltimoreans who waited anxiously through the night uncertain if the city would fall before the British attack. Baltimore’s endurance through the battle is remembered still today in the Star-Spangled Banner and in Maryland’s annual observance of Defender’s Day.

On our second annual Baltimore by Bike Defender’s Day Ride and our first ever heritage running tour, we’ll explore the people and places of Baltimore touched by that night in 1814. Enslaved men worked on the massive fortifications that still stand in today’s Patterson Park. Recently arrived German immigrants heard the warning bells ring out from Old Otterbein Church on the news of the British approach. An enterprising seamstress on Pratt Street sewed the famous flag that became our nation’s Star-Spangled Banner. Follow us beyond the ramparts of Fort McHenry and join our Defender’s Day Ride & Run past the landmarks that tell the story of how the city lived and fought through the Battle of Baltimore and the War of 1812.

Defender’s Day Ride!

Sunday, September 8, 2013 9:00 am to 11:30 am
Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine
2400 East Fort Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21230
Register – $10 for members, $15 for non-members

Love to learn history on two wheels? Ride along with local scholar and cyclist Dr. Kate Drabinksi on our 10-mile route of quiet streets and mixed-used paths from Fort McHenry to Hampstead Hill in Patterson Park and back again

Defender’s Day Run!

Sunday, September 8, 2013 9:00 am to 10:30 am
Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine
2400 East Fort Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21230
Register – $10 for members, $15 for non-members 

Update: The Defender’s Day Run has been cancelled! If you are interested in learning more about future heritage running tours, please contact Eli Pousson at pousson@baltimoreheritage.org.

At a moderate pace of a 10 minute mile, our guide Dustin Meeker will take us around Baltimore’s once fortified harbor up to the Battle Monument and back to Fort McHenry on an energetic 10K tour. Dustin is doubly prepared for the task as a former ranger at Fort McHenry and a competitive distance runner.