War of 1812: Fort McHenry


Home >> United States History >> War of 1812


War of 1812

War of 1812 Activities
War of 1812 Interactive


Battle of Tippecanoe
Fort Meigs
Fort Mackinac
Fort Detroit
Fort Dearborn
Lake Erie
Lacolle Mills
Crysler’s Farm
Queenston’s Heights
Lundy’s Lane
Baltimore/Ft. McHenry
Creek War/Horseshoe Bend
New Orleans

Important People

Thomas Jefferson
James Madison
Dolley Madison
Andrew Jackson
Oliver Hazard Perry
William Henry Harrison
Francis Scott Key

Major American Wars

French and Indian War
Revolutionary War
War of 1812
Mexican-American War
Civil War

Fort McHenry

Siege at Baltimore – September 12-14, 1814

The siege and bombardment at Baltimore in 1814 was the turning point in the War of 1812. After routing American forces at the Battle of Bladensburg, and subsequently burning Washington to the ground, British land and naval forces hoped to further demoralize the Americans by destroying port of Baltimore.

The well-fortified city of Baltimore was under the command of Samuel Smith. The British initially chose to attack by land, but American defenses were much stronger than anticipated. Furthermoe, British Commander Robert Ross was killed during the British excursion, and the decision to attack Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor was made. American forces concentrated in and around Fort McHenry to prepare to defend it against the impending attack. Before the battle, commander of the fort George Armistead,ordered the sinking of a line of American merchant ships to prevent British ships from gaining access to the harbor.

On the night of September 13, 1814, British naval forces began firing shells and rockets at Fort McHenry. The bombardment continued for more than 27 hours. During the bombardment, Francis Scott Key, who was a temporary British prisoner, became inspired to write the Star-Spangled Banner on the back of an envelope. He originally named his poem "Defense of Fort McHenry." When it became apparent the Americans would not surrender the fort, British forces withdrew from the region and set their sights on New Orleans.