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200th Anniversary of the War of 1812

Apr 10, 2012 01:31PM ● By Anonymous

Two hundred years ago, President James Madison declared war on Great Britain, marking the beginning of the War of 1812 (which lasted until 1815).

“Maryland and Marylanders played an extraordinarily significant role in the causes and the outcomes of the war of 1812,” says Bill Pencek, executive director of Maryland’s War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission. “Maryland suffered more military action, raids, battles, than any other states. Twenty of what are now states were touched by the war, but no state suffered more than Maryland.”

If you don’t remember from history class, it was during the War of 1812 that Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner.” A local icon, Key studied law at St. John’s College. He was on a ship near Baltimore negotiating (successfully) for the release of a beloved American doctor from Upper Marlboro, when he saw the flag flying over Fort McHenry the morning after the Fort was attacked, and wrote what became the lyrics to our National Anthem.

“Arguably the most pivotal, most dramatic moment of the war, took place in Maryland in the two and a half weeks between the burning of Washington D.C., and this impossible ‘victory,’ in Baltimore,” explains Pencek. “As a consequence the British left the Chesapeake Bay after having terrorized Maryland for 18 months. That event in Baltimore helped contribute to the end of the war…In the process, America got two of its most significant icons, the Star Spangled Banner Flag and the National Anthem.”

To celebrate the anniversary of this important period in local and national history, the coming months—and years, as the two-year anniversary period continues—are chockfull of activities, exhibits and tours galore, all right in our backyard.

From noon to 2 p.m. on April 1, take a walk through history on Greenmount Avenue in Baltimore with Waverly Main Street. Baltimore’s General Sam Smith lived in historic Waverly. The walk begins at the site of army barracks from the War of 1812 and includes stops at the Waverly Fire House, Post Office, Historic Marker, and ends with a reception at Town Hall. Shops and windows will be specially decorated. For more information, visit

On May 3, 1813, the British attacked and burned Havre de Grace. Although wounded and captured, John O’Neill heroically attempted to defend the city by singlehandedly manning a canon after the rest of the U.S. militia fled. On May 12, spectators are invited to watch a reenactment of the battle at the Lock House Museum. (

Star Spangled 200, Maryland’s War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission’s three-year statewide commemoration will kick off in June with the “Star Spangled Sailabration.” “Gov. O’Malley is very enthusiastic about what Maryland and Americans can take from the War of 1812,” says Pencek. “So the Commission was coordinated to take the lead, to commemorate and celebrate this proud national heritage story that is Maryland.” June 13-19 international ships will parade the Baltimore Inner Harbor and offer public visiting hours. As part of the event, the Blue Angels will deliver a performance over Fort McHenry and the Baltimore Harbor June 16-17. The Commission will orchestrate commemorative events through February of 2018.

With its renovated and re-opened visitor’s center, Fort McHenry plans to celebrate with a series of events, including another Defender’s Day celebration that will feature a concert and fireworks September 7-9. The three-day event will feature reenactments, parades, bands, concerts and other activities. (

On June of 1814, the largest naval engagement in Maryland’s history took place right off the shore of what is now the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum. To educate and commemorate, JPPM will reenact the Battle of St. Leonard Creek, September 29. The museum is also featuring new exhibit on the War of 1812 called “Farmers, Patriots and Traitors: Southern Maryland and the War of 1812.” (

Any time is a good time to visit the Star Spangled Banner Flag House on East Pratt Street in Baltimore. Former home of Mary Pickersgill, maker of the Great Garrison flag, the house-turned-museum is rich in 1812 history. See the house as Mary did, 19th Century possessions and all, and visit the exhibition gallery to check out the “Preserv’d Us A Nation,” exhibit to learn even more about the War of 1812. Kids can cook in a replica of the Flag House kitchen and design their own flag. (

For more flag fun any time of the year, check out the Smithsonian Nation Museum of American History’s exhibit, The Star-Spangled Banner: The Flag That Inspired the National Anthem. See the actual 30- by34-foot flag that made history, explore how it was made and how it’s been preserved. Immerse yourself in Star Spangled history at the ongoing exhibit. (

“I think there is a lot of excitement all over the Chesapeake,” says Pencek of the variety of events. “There are organizing committees or commissions in virtually every corner of the state… working to develop programming.”

The list of special bicentennial events goes on. For more, visit, the official site of the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission.