An education conference meeting in Baltimore took the FBWG and his Faithful Hiking Companion off the trails this weekend....but you know what I say...."A hike is where you find one"!
We got to spend some time in Baltimore Inner Harbor, Federal Point and at historic Fort McHenry.
Baltimore Inner Harbor is really a park created around an harbor. Many interesting boats, shops and sights, all accessed by a brick walk stretching for over ten miles. It is within walking distance from both sports stadiums.
Looming above the Inner Harbor is a promontory which looks like the remnants of a small fort. In truth it is Federal Point, a historic park which has been preserved. From this point are the best views of the Baltimore Inner Harbor and the skylines of this great city. It is a nice hike from the walk ways surrounding the Inner Harbor to Federal Point but the view is worth the effort. If you don't feel like walking it is an easy ride with parking surrounding the park.
If you find yourself visiting this city, make the hike from the Inner Harbor to the Federal Point. You really have not visited the Inner Harbor until you have visited Federal point.
Centered in the middle of the Point is a large American flag which can be seen from all parts of the Inner Harbor reminiscent of what we would soon see at Ft. McHenry. The park was the site of Baltimore's celebration of the ratification of the Constitution where 4000 people showed up.
The park provided a nice combination of late summer flowers and late fall color. It contains a nice play ground and historic statues commemorating the defense of Baltimore in the War of 1812.
From the Point you can see the vibrant life of the port of Baltimore and the neighborhoods that surround the Inner Harbor.
We also ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp...a great waterside restaurant themed around the iconic movie Forrest Gump. The food was good but a trip into the souvenir store allowed me to make political commentary on the state of public education policy in North Carolina and support one of my favorite candidates.
FORT McHENRYWe all know the story of our National Anthem but somehow you cannot appreciate the song without visiting the place that inspired its lyrics. Fort McHenry is just a few miles from the Inner Harbor and is a wonderful place to visit and interact with the history of our nation.
War broke out with Britain in 1812. British Forces landed at North Point but were fought to a stalemate on the outskirts of Baltimore.
Needing the artillery of British fleet to break the stalemate required the elimination of Fort McHenry which stands strategically guarding the Baltimore Harbor.
Seeking to obtain the release of a friend detained by the British, attorney Francis Scott Key sailed in the midst of the British Fleet on the eve of the bombardment of Fort McHenry. Being detained on the ship, he watched in horror as the fort was bombarded throughout the night. As dawn's early light revealed the result of the bombardment, Key looking through a spy glass was relieved to see that the fort had not fallen. He penned these famous words. The fort is now a national historical monument and is restored to allow the visitor to understand the importance of the battle which inspired the lyrics of our National Anthem.
"O say can you see by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed at twilight's last gleaming?"
A mile loop surrounds the fort which we took to provide us with a nice hike before visiting the fort. We took many interesting photographs. We were greeted by a white pigeon playing with a grey squirrel.
Old Glory dominates every aspect of a visit to Fort McHenry. The large flag blowing in the wind is something that a photographer cannot resist. I must have photographed this scene from 50 different angles.
"Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, o'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming."
"O say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave?"
We were treated to the Pride of Baltimore as she sailed by the fort. It was a nice contrast to the busy port of Baltimore that featured various pleasure craft interspersed with commercial vessels anchored in the harbor.
From the seawall, we could see Old Glory flying high about the gun emplacements as we followed the walk around to the backside of the fort.
"What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep, as it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam in full glory reflected now shines in the stream: Tis the Star Spangled Banner, O long may it wave, o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"
Time has eroded the earthen ramparts but the old fort still is an imposing site as it bristles with cannon pointing in every direction.
On the back of the fort the loop path diverges at a wonderfully burnt orange tree. From here you can see how the fort rises on the ridge and can see in the distance one of the more unusual features of the park.
Orpheus, the Greek god of music is the subject of a massive tribute to Francis Scott Key erected to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle. What a naked mythological god has to do with a military fort is beyond me. Thankfully it is on the backside of the fort and you have to walk around the fort to see it.
Entering the fort on an inner loop walkway, we passed by the seaward battery. These guns are period correct and provide a gunner's view of the harbor. The bomb ships of the British were arrayed in front of the current modern bridge standing about 2 miles from the fort.
These guns had a maximum range of 1.5 miles and were useless to counter fire against the bombardment of the fort.
Entering the Fort through the sally port, we got a close up view of the extremely large Star Spangled Banner.
The fort is French designed as a five pointed star. It was built between 1797 and 1800 on what was known as Whetstone Point replacing a fort that had long protected the Baltimore Harbor.
There are cavernous magazines at every point which protected the ammunition and powder needed for the fort's guns.
The interior of the fort contained the administrative buildings that housed a garrison of 1000 officers and men who were commanded by Lt. Colonel George Armistead on September 13, 1814 when it came under a twenty-five hour bombardment by the British Fleet
Despite the ferocity of the bombardment, very little damage was done to the fort. In fact only four men were killed and 24 were wounded. Standing in the far corner of the ramparts, I read of the death of two of those soldiers as I looked back on the fort recalling a line in the anthem:
"O thus be it ever when free men shall stand between their loved homes and wars desolation."
The fort currently exhibits gun emplacements installed after the civil war. These 15" cannon were state of the art at the time and are known as Rodman Guns.
From the ramparts of the fort, the peaceful activity of the harbor can be observed. Many sail boats were leisurely passing by.
Fort McHenry is now at peace. The answer to the question posed by Francis Scott Key in his first verse of the anthem is answered in the fourth verse and today is apparent to all who visit this site.
"Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n rescued land Praise the Power that has made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto, In God We Trust. And the Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"