News / USA

US Marks 'Forgotten War' Bicentennial

To kick off the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, ships from around the world sailed past Fort McHenry and exchanged cannon fire with re-enactors on land, but it was all for show. (S. Logue/VOA)
To kick off the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, ships from around the world sailed past Fort McHenry and exchanged cannon fire with re-enactors on land, but it was all for show. (S. Logue/VOA)
Susan Logue
The cannons firing today at Fort McHenry in the U.S. state of Maryland, are for the benefit of tourists. But that wasn’t the case nearly 200 years ago, when more than a dozen British ships bombarded the fort at the entrance to Baltimore harbor.

"It was pouring down rain.  It was windy,” says Vincent Vaise, head historian for the fort. “Rockets [were] streaking over the fort, bombs exploding. You could hear the reverberations, the concussions around the fort.”

America's most famous struggle against the British occurred decades earlier during the War of Independence. Every Fourth of July Americans celebrate the Declaration of Independence, issued on July 4, 1776, which marked the beginning of the seven-year war.

The United States also waged another war against Britain during the War of 1812. Yet many Americans are unfamiliar with that conflict and its famous Battle of Baltimore. Now, as the United States marks the war's bicentennial, some historians, especially in Maryland, are eager to change that. 
US Preps for 'Forgotten War' Bicentenniali
|| 0:00:00
X
Susan Logue
June 27, 2012 5:00 PM
Many Americans are unfamiliar with the War of 1812 and the Battle of Baltimore. But as the bicentennial of the conflict approaches, some historians would like to change that. VOA's Susan Logue reports.

The Battle of Baltimore took place in 1814. The bombardment lasted 25 hours and was a turning point in the war that started two years earlier along the border with Canada.

“We thought they would love to be a part of the United States and throw off the yolk of English tyranny,” says Burt Kummerow, president of the Maryland Historical Society.  “But when [the Americans] actually attacked the British armies up there, they found out very quickly the Canadians weren’t so interested in being grabbed.”

There were other reasons the U.S. declared war on Britain. The British Navy was intercepting American vessels and seizing crew members to man its warships.

Baltimore, in particular, was a target,  “because Baltimore had a big reputation for being a real thorn in the side of the British merchant fleet," Kummerow says. "They were sending out privateers, because this was a great shipbuilding area. They were attacking the British.”

On September 13, 1814, British ships attacked Fort McHenry in a bid to take the city.

That battle is remembered largely thanks to Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer,  who was down river observing the action through a spy glass, as the sun began to rise.
It’s all about the flag at Fort McHenry in Maryland, where every day visitors unfold a large “star-spangled banner” as they listen to the story behind the US national anthem. (S. Logue/VOA)It’s all about the flag at Fort McHenry in Maryland, where every day visitors unfold a large “star-spangled banner” as they listen to the story behind the US national anthem. (S. Logue/VOA)
x
It’s all about the flag at Fort McHenry in Maryland, where every day visitors unfold a large “star-spangled banner” as they listen to the story behind the US national anthem. (S. Logue/VOA)
It’s all about the flag at Fort McHenry in Maryland, where every day visitors unfold a large “star-spangled banner” as they listen to the story behind the US national anthem. (S. Logue/VOA)

“He wasn’t sure who won the fight, and then he sees the huge flag waving over the fort, it was like, ‘Yes!’" Vaise says. "And he realizes that a powerful morale victory had been won, and he will write the words that became ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’”

Key’s handwritten homage to the national flag is on display at the Maryland Historical Society.  “He wrote lyrics to a song.  It wasn’t a poem; it was a song,” Kummerow says.

The tune had been around for 40 years, and was popular.  When paired with Key’s lyrics, Kummerow says, “It went viral.”

In 1931, when Congress decided the United States should have a national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner” was chosen.

Tourists come to Fort McHenry to hear the story behind the national anthem, but Vaise hopes they leave understanding another legacy of the war.

“We were no longer that former colony," he says. "We were this young and up-and-coming nation that was on the rise."
 
And the Star-Spangled Banner, both the flag and the anthem, became powerful, lasting symbols of that optimism.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid