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Full text of "Early fortifications in Baltimore Harbor."

EARLY FORTIFICATIONS IN BALTIMORE HARBOR, 



OH. SAY CAN YOU SEE. 
BY THE DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT. 





MEMORIAL TO iRANCIS SCOTT KEY. 



EARLY tfORTFICATIONS IK BALTIMORE HARBOR. 

This thesis on the "Early Fortifications of Bal- 
timore Harbor", was written as a part of the initiation 
into the Phi Mu, Honorary Engineering Fraternity, of the 
University of Maryland by Louis 1'. Melohior; and treats 
of the location, Reservation, History, etc., of the 
"Early Fortifications in Baltimore Harbor" , 



BARLY PORT IF I CAT I CHS IN BALTIMORE HARBOR. 

LOCATION: 

Fort KcHenry, Maryland, a former United States 
military post was established in 1794. It was located on 

nets tone Point, Patapsco River, aoout three miles from 
Baltimore. It was first occupied in 1775, but was not 
fortified until 1794. 
3ERVAT ION ; 

It appeal's from old land records that in 1662 
. Charles Gorsuch, of the Society of Friends, took up 
patented fifty acres of land on Whetstone Point, and 
is a part of this tract that the Government now holds. 
The fort proper stands on ground which belonged at the 
time of its erection almost wholly to the State of Mary- 

d. Cn May 17th, 1800 this ground was deeded by the 
state to one William Goodwin, who on August 26th, of the 
same year conveyed it to the Unijred States for the sum of 

,000. The first purchase of any pa&t of the reserva- 
tion by the United States bears the date of July 20th, 
1795, under the authority of an act of Congress of March 
:J0th, 1794, but no part of the fort: seems to be on this 
land* Additional portions of land v/ere purchased oy the 
united States in 1798 and 1800. In 183 6 and 183 7 still 
other lands were purchased under the act of July 2nd, 1836. 

bnder Authority of the act of Congress, Jan. 19th, 
18 78 conveyance was made of eleven acres to the Baltimore 



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Dry Dock Company, reducing the area of the reservation to 
thirty four acres two roods six poles. 

Jurisdiction over the tract so acquired, embrac- 
ing in ail forty five acres two roods six poles was ceded 
"by the legislature to Maryland, Feb. 2 7th, 1616 and March 
51st, 1838. 
LINES 01' communication; 

The lines of communication, by which the fort is 
now reached, are the post-office, telegraph, and the rail- 
road station, all at Baltimore, Maryland. 
HISTORY: 

Early in the war of the Revolution the provin- 
cial convention of Maryland ordered the construction of 
defensive works at Baltimore, fortifications were begun 
in 1775, and in the spring of 1776 a force of two hundred 
and fifty negroes were employed in providing timber, logs, 
etc., for the erection of a "boom between Whetstone Point 
and the Lazaretto and building batteries and mountin guns. 
Beacons and signal stations were established on the snores 
of the Patapsco and the Chesapeake for communicating in- 
telligence of the approach of the enemy. 

On the 5th of March 1776, the British sloop of 
war Otter and several tenders appeared in Chesapeake Bay, 
creating much consternation at Baltimore from fear of 
bombardment. The Council of Safety of the city at once 
took steps to hasten the completion of the defenses, and 
in addiCion to these a chain was stretched across the nar- 



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row neck of the harbor supported by twenty-one sunken 
schooners. This was removed after the withdrawal of the 
Otter, and upon the return of peace the works were aban- 
doned . 

Early in the Administration of President Washing- 
ton grave complications arose between the American Govern- 
ment and Great Eritian. Complaint was made of depreda- 
tions upon 
British com- 
merce by 
American pri- 
vateers car- 
rying the 
French flag; 
there was 
irratation 
growing out AN OLD FIFTEEN INCH SMOOTH BOKE. 

of the vague provisions of the treaty of 1783 in relation 
toithe ^eggiofli of lands and military posts in the North- 
west; and pending the settlement of these and other dif- 
ferences by diplomacy, in 179 6, war seemed emmiinent. The 
President recommended serious preparation for offense and 
defense. The citizens of Baltimore, at their own expense, 
commenced the erection of a star fort on Whetstone Point, 
under the direction of John J. Hivardi. Under the author- 
ity of the act of Congress of March 20th, 1794, the legis- 
lature of Maryland having given its consent, this fort 




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passed under the control of the General Government and was 
named i'ort McHenry in honor of James McHenry, of ttiaryland, 
secretary to General Washington during the Revolutionary 
War, and Secretary of War from 1796 to 1800, The formal 
cession to the United States by the legislature of Maryland 
did not take place however, till 1816. The works were com- 
pleted in 1805. 

In April, 1813, Rear-Admiral Cockburn passed up 
Chesapeake Bay with a Britieh fleet and anchored off Bal- 
timore. No attack was made, however, but a rigoruus 
blockade was declared. The fleet remained in the vicinity 
for several months, ravaging the shores of the Chesapeake 
Bay, when it was withdrawn for service further south. 
This use of the great naval force at the command of the 
British was intended in 1813 to divert the American forces 
from invasion of Canada. The fall of Napoleon having re- 
leased a large veteran force for service in America, it 
was determined in 1814 to send a formidable military force 
to co-operate with the navy in an attack upon Baltimore 
and Washington. Accordingly, in August the British squa- 
dron in the Chesapeake Bay was greatly augmented by the 
arrival of additional fleets, under Admiral Cochran and 
Commodore Malcolm, bringing several thousand of "*Ve 1 ling- 
ton's veterans of the peninsular campaigns under the com- 
mand of Major -General Ross. In the meantime the work of 
extending and perfecting the defenses of Baltimore, begun 
the year before, had been pushed with great vigor. About 



m. K — 



a half a million dollars had been expended for the purpose, 
under the direction of the mayor and committee of safety. 
The chief fortf ications consisted of two long lines of 
"breast vrorks extending from Karris Creek northward across 
Hampstead Hill { now the site of Patterson Park), about 
a mile in length, along which, at short distances, semi- 
circular "batteries were thrown up. Behind these, on more 
elevated sites, commanding the lower line were several 
additional 
batteries one 
of which, 
known as Rod- 
ger's Bastion, 
overlooked 
Fort McHenry. 
There was al- 
so connecting 
lines of A BATTERY OP OLD GUNS, 

breast works and rifle pits running parrellel with the 
northern boundary of the city, commanded in turn by inner 
bastions and batteries, the precise location of v/hich is 
not known. A four-gun battery was constructed at Lazaretto 
Point and between this point and Port McHenry, across the 
mouth of the harbor, a number of vessels were sunk. South- 
west of the fort, guarding the middle branch of the Pa- 
tapsco against the landing of troops operating to assail 
Port McHenry in the rear, were two redoubts, five hundred 




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yards apart, called Tort Covington* and the "city battery? 
In the rear of these, upon high ground the present site of 
Battery Square, was the cirofilar battery. A -long line of 
platforms for guns was erected a few yards in front of 
Port McHenry. This was called the "water battery 1 *. 

The news of the capture of Washington on the 24th 
of August and a contemplation of a probable fate of the 
city sheuld it fall into the hands of the enemy greatly 
stimulated the excitement and inspired renewed military 
preparations at Baltimore, Port McHenry was at this time 
defended by about one thousand men t commanded by Major 
George Armstead, Third Artillery, comprising three com- 
panies of united States artillery, six hundred infantry, 
and three volunteer city companies under the comaand of 
Captains Berry and Nicholson and Lieutenant Pennington. 
Intrenchments about the city were defended by a force of 
about twelve thousand men, mo sly militia hastily gathered 
together, under the command Maj or-General Samuel Smith. 

On September 11th, 1814, seven vessels anchored 
off of North Point, where the troops debarked and the 
war ships, sixteen in number, including bomb vessels, 
moved up within about two and one h-alf miles of Port Mc- 
Henry. On the 12th a sharp engagement took place, known 
as the battle of North Point, the Americans under General 
Strieker, retiring upon the main defenses. In this ac- 
tion the British Commander, General Ross, was killed. 
Early on the morning of the 13th the enemy* & fleet, ar- 



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ranged in a semicircle, opened i'ire upon Jsort Mclienry, 
and the bombardment continued almost without interruption 
until the morning of the 14th. More than eighteen humdreu 
shells, some of them weighing two hundred and twenty 
pounds, and a great number of round shot and rockets were 
fired. A shell and a carcass, both of fourteen inch cali- 
ber, now at the post are said to have been thrown bjp the 
enemy during the bombardment. Many of the shells burst 
ov er the 
fort and a- 
bout four hun- 
dred fell 
within the 
inclosure, 

hut the gar- 
rison suffer- 
ed a loss of 

but four kill- EHTRANC1 rO PORT ERGM BARRACKS QUARTERN. 
ed and twenty- four wounded. During much of the time oc- 
cupied in the bombardment in the attacking vessels were 
kept beyond the range of the guns of the fort. Abo;iat 
midnight, under the cover of darkness, a few bomb ketches 
and rocket boats, with eighty barges, manned by about 
twelve hundred picked men provided with scaling ladders, 
pushed up the cove beyond Port McHenry to effect a land in* 
and attempt an escalade from the rear. They passed the 
fort and moved for the shore with loud cheers, but a fire 




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<. 



was opened upon them simultaneously from Fort McHenry, 
Fort Covington, the city battery and the circular battery, 
and they withdrew hastily to the shelter of darkness, 
after losing many men and suffering much damage. Curing 
the thirteenth, whiie the 
bombardment by the fleet 
was in progress, the British 
army maneuvered continually 
in front of the entrench- 
ments of the city, but did 
not hazard an attack. The 
attempt on Fort McKenry and 
ite outlying defenses having 
resulted in a failure, fur- 
ther operations for the cap- 
ture of the city were aban- 
doned. The troops re-embark- 
ed at North Point and at 
nine o'clock on the morning 
of September the 14th, the 
fleet under Admiral Cochran 
weighed anchor and stood down the Patapsco. it was during 
the bombardment of Fort KcHenry that Francis Soott Key 
a prisoner on board the British fleet and a spectator of 
the night battle composed "The Star Spangled Banner 1 * which 
at once assumed and has since retained its place in pop- 
ular esteem as peculiarly the national air. At the close 




ORIGINAL FLAG POLE FROM WHICH 
THE AMERICA!! FLAG WAS FLO WE 
WHEN THE "STAR SPANGLED BAH HER" 
WAS WRITTEN. 



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of hostilities the temporary fortifications were abandon- 
ed. 

During the Civil War Baltimore was again forti- 
fied. On the night of the 13th of May, 18 61, the eleva- 
tion called Federal Hill was occupied by troops under the 
command of Maj or-Ceneral Butler, and in the following 
months a strong fort was erected there under the direc- 
tion of General Brewerton, United States Engineers. The 
work inclosed the entire crown of the hill and mounted 
fifty guns. A number of other works were afterwards con- 
structed, among them Port Marshall east of Patterson Park 
and Port Worthington, near Maryland Hospital. These, with 
other temporary works, were abandoned at the close of the 
war. In April, 18 63, an attempt, was made by Confederate 
eympathizeres to gain possession of Port McHenyy. The 
garrison of one hundred recruits was commanded by Captain 
Robinson. Preparations were made to sweep the approaches 
with grape and annister which deterred the mob from mak- 
ing an attack. 

During the World War there was a hospital locat- 
ed on the area near and at Port McHenry, and at present 
a small force is maintaining an office of tne Veterans 
Bureau there, 
SWakAKY OP SHE POST AS IT HOW EXISTS: 

The buildings now standing at the fort are of- 
ficer's quarters, S. S. 2, D. S. 4, - noncommissioned 
staff officers quarters, 4 - hospital steward's quarters, 
1 - artillery barracks, 3 {capacity, sixty men each) - 



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tamporary barracks, 3 (capacity fifty men each) - nospital, 
1 ( capacity fourteen beds) - mechanics quarters, 1 - 
post headquarters, 1 - library and post exchange, 1 - 
post chapel, 1 - temporary mess hall, 1 - ordinance store 
house, 1- 
quarter mas- 
ter commis- 
sary store- 
house , 1- 
quarter mas- 
ter office 
and store- 
house, 1 - 

gun shed and THE POST CHAPTER BUILT IN 1860. 
storehouse, 1 - quartermaster staple, 1 - (capacity, 
thirteen animals) - commanding officer's staole, 1 - 
post bakery, 1 and magazine "A", 1. 
METHOD OP LIGHTING THE POST. AND WATER SUPPLY SYSTEM: 

The post is now lighted by electricity which is 
purchased from the city of Baltimore and the water is 
supplied by mains from the Baltimore City Waterworks. 
The quality of the water is very good and the quantity is 
sufficient. The pressure is not over twenty pounds per 
square incfr. The date of installation and the original 
cost of the water system is unknown; but $ 7428. 20 was 
expended in improvements and extensions since 189 6. 



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SLWIlR system: 

The post is provided with a swwer system, drain- 
ing into the Patapsco River'- through eight, ten and twelve 
inch pipe. The system appears to have been established 
in 18 77, and was improved and extended in 1886 at a cost 
of $3545.60. 
POST CEKETERY: 

The post has a cemetery located near the south- 
eastern shore of the Patapsco River and contains about one 
third of an acre. 
ARLIAMENT OP PORT: 

The armament of the fort consists of five fifteen 
inch and seven eigh inch smooth bores and three eight 
inch converted rifles. 
PRESENT CONDITION OP PORT; 

At present the fort ares is not kept up and is in 
a bad condition. 



The books used for reference in preparation of 
this thesis were obtained at the War College, Washington. 
D, C, The following books were consulted; A History of 
' aryland, Stark - Encyclopedia Americano - A History of 
1-orts and Military Reservations of the United States.