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On September 5, 1814, Francis Scott Key and Colonel John Skinner met officers of the Royal Navy under a flag of truce in an attempt to secure the release of Dr. William Beanes. Beanes had been captured by the British following their burning of Washington, DC, August 24, 1814.
Following negotiations aboard the HMS Tonnant, the British agreed to release Beanes; however, the three men were not allowed to return to Baltimore until after the bombardment of Fort McHenry. The three Americans returned to their ship, and waited behind the British fleet, where they watched the British navy's attack on the fort.
When the smoke cleared following the 25-hour bombardment, Key saw the American flag still flying above Fort McHenry. He wrote down the words to a poem that he published under the title, "Defence of Fort McHenry." Later, the words were set to music, and renamed "The Star Spangled Banner." It became a popular patriotic song, but did not become the U.S. national anthem until March 3, 1931.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Andrew Jackson's service in the War of 1812 was conspicuous for bravery and success against the British and their American Indian allies. When British forces threatened New Orleans, LA, Jackson took command of the defenses and on January 8, 1815, Jackson's 5,000 soldiers won a decisive victory over 7,500 British troops. At the end of the battle, the British suffered 2,037 casualties (including 3 generals) compared to just 71 Americans killed, wounded, or missing. Soldiers who fought with Jackson nicknamed him "Old Hickory" because he was "tough as old hickory" wood on the battlefield.
Images of "Old Hickory's" 1820, 1830, and 1840 census records are available from the National Archives.
Photo courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.
On September 12, 1814, 4,000 British troops under the command of Major General Robert Ross, landed at North Point, MD, with plans to capture the port city of Baltimore. A small force of 250 Maryland volunteers, led by Brigadier General John Stricker (commander of the 3rd Brigade of the Maryland militia) met the British in an attempt to delay their advance.
During the battle, Major General Ross was shot and killed causing confusion among the British ranks. Furthermore, the Maryland volunteers delayed the British advance long enough for 10,000 American troops and 100 cannons to prepare to meet them at Hampstead Hill, a 3-mile earthworks defending Baltimore. Unexpectedly fierce resistance at Hampstead Hill, led the British to focus their attention on Fort McHenry. The destruction of the fort would allow British troops to bypass the Hampstead Hill fortifications and capture Baltimore. However, when the British navy failed to bomb the fort into submission, British ground and naval forces withdrew.
The demoralizing loss of Major General Ross, costly fighting at Hampstead Hill, and the inability to force Fort McHenry's surrender signaled a major turning point for the United States in the War of 1812. In the months following the Battle of Baltimore, British and American negotiators would agree to terms ending the war, signing the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814.
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.