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September 2014

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U.S. Census Bureau History: The Battle of Baltimore

Andrew Jackson on horseback
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President Andrew Jackson earned the nickname
"Old Hickory" for his toughness and hard fighting
on the battlefield during the War of 1812.

During the War of 1812, the British military conducted a sea and land campaign against the port city of Baltimore, MD, between September 12-15, 1814. The "Battle of Baltimore" saw British and American forces clash at North Point, Hampstead Hill, and Fort McHenry.

Francis Scott Key witnessed the 25-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry and was inspired to write the poem, "Defence of Fort McHenry." Better known as the "Star Spangled Banner," Key's poem became the U.S. national anthem on March 3, 1931.

Today, census statistics help tell the story of the War of 1812 and its impact on the United States. Learn more about the nation and the War of 1812 using the following data and links:

  • Washington, DC, had a population of 15,471 in 1810. Although many homes and government buildings were burned by the British on August 24, 1814, the city recovered quickly and the population grew to 23,336 by 1820.
  • Baltimore, MD, was the nation's third largest city in 1810, with a population of 46,555. By the 1820 Census, the city's population had grown to 62,738, behind New York City, NY, (123,706) and Philadelphia, PA, (63,802). Between 1830 and 1850, Baltimore was the second most populous city in the United States, growing from 80,620 in 1830 to 136,181 in 1850.
  • American Indian tribes allied themselves with the United States and Great Britain during the War of 1812. For example, Black Hawk Link to a non-federal Web site, leader of the Sauk tribe, forced American troops to abandon Fort Madison along the banks of the Mississippi River in Iowa. Cherokee warriors assisted General Andrew Jackson claim victory in the March 27, 1814, Battle of Horseshoe Bend, near present day Dadeville, AL.
  • During the war, approximately 500,000 served in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, and militias and 2,260 American soldiers and sailors were killed. During the 1840 Census, data were collected from veterans of the American Revolution and War of 1812 in a Census of Pensioners.
  • The December 24, 1814, Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812. When American Indians lost their British allies in the Northwest Territory, Americans were encouraged to settle the area that makes up present day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
  • General Andrew Jackson forced the British-allied Creek Indians out of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. The Creek allied with Florida's Seminole Tribe precipiating the "Seminole Wars" lasting from 1817 to 1858.

Battle of North Point

British troops advancing on Baltimore met unexpected American resistance in the Battle of North Point, September 12, 1814.
Lithograph by Thomas Ruckle, courtesy of the National Park Service.

Census Records and the War of 1812

Many 1790-1810 census records were destroyed when the British burned Washington, DC, on August 24, 1814. When researching members of the U.S. military who served in the War of 1812, genealogists may be able to find information using the 1840 Census of Pensioners and military records at the National Archives. To learn more about these records, read Genealogical Records of the War of 1812.

Francis Scott Key
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Did You Know?

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.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: December 08, 2021