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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

200 years later and the flag was still there: The Star Spangled Spectacular

mustering of the troops
My oldest is a history nut.  I am pretty sure that I have mentioned this on the blog before.  For months we heard over and over again about the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner.  So as a surprise for him my husband and I took the kids to Baltimore for the weekend.  You have never seen two kids over the moon about a road trip in their lives!  The Star Spangled Spectacular was amazing.

We got up bright and early Saturday September 13th and drove the 3 hours to our hotel.  The idea being we would get there early, park at the hotel (there were warnings about parking being at a premium all weekend), and then see the sights.  We also noticed the weather before we left.  A 50% chance of rain and high in the low 70s.  Cold wet kids can be grumpy so my husband and I steeled ourselves for the whining that was sure to come.

It was an amazing day though and an experience that I will not soon forget.  Even though I don’t know of any direct line ancestors who were there for the battle, I do have ancestors who volunteered for the militias during the War of 1812.  Also, as a member of the National Society United States Daughters of 1812 it was a moving site of patriotism and remembrance.
Flag obscured by cannon smoke

Believe it or not my family walked from the inner harbor out to Ft. McHenry, nearly 3 miles.  It was a warm up for the marching around the site we would be put through by the boys.  We lucked out and arrived in time for the last firing of the cannons by the reenactors.  Standing about 25 feet from 6 cannons as they are set off simultaneously was quite spectacular.  Oh, and loud. Very loud.

However, the weather that day (as the Park Superintendent Tina Capetta reminded us in her welcome speech) was very similar to what the soldiers experience on 13 September 1814.  200 years before it rained on and off all day then there were torrential downpours that evening.  Last Saturday was chilly with gray clouds and intermittent showers.  As I stood in the misty morning, cannon smoke billowing over me and showering us with bits of burned wadding, I looked up into the sky.  There I stood transfixed for a moment as I saw the 15 star flag billowing in the breeze obscured by the dissipating smoke.  I thought to myself that this must have been what those men saw 200 years before.

First Day of Issue Ceremony
As the crowd melted away we went into the star fort to watch the first day of issue ceremony for the new Ft. McHenry stamp, now in circulation from the United States Post Office.  We listened to men dressed at Francis Scott Key and Dr. William Beanes speak about their experience on board the treaty ship. It was moving and interesting to hear the accounts read aloud.

We left near dinner time and searched for somewhere to eat that was not “fair food.”  It was nearly unanimous (I was the sole holdout) that we needed to go back to our hotel 3 blocks away and put our feet up after dinner.  It seemed the kids were tired or something.  There we turned on PBS to the live coverage of the concert happing at the 6th Street Pier.  We sat in our room on the 28th floor of our hotel and watched the bombs bursting in air from our bedroom.  Billed as the largest fireworks display in Baltimore in 200 years we were not disappointed.

The next morning the kids were still tuckered out.  Seriously, they never sleep past 6am and I had to 
force them up at 8 for breakfast.  I was up at 6 though, and stood with my morning beverage in my hand on the window side of the drawn curtains.  Through the gap in the buildings on the harbor I could make out Ft. McHenry.  Once again I found myself staring at that large 15 star flag, now a mere speck on the horizon, and thought to myself our flag was still there.  200 years before the residents of Baltimore were up, looking out their windows and seeing the same thing on a glorious September 14th morning.

Like I said.  An experience I will not forget.

15 Star flag flying over the ramparts at Ft. McHenry

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