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Battle of Baltimore

After their successful raid on Washington the British turned their sites on Baltimore. Baltimore however, turned out too difficult a target. The British planned both a land and sea assault. Determined American militia who held the line and blocked the way to Baltimore blocked the land assault. To reach Baltimore by water it was necessary to capture Ft McHenry. In an event immortalized by the Star Spangle Banner despite an overnight bombardment- the fort held and the British were stopped.

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The British after the success in burning Washington pondered their next move. Baltimore was nearby and was a tempting target. It was the third largest city in the United States and its harbor was the home of many US privateers. Admiral Cochrane decided to turn his sites on Baltimore, despite the reservation of his army commander General Ross, who questioned the military value of such an attack. 

In the early morning hours of September 12th General Ross troops disembarked from the British ships. The defenses of Baltimore were more substantial then those of Washington, and the Maryland militia numbered 9,000 with every able-bodied male up to the age of 56 having been called up in its service. Obstacles such as felled trees that the militia had placed in his way immediately slowed General Ross’s advance.  At 8 Am in the morning as the British were advancing across the North Point Peninsula between the Bear Creek and Black River the British encountered the Maryland militia. 3,000 militiamen commanded by Brigadier John Stricker were now blocking their way. General Ross stopped for breakfast at the farm of the Gorsuch family. When asked as he was leaving if he would be back for dinner, Ross is reported to have said- I will either be in Baltimore or Hell for dinner. A few minutes later Ross road out near the front of his men and was struck and fatally wounded. The British did manage to break through the first two American lines, but as they did the American forces withdrew in an orderly fashion. They failed to break the third American line, and their land path to Baltimore was blocked.

Admiral Cochrane then took the only actions he could to support the ground operations, try to capture Fort McHenry and open the water route to the city, He sent five bomb ketches which were capable of firing mortar rounds 4,000 yards, twice the range of the guns of the Fort. Throughout the day of the 13th and through the night the fort was bombarded. Above the fort hung a large flag. From the areas outside the fort the only assurance that the fort was withstanding the bombardment was the flag. One of those observers was Francis Scott Key. As day turned into night he wondered whether the fort cold withstand such a sustained attack. Trough part of the night the mortars rained down. When they stopped Key feared the worse that the fort had fallen. When the first light of dawn began to penetrate the darkness, Key saw the American flag still flying- He quickly penned down the first verse of what was to become the Star Spangled Banner.