Fort McHenry
Baltimore, Maryland
Visited 3.26.12
Visit the regular Fort McHenry page here!

I visited Fort McHenry on a sunny, very windy Monday. Getting to the fort was a little challenging, in that even though it's very close to Route 95, the eastern US' north-south lifeline, once I got off of 95 I found that any sort of direct route to Fort McHenry was under some sort of incredibly confusing construction. This didn't matter much on the way in, as I wasn't in any kind of hurry, but trying to beat rush hour traffic on the way out made me wish I had a proper GPS to navigate my way.

My first observation about Fort McHenry (once I got over my initial starfort proximity giddiness) was how darned tiny it seems! After having visited Fort Washington in Maryland and Fort Monroe at Hampton Roads, both of which are huge, towering and visually menacing, Fort McHenry seemed kind of small and pastoral. Once I drove through the front gate leading to Fort McHenry, I thought I was driving into the actual fort...but nope, there it was over to the right, scarcely visible and certainly not the imposing visage I was expecting.

Once the Ranger inside the fort got over my "why is this thing so TINY?!" comment, he patiently explained that Fort McHenry's walls were indeed much higher during the War of 1812, but that nature has had its way since then.

A dry moat had originally surrounded the fort, from whence foot soldiers would fire upon an attacking enemy as the big guns would pound from o'erhead. 200 years of weather, settling and whatnot have brought the ground around the fort up, making the walls seem oddly stumpy...but back when the British were threatening, assured my friend the Ranger, the walls were daunting indeed.

The museum in the Visitor's Center was a bit of a yawn, but then it's directed more towards visiting schoolchildren than towards me. I was hoping to see the first 50-star US flag,   which was flown for

the first time on July 4 1960 over Fort McHenry, which I had thought was on display there, but wherever it is, it's not at Fort McHenry.

The gift shop was likewise sorrowful: There were exactly three items for sale that actually incorporated Fort McHenry's distinctive shape: And therein lies my only real complaint about how the fort is represented. The British bombardment of Fort McHenry was of course the event that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that eventually became the United States' National Anthem,   which   is   pretty   much   the   focus   of

everything at the Visitor's Center at Fort McHenry, and it's most definitely the focus of the gift shop. Now, I can understand why this is, in that the National Anthem is unquestionably a touchstone that all Americans have in common, but...Fort McHenry is such a beautiful starfort, and I felt as though its historic starfortedness was being portrayed as less important than the National Anthem. But that's just me, and again, I can totally understand why they would orient their information that way.

And as for the gift shop,   I   recognize   that   it is

very rare that a gift shop will ever live up to my hopeful expectations. Except perhaps for the one at Virginia's Jamestown Settlement, no gift shop that I've seen in the past 30 years has lived up to the gift shop experiences that I had as a child. Which I know has more to do with me than it does with the state of gift shops in the 21st century. But for goodness' sake, enough about me already.

After paying my $7 to gain legal entrance to the park and being awarded with a beautiful sticker, I approached the fort, amongst several other visitors.

This was also new to me, having to share my experience with others. Not that I was actually forced to interact with anyone, but I had to take care not to get anyone else in my photographs, lest they inadvertantly be featured at without their knowledge or consent. Still, I was for the most part free and unfettered as I poked through the Ravelin, buildings in the fort and bombproofs in the Outer Battery.

You are clicking on these pictures to see the full-sized versions, aren't you?