Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
Located off I-95, just southeast of Baltimore's Inner Harbor, the star-shaped Fort McHenry was designed by Frenchman Jean Foncin and named after James McHenry. McHenry served as Secretary of War from 1796 to 1800 and supported construction of the new fort.
During the War of 1812, the brick fort defended the Baltimore harbor and stopped a British advance into the city. Surrounded by water on three sides, Fort McHenry was far enough from Baltimore to provide protection without endangering the city. It was the valiant defense of the fort by 1,000 Americans that inspired Francis Scott Key, a lawyer and amateur poet,to compose the Star Spangled Banner, originally entitled Defense of Fort McHenry.
During the civil war, the fort was used as a military prison from 1861 to 1865. The National Park Service's Civil War Soldiers and Sailors system now allows visitors to search Fort McHenry's prison records online.
Administered by the National Park Service in 1933, Fort McHenry is the only area of the National Park System to be designated both a National Monument and Historic Shrine. Fort McHenry is open to the public year round and offers visitor programs and special events that highlight the park's history.
It is a tradition that when a new flag is designed for use by the United States, it is first flown over Fort McHenry, over the same ramparts referred to in the National Anthem. The first official flags with 49 stars, and with 50 stars, were flown over the fort and remain there today.
One of the biggest celebrations at Fort McHenry happens in early September, when Defenders Day ceremonies are held to celebrate the successful defense of the city during the War of 1812. However, any time of year is a good time to visit this historic landmark that's recognized in our National Anthem.
Planning a Visit
The fort grounds, park and visitor center open at 9 a.m. every day, closing at 5 p.m. in the winter and 8 p.m. in the summer. Closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Days, visitors to the park are welcome to bring pets as long as they are kept on a leash and out of the historic Star Fort area.
For more information, seasonal operating hours, fees and reservations, visit the National Park Service website.
Words to the Star Spangled Banner
Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Plan your trip!
- Human, Soul & Machine: The Coming Singularity! October 5, 2013 - August 31, 2014 | All Day
- Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and Her Quest for an Imperial Legacy June 9, 2013 - June 9, 2014 | All Day
- Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War October 13, 2013 - February 28, 2014 | 8:00am - 5:00pm
- The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard & Shirley Kinsey November 2, 2013 - January 20, 2014 | All Day
- In Full Glory Reflected: Maryland during the War of 1812 June 10, 2012 - December 31, 2014 | All Day