This past weekend was the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore which took place Sept 12 – 13, toward the end of the War of 1812. It was one of the most significant battles of the war. Francis Scott Key witnessed the event from on board a British warship while trying to secure the release of the non combatant, Dr Beanes. He was so inspired by the event that he wrote the poem “The Defense of Baltimore” and set it to a popular English drinking song, “Anacreon in Heaven”. It was immediately a success as a patriotic song, but didn’t officially become our National Anthem until 1931.
We took Woodwind with 36 guests to attend the last event of the Star Spangled Sailabration. After an exciting sail up to the mouth of the Patapsco River, we then motored to see the vessels leave Baltimore Harbor. The first vessels leaving the harbor were active duty Navy vessels from the US and various other nations. What was interesting and left an immediate impression was what we did not see: There were no large guns or cannon. Several years ago I was on the Battleship Massachusetts (now a museum piece). One of the docents said that her 16 inch guns (diameter of the shells fired) could accurately hit a target 20 miles away. I asked , with that accuracy, why would you stop using battleships. He said that today, with our modern missiles and other weaponry, in the unlikely event that you even see the enemy, one of you will be vaporized in less than 15 seconds! Contrast that with the naval battles of 1812. The range of the best guns was an inaccurate range of 2 miles and vessels did not open with full fire power until normally only yards away. In fact I related to our guests that in the battle between the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) and the HMS Guerriere, several of the broadsides (firing all cannon on one side at the same side) took place at a range of 15 yards! The Constitution pumped the cumulative weight of over 400 pounds of metal with each broadside. The two vessels slugged it out for two and a half hours until the Guerriere was dis-masted and surrendered.