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MEET THE ROCK STARS OF THE WAR OF 1812
War of 1812 Bicentennial Exhibit opens June 10 at the Maryland Historical Society
“In Full Glory Reflected: Maryland During the War of 1812”
The Largest and Most Comprehensive 1812 exhibit in Maryland
What are the Top Ten Objects in the Exhibition?
Baltimore MD (May 8, 2012) - It was early September in 1814 and Baltimore had about as much difficulty as it could handle. Just two weeks before, Washington, D.C. was burned by the British and the U.S. President was fleeing for his life. A large British fleet and a veteran redcoat army were sailing up the Chesapeake to burn Baltimore. They were bent on burning the city that was building the privateer fleet that had devastated British shipping in the Atlantic. The crisis ended quickly.
Thanks to some great leaders, Baltimore’s “Rock Stars” of the War of 1812, the U.S. repelled the mighty British. The formidable Baltimore defenses met the challenge and the Star Spangled Banner was born. During this anniversary year, two centuries removed from the War of 1812, America’s Second War of Independence, the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) is retelling a dramatic story. With five thousand square feet of displays and more than a hundred historic artifacts, the largest bicentennial exhibit in Maryland, In Full Glory Reflected, Maryland During the War of 1812, will be unveiled on June 10th. For more information on the many MdHS exhibits and programs, 201 W. Monument Street, in Baltimore’s historic Mt. Vernon neighborhood, go to www.mdhs.org or call 410-685-3750.
Burt Kummerow, MDHS President, talks about the top 10 objects in the exhibition. The number one object is the original manuscript of the Star Spangled Banner. Others are just as fascinating. “Everything in this exhibition tells a compelling story,” said Kummerow. “The paintings by an immigrant house painter captured the Battle of North Point as no one else could. Then there’s the private at Ft. McHenry who had a bomb land at his feet. He took the unexploded bomb home and it’s now its here. We even have a 100 year musket that saw service in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War.” The Top Ten War of 1812 Objects in this exhibition are featured below.
In four separate galleries filling an entire floor of the museum, visitors will explore the growth of Baltimore as a boomtown, built on shipbuilding and worldwide trade. Next, they can visit a tavern, the information nerve center of the young republic. Following the drift into a war over issues of trade, the conflict with Britain goes from the high seas to the shores of the Chesapeake. An 1814 invasion puts all of Maryland to the test but culminates with victory in Baltimore. The iconic MdHS artifact, the original Star Spangled Banner manuscript, penned by Francis Scott Key soon after the battle that immortalized Ft. Mc Henry and its garrison flag, will be featured along with a gallery devoted to the defenders of Baltimore.
The exhibition will be featured for the three years of the 1812 Bicentennial. It will be open to the public Wednesday through Saturday from 10am to 5 pm and Sundays, 12-5. In Full Glory Reflected was made possible by generous support from the Middendorf, Harley Howell and Helen Clay Frick Foundations as well as the Maryland Heritage Area Authority.
The 1814 Battle of Baltimore was a turning point in the War of 1812. The port city had strong defenses both in the harbor and on Hampstead Hill (Patterson Park) where a mile of trenches held 100 cannons and 15,000 militia and regulars. There was no U.S. army to speak of. The Baltimore business community financed the training and equipping of a volunteer militia. After the Americans repulsed a land invasion and killed British General Robert Ross, they successfully defended Ft. McHenry during a 25 hour bombardment and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the lyrics to what became our national anthem.
Museum goers will get to see the Baltimore 1814 Defenders, Maryland’s own War of 1812 “Rock Stars.” Rembrandt Peale’s stunning portraits of five Defenders were commissioned by the City of Baltimore almost immediately after the war ended in 1815. Viewers will get to see Major General Samuel Smith, Lt. Col. George Armistead, Brigadier General John Stricker, Congressman Isaac McKim and Commodore Joshua Barney.
At the outbreak of the War of 1812, Sam Smith was a veteran of the American Revolution, one of Baltimore’s wealthiest merchants, a general in the Maryland militia and a member of the U.S. Congress both as a representative and a senator. Thanks to his leadership as the commander of the Baltimore defenses in 1814, 15,000 militia and regulars repulsed the British and saved the city.
Major (later Lt. Colonel) George Armistead is remembered for commanding the defenses at Ft. McHenry and reportedly commissioning garrison flags from seamstress Mary Pickersgill that were “so large…the British would have no difficulty seeing from a distance.” It was the sight of the 42 foot by 30 foot flag, still flying after the September, 1814, 25 hour bombardment that inspired Francis Scott Key.
General John Stricker, another seasoned veteran of the American Revolution, became a hero during the Battle of North Point on September 12, 1814. Commanding 3,200 Maryland militiamen, Stricker blocked the British advance toward Baltimore and killed British General Robert Ross, buying enough time for the main defenses on Hampstead Hill to prepare for the repulse of the redcoat invasion.
Congressman Isaac McKim served as an aide-de-camp to General Samuel Smith and helped finance the Baltimore defense. McKim was a keen businessman and an investor in Baltimore privateers that attacked the British merchant fleets. He later was an early supporter of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, America’s first.
The last defender, Commodore Joshua Barney, was not present during the Battle of Baltimore. A legendary naval veteran, he commanded the Chesapeake Flotilla that defended Southern Maryland in 1814 and was a hero at the Battle of Bladensburg where he was seriously wounded.
Visitors will have the privilege of seeing many treasures donated to the MdHS during its 168 year history. One of the earliest printed broadsides of the Star Spangled Banner song, complete with its famous typo, will be on view. Vivid paintings by Battle of Baltimore veteran Thomas Ruckle and the iconic “Bombardment of Ft. McHenry” by Alfred Jacob Miller will flank the Star Spangled Banner document. The humble “Etting Cup” bears the etched signatures of several of the 1812 “Rock Stars.” The cup was a treasured part of 1812 veterans’ reunions for many decades in the 19th century.
The Maryland Historical Society was founded in 1844 and is the world’s largest museum and library dedicated to the history of Maryland. Occupying an entire city block in Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon District, the MdHS mission is “to collect, preserve and interpret the objects and documents that reflect Maryland’s diverse cultural heritage.” Home to the original manuscript of the Star Spangled Banner, the MdHS has been publishing a quarterly, the “Maryland Historical Magazine” for more than a century. More information about MdHS can be found online at http://www.mdhs.org
MARYLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY EXHIBITION
TOP TEN WAR OF 1812 OBJECTS/PAINTINGS
1.The Star Spangled Banner – The Maryland Historical Society’s most iconic object, a national treasure, is the source of the American National Anthem. The manuscript, containing all four stanzas of our national song, was jotted down with few corrections in a Baltimore Tavern the night after Francis Scott Key was released by the British on September 16, 1814.
2.Thomas Boyle Proclamation – Skipper of the Baltimore privateer “Chasseur,” Captain Boyle had the nerve to tack up an 1814 proclamation blockading the entire United Kingdom with one ship and then sailed through a gauntlet of enemy ships escaping capture.
3.Two Cartoons – The War of 1812 era was a rich with political cartoons and each tells an interesting story.
A.The Conspiracy Against Baltimore – A cartoon about party politics for and against the war that led to one of the most vicious Baltimore riots in July, 1812.
B. John Bull and the Baltimoreans – A very funny 1814 cartoon depicting the brave Baltimoreans chasing a hooved John Bull (Great Britain) out of Baltimore with bayonets.
4. Two Thomas Ruckle Paintings – Irish immigrant house painter Ruckle was a corporal at the Battle of North Point with the elite 5th Maryland Regiment. Excited about his role as a defender, Ruckle left behind two large folk art paintings that are treasured for their accuracy. One shows the American militia assembling on Hampstead Hill (now Patterson Park), the other the Battle of North Point.
5. Etting Cup – Samuel Etting was a member of a Jewish company that was in the Ft. Mc Henry trenches. He and his colleagues, including fort commander Major George Armistead, scratched their names into a 6 inch blackened mug that was brought out at reunions.
6. A British Bomb – One of the 200 lb. explosive “bombs” that rained on Ft. McHenry for a day and a night, fell at the feet of a fort defender and did not explode. The private kept it as a souvenir.
7. Commodore Joshua Barney Portrait and red Moroccan sword belt – Revolutionary veteran and naval hero Barney commanded the Chesapeake Flotilla and was a hero at the Battle of Bladensburg. Rembrandt Peale painted him for the City of Baltimore along with the other Maryland heroes.
8. Commodore John Rodgers Silver Service – Rodgers, an important naval hero was best known for his part in the 1814 defense of Baltimore. The Maryland Historical Society has about 10 of the 60 exquisite silver pieces of dinnerware commissioned by Baltimore to honor his service.
9. The Bombardment of Ft. McHenry – The most accurate portrayal of the September 13-14, 1814, British attack on Ft. McHenry was a large canvas painted by Alfred Jacob Miller to honor his father who helped defend the fort. Miller went on to become one of America’s most famous frontier painters.
10. A Hundred Year Musket – A 1763 flintlock French musket delivered to the Americans during the Revolution and branded United States, saw service in the War of 1812 with the Maryland militia and then was converted to a percussion lock by Confederates at the beginning of the Civil War.
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