Our Washington DC Adventure-Day 8… Fort McHenry

We had enjoyed our time in Washington DC, with lots of historical sights and information as well as lots of memories.  We still had a few more days of of this adventure left, so we loaded everything into Jodi’s suburban and headed to Baltimore, specifically Fort McHenry.  We left early as we wanted to get there in time for the morning flag raising ceremony.

Fort McHenry is where a battle occurred during the war of 1812.  The British navy was making it’s way to Baltimore, but it had to sail past Fort McHenry.  The battle went all night, and as a young lawyer by the name of Francis Scott Key watched from a ship in the harbor, he wrote a poem about the sights of that evening.  It was later put to music and that poem would become our National Anthem in 1931.    The visitor’s center was full of unique exhibits…

And lots of information about the battle and the ensuing song.

Before we went to the fort, we watched a movie about Fort McHenry and the Star Spangled-Banner.  It was excellent and at the end, the curtain went up and revealed the fort, it was a pretty awe-inspiring end to the movie.

It is a short walk to the fort, but along the way, there are information stations about the fort and life as a soldier.

The fort is smaller than we thought it would be, but was built to withstand a battle.

Being a fort used for battle, there were displays and information on the ammunition, cannons, and guns used.  It is estimated that between 1500 – 1800 shells and rockets were fired at the fort by the British fleet.  Only about 25% of these hit in and around the fort, as cannon aim and accuracy was not yet a perfected science.

Most of the structures have been historically preserved and renovated

Inside the barracks, it showed what life was like for a solider in 1812, from battle strategy, to dining, and sleeping.  On the eve of the battle, there were only about 60 of the regular army garrison available.  However, 600 members of Maryland Militia were sent and were stationed in the dry moat that surrounded the fort.

There has been some archeology work done at the fort, where various bottles, silverware and such have been found.

A large part of the history of Fort McHenry surrounds the fact that a flag flew over the fort during the battle and Francis Scott Key’s perception of the events.  A small army of men in the fort, held off a fleet of British war ships.   It is believed that a smaller flag was flown during the night of September 13th.  At 7am the following morning, the British navy realized that Fort McHenry was not going to surrender and withdrew their ships down the Patapsco River. The troops in the fort, fired a morning salute and then hoisted the large 42 x 30 foot flag onto the 90 foot flag pole,  while musicians played Yankee Doodle. This large flag would become known as the “Star-Spangled Banner”.  With the flag still flying, Francis Scott Key knew that the fort was still under American control.

We then attended the flag ceremony.  Since the wind was blowing, a smaller flag was used than the one used in 1812, but it was still big.

The daytime flag went up and the nighttime flag came down.  We were able to assist in retrieving the nighttime flag.   Since no one stays at the fort, a smaller nighttime flag is used,  in case the wind starts to blow.  If a large flag was used, then it might damage the pole.

And properly fold it.

There was a regiment reenactment starting with a call to assemble and a uniform inspection..

Then the regiment marched to the water batteries

Part of our group went up on the ramparts to watch, this also gave a great view of the dry moat.

During the original battle  18, 24, and 36 pound cannons were used.

The steady drizzle of rain did not dampen our excitement as the regiment re-enacted a cannon firing, using an 8 pound wad.  It was surprising how long it took to load the cannon and how loud it was being a smaller wad.

From this vantage point you could see out into the river, (a replica boat just happened to sail by).  The fleet contained approximately 70 ships, boats, and rafts and 5,000 sailors.   In preparation for the British attack, the American forces had sunk several of their own ships in the river channel.  With the sunken ships and the firing of cannons, even though they fell short of the fleet, kept the British Navy from moving close to the fort.

There was a demonstration of food that would be cooked at the fort in 1812.

When we go to National Parks, we always ask about their Jr. Ranger program.  Sometimes they even let the adults participate.  We had worked on the booklets, during our visit and now we were being sworn in as Fort McHenry Jr Rangers.HB4116

After leaving Fort McHenry, we wanted to stop at an authentic Baltimore crab cafe.

Our waitress was awesome to help us with the technique of shelling a crab.

Wyatt tried his hand at shelling the crab.

We wanted to try everything. It was yummy and we were very full.

We had something exciting planned in Pennsylvania, so we did a drive through of Baltimore.

We made a side trip to Lititz, Pennsylvania to Wilbur Chocolate.

It was founded in Philadelphia in 1865 and the company is famous for it’s Wilbur Buds.  They were introduced in 1893.  The Hershey’s Kiss closely resembles the Wilbur Bud.  However, Wilbur Buds are not individually wrapped and they have Wilbur stamped on the bottom.

Most of their products are hand-made.

The state of Pennsylvania is divided over what is the best chocolate, a Wilbur Bud or a Hershey’s Kiss.  The legend says that Hershey stole the idea for the Kiss from Wilbur, but to avoid trademark issues, it was individually wrapped.  It could also be mass produced but the Wilbur Bud had a slower process due to it’s name stamped on the bottom.  We had tasted the Wilbur Bud, so headed to Hershey, Pennsylvania to try a fresh Kiss.

On the way, we saw the Kissmobile sitting in a parking lot.  Not wanting to miss a photo opportunity, we stopped.

We made it to Hershey and went to the World of Chocolate.  There is a free ride through a “chocolate factory”.

As we walked in the line towards the ride, we learned about the history of the Hershey Chocolate.

The ride takes you through a “factory’

We tasted the Hershey Kiss after the tour and all agreed that Wilbur Buds were better, but Hershey had the better tour.  It was on to our next big surprise…Hershey Park.