Baltimore - Druid Hill And Fort M'Henry
( Originally Published 1900 )
Baltimore is proud of the great art collection of Henry Walters in Mount Vernon Place, exhibited for a fee for the benefit of the poor; and it also has had as a noted resident Jerome Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, who married, and then discarded by Napoleon's order, Miss Patterson, a Baltimore lady. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes has remarked that three short American poems, each the best of its kind, were written in Baltimore : Poe's Raven, Randall's Maryland, My Maryland, and Key's Star-Spangled Banner. It is also proud of its park—" Druid Hill" —a splendid pleasure-ground of seven hundred acres, owing much of its beauty to the fact that it had been preserved and developed as a private park for a century before passing under control of the city. The route to it is by the magnificent Eutaw Place, and the stately entrance gateway opens upon an avenue lined on either hand by long rows of flower vases on high pedestals, laid out alongside Druid Lake, the chief water-reservoir. The Park has an undulating surface of woodland and meadow, with grand old trees and splendid lawns, making a scene decidedly English, not overwrought by art, but mainly left in its natural condition. The mansion-house of the former owner, now a restaurant, occupies a commanding position, and on the northern side the land rises to Prospect Hill, with an expansive view all around the horizon and eastward to Chesapeake Bay.
In this beautiful park the higher grounds are used for water-reservoirs. Baltimore has the advantage of receiving its supply by gravity from the Gun-powder River to the northward, where a lake has been formed, the pure water being brought through a tunnel for seven miles to the reservoirs, of which there are eight, with a capacity of 2,275,000,000 gallons, and capable of supplying 300,000,000 gallons daily. These reservoirs appear as pleasant lakes, Montebello and Roland, with Druid Lake, being the chief. Across the ravine of Jones's Falls is Baltimore's chief cemetery, Greenmount, a pretty ground, with gentle hills and vales. Here, in a spot selected by herself, is buried Jerome's discarded wife, Madame Patterson-Bonaparte, whose checkered history is Baltimore's chief romance. Here also lie Junius Brutus Booth, the tragedian, and his family, among them John Wilkes Booth, who murdered President Lincoln.
The most significant sight of Baltimore, however, is its old Fort McHenry—down in the harbor, on the extreme end of Locust Point, originally called Whet-stone Point, where the Patapsco River divides—built on a low-lying esplanade, with green banks sloping almost to the water. It was the strategic position of this small but strong work, thoroughly controlling the city as well as the harbor entrance, that held Baitimore during the early movements of the Civil War, and maintained the road from the North to Washing-ton. Its greatest memory, however, and, by the association, probably the greatest celebrity Baltimore enjoys, comes from the flag on the staff now quietly waving over its parapets. Whetstone Point had been fortified during the Revolution, but in 1794 Maryland ceded it to the United States, and the people of Baltimore raised the money to build the present fort, which was named after James McHenry, who had been one of the framers of the Federal Constitution and was Secretary of War under President Washington. When Admiral Cockburn's British fleet came up the Chesapeake in September, 1814, the Maryland poet, Francis Scott Key, was an aid to General Smith at Bladensburg. An intimate friend had been taken prisoner on board one of the ships, and Key was sent in a boat to effect his release by exchange. The Admiral told Key he would have to detain him aboard for a day or two, as they were proceeding to attack Baltimore. Thus Key remained among the enemy, an unwilling witness of the bombardment on September 12th, which continued throughout the night. In the early morning the attack was abandoned, the flag was unharmed, and the British ships dropped down the Patapsco.
Key wrote his poem on the backs of letters, with a barrel-head for a desk, and being landed next day he showed it to friends, and then made a fresh copy. It was taken to the office of the Baltimore American and published anonymously in a handbill, afterwards appearing in the issue of that newspaper on September 21, 1814. The tune was "Anacreon in Heaven," and there was a brief introduction de-scribing the circumstances under which it was written. It was first sung in the Baltimore Theatre, October 12th of that year, and afterwards became popular. The flag which floated over Fort McHenry on that memorable night is still preserved. Fired by patriotic impulses, various ladies of Baltimore had made this flag,. among them being Mrs. Mary Pickersgill, who is described as a daughter of Betsy Ross, of Philadelphia, who made the original sample-flag during the Revolution. The Fort McHenry flag contains about four hundred yards of bunting and is nearly square, measuring twenty-nine by thirty-two feet. It has fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, which was then the official regulation, there being fifteen States in the American Union. The poem of the Star-Spangled Banner, thus inspired and written, has become the great American patriotic anthem, and has carried everywhere the fame of the fort, the city, and the flowery flag of the United States.