Ensuring That Star-Spangled Banner Yet Wave

Red, white, and blue snare drums in a line
Historic interpreters blowing cannon at Fort McHenry

At the center of the Baltimore harbor Fort McHenry is an impressive focal point rich in historical significance. The valiant defense of the fort by 1,000 dedicated Americans inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star-Spangled Banner during the Battle of Baltimore, September 13-14, 1814. Nearly 200 years later on September 9, 2014, over 6,600 school students donned red, white, and blue to create the Star-Spangled Banner Living Flag at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic​ Shrine. Like their predecessors during the Centennial in 1914, students made history as part of the Star-Spangled Banner.

This historic event on Young Defenders Day was made possible by the Friends of Fort McHenry who support the development and implementation of educational programming and living history activities that engender the widest possible understanding and appreciation of Fort McHenry and the enduring legacy and promise of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” our National Anthem. Over the past four decades, the Friends of Fort McHenry have supported public activities and special events produced by the National Park Service including summer Tattoo Ceremonies, our annual “Defender’s Day/ Star-Spangled Banner Weekend” and Young Defenders’ Day. Throughout the late 90s and two-thousands, the Friends helped secure millions of dollars in funding for state-of-the-art Fort McHenry Visitor & Education Center which opened in 2011.

As the birthplace of our National Anthem, Fort McHenry’s significance as a national park is well known.  The Bicentennial of the War of 1812 (commemorated from 2012 - 2015) attracted more attention and more visitors than ever. The result expanded the role of the Friends of Fort McHenry augmenting their ability to reach the community they serve.

Fort McHenry drummers

Since the summer of 2014, the Friends of Fort McHenry and the National Park Service have been building educational programming, resource stewardship, and job training opportunities that focus on a youth-oriented living history program. Launched in 2014 with support from Visit Baltimore and facilitated in partnership with Friends of Fort McHenry, a new summer employment program called “Fort! Flag! Fire!”  involved hiring fifteen individuals to portray the soldiers, sailors and citizens who defended Baltimore in 1814. Members dressed in period attire and conducted fife and drum concerts, cannon-firing demonstrations, civilian activities such as laundry duty, open hearth cooking, "selling wares" from the City of Baltimore and much more.

The program continued in 2015 as “Fort! Flag! Freedom!” and thousands of visitors experienced the unique living history program presented by local high school and college-age youth throughout the summer and fall. In the summer of the Fort! Flag! Freedom! program will continue Wednesdays – Sundays from June 22 – August 28 and on weekends through Defenders’ Day/Star-Spangled Banner Weekend, September 10 & 11, 2016.

To learn more about the Friends of Fort McHenry, their programming, and how you can get involved, be sure to check out their website and follow them on Facebook today.

Photo Credits: National Park Service

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