The Guns of Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
10,496
Location
East Texas
#1
Part I - The Guns on Display Today
DSC04408.JPG


Fort McHenry National Monument and National Historic Site is best-known today as the place where our National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, was written by lawyer Francis Scott Key during the naval attack by the British on the night of September 13-14, 1814. However, the fort and its surroundings had a long and distinguished history afterward until it was finally deactivated and transferred to the National Park Service in 1931. During our Civil War it served as both a prison and a place to train recruits for the Union artillery branch and today boasts a fine collection of mid-ninteenth century artillery pieces. In the photo above, note the limbered fieldpiece along the path leading to the sally port.


DSC04406.JPG


Outside the fort proper is a reconstruction of the upper battery which during the 1814 attack was armed with large-caliber smoothbore guns mounted on naval trucks or garrison carriages like those here. The fire from these guns and those of a slightly-nearer-the-water lower battery added to guns within the brick fort itself. Most of the cannon at the time of the attack fired shells weighing 18, 24, or 36 pounds like those seen here.

DSC04407.JPG


These guns were manned largely by volunteer militia artillerymen and merchant seamen from ships within blockaded Baltimore Harbor. In the photo above, these original guns have wooden trucks with iron wheels and are attached to the wall by rope cables to prevent their excessive recoil when fired. The wooden levers or handspikes leaning against them were used in moving the heavy gun tubes on their carriages in order to elevate them and allow the wooden blocks seen at the rear to be positioned.

DSC04411.JPG


Following the War of 1812, seacoast fortifications underwent periodic additional strengthening and rearmament. The guns placed within them were of heavier caliber and in the 1850's rifling began to be introduced. The Lower Battery seen here replaced the earth-and-wooden one of the war with brick-reinforced earthen ramparts. The guns here are now ca. 1875 15-inch Rodman smoothbore guns of Civil War vintage that have been sleeved with rifled inserts.

DSC04413.JPG


Any casual visitor to Fort McHenry today would no doubt be confused by guns like this, probably associating them with the much more famous period of the War of 1812 rather than post-Civil War.

DSC04412.JPG


The Rodman below is the largest cannon remaining in position at Fort McHenry.

DSC04410.JPG


Next, Part II - Fort McHenry in the Civil War.
 

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
10,496
Location
East Texas
#4
Part II - Fort McHenry in the Civil War
DSC04415.JPG


Since Fort McHenry was a permanent structure, although it encompassed a fairly small area, it remained important due to its commanding position guarding Baltimore Harbor, an arm of the Patapsco River which in turn empties into Chesapeake Bay. The map below depicts phases of the British attack in September, 1814, but the fort's central position demonstrates that importance.

M-Ft.-McHenry-MAP-4COct06.jpg


Prior to and during the attack the fort was commanded by Major George Armistead (April 10, 1780 – April 25, 1818) of the 3rd Regiment of U. S. Artillery at left below. He only survived his victory there by three years; he was an uncle of Confederate Brigadier General Lewis Addison Armistead, mortally wounded in Pickett's Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg.

colgeorgearmistead1.jpg


More problematic for the citizenry of secessionist-leaning Baltimore was Major General John Dix, at right above. When secession threatened Maryland, Dix was in command at Baltimore and following the Baltimore Riots there following the bombardment of Fort Sumter he ordered the guns of Fort McHenry trained on the city to prevent further outbreaks of violence and anti-Federal government demonstrations.

DSC04409.JPG


The fort, even then noted as the birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner as described in the monument and marker above, became instead a prison for Baltimore secessionists, dissenters, and those of Southern sympathies, including even Frank Key Howard, grandson of both Francis Scott Key and local hero of the Revolutionary War John Eager Howard. While imprisoned here he wrote of his experience,

When I looked out in the morning, I could not help being struck by an odd and not pleasant coincidence. On that day forty-seven years before my grandfather, Mr. Francis Scott Key, then prisoner on a British ship , had witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry. When on the following morning the hostile fleet drew off, defeated, he wrote the song so long popular throughout the country, the Star Spangled Banner. As I stood upon the very scene of that conflict, I could not but contrast my position with his, forty-seven years before. The flag which he had then so proudly hailed, I saw waving at the same place over the victims of as vulgar and brutal a despotism as modern times have witnessed.

photo_ft_mchenry_2.jpg


The print above shows the dress parade of a Union regiment at Fort McHenry during the war. Although the guardhouse of the fort proper was used to hold important prisoners, a separate barracks and stockade for them was erected just to the right and out-of-frame of this view. These prisoners grew in number and eventually included those not only from the Baltimore region, but even western Maryland as well; noted member of the staff of Stonewall Jackson and Confederate writer Henry Kyd Douglas of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, learned his father had been arrested and incarcerated here in the fall of 1862. The experience fatally weakened the elder Douglas even though he was released before the war's end.

DSC04414.JPG

Today the fort is a favorite place for groups of veterans like those above on the parade ground. There is adjacent an excellent modern museum which traces the entire history of the fort and its site; exhibits in the restored buildings within the fort itself are mainly devoted to garrison life during its most famous period of the War of1812. Note that the flag shown here is NOT the size of the fabled Star-Spangled Banner, but is the next size down in the FOUR sizes prescribed as garrison flags. On the overcast and drizzly morning of my visit the smallest or storm flag was flying, but by the time I finished in the museum it had been replaced with this one.
 
Last edited:

bankerpapaw

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Dec 26, 2007
Messages
3,584
Location
Rome, Georgia
#9
Part I - The Guns on Display Today
View attachment 121734
Beautiful pictures!!! Thanks!!!
Fort McHenry National Monument and National Historic Site is best-known today as the place where our National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, was written by lawyer Francis Scott Key during the naval attack by the British on the night of September 13-14, 1814. However, the fort and its surroundings had a long and distinguished history afterward until it was finally deactivated and transferred to the National Park Service in 1931. During our Civil War it served as both a prison and a place to train recruits for the Union artillery branch and today boasts a fuine collection of mid-ninteenth century artillery pieces. In the photo above, note the limbered fieldpiece along the path leading to the sally port.


View attachment 121728

Outside the fort proper is a reconstruction of the upper battery which during the 1814 attack was armed with large-caliber smoothbore guns mounted on naval trucks or garrison carriages like those here. The fire from these guns and those of a slightly-nearer-the-water lower battery added to guns within the brick fort itself. Most of the cannon at the time of the attack fired shells weighing 18, 24, or 36 pounds like those seen here.

View attachment 121729

These guns were manned largely by volunteer militia artillerymen and merchant seamen from ships within blockaded Baltimore Harbor. In the photo above, these original guns have wooden trucks with iron wheels and are attached to the wall by rope cables to prevent their excessive recoil when fired. The wooden levers or handspikes leaning against them were used in moving the heavy gun tubes on their carriages in order to elevate them and allow the wooden blocks seen at the rear to be positioned.

View attachment 121731

Following the War of 1812, seacoast fortifications underwent periodic additional strengthening and rearmament. The guns placed within them were of heavier caliber and in the 1850's rifling began to be introduced. The Lower Battery seen here replaced the earth-and-wooden one of the war with brick-reinforced earthen ramparts. The guns here are now ca. 1875 15-inch Rodman smoothbore guns of Civil War vintage that have been sleeved with rifled inserts.

View attachment 121732

Any casual visitor to Fort McHenry today would no doubt be confused by guns like this, probably associating them with the much more famous period of the War of 1812 rather than post-Civil War.

View attachment 121733

The Rodman below is the largest cannon remaining in position at Fort McHenry.

View attachment 121730

Next, Part II - Fort McHenry in the Civil War.
 

Pvt.Shattuck

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 8, 2011
Messages
1,835
Location
Tampa, FL
#10
I lived up Fort Avenue at the foot of Federal Hill for many years. My kids grew up playing at the fort as their neighborhood park.
I remember the astonishment of our visiting British friends at the end of the movie shown in the visitor center when the Star Spangled Banner played, we stood and put hands over hearts.
They didn't know what to do. If there's one thing the English truly hate it's social awkwardness or embarrassment !(see Fawlty Towers)
 

EJ Zander

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Messages
1,318
Location
Gettysburg, PA
#12
I lived up Fort Avenue at the foot of Federal Hill for many years. My kids grew up playing at the fort as their neighborhood park.
I remember the astonishment of our visiting British friends at the end of the movie shown in the visitor center when the Star Spangled Banner played, we stood and put hands over hearts.
They didn't know what to do. If there's one thing the English truly hate it's social awkwardness or embarrassment !(see Fawlty Towers)
Small world. Many years ago I lived in Locust Point on Andre St off Fort Ave for about 18 months and could walk to Ft McHenry.
 

ucvrelics

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
May 7, 2016
Messages
6,384
Location
Alabama
#13
The guns here are now ca. 1875 15-inch Rodman smoothbore guns of Civil War vintage that have been sleeved with rifled inserts.
Fantastic photos and post on Ft McHenry. I didn't know that they sleeved the Rodman's what type of round did it fire after that was done.
 

kevikens

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 7, 2013
Messages
3,190
Location
New Jersey
#17
Part I - The Guns on Display Today
View attachment 121734

Fort McHenry National Monument and National Historic Site is best-known today as the place where our National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, was written by lawyer Francis Scott Key during the naval attack by the British on the night of September 13-14, 1814. However, the fort and its surroundings had a long and distinguished history afterward until it was finally deactivated and transferred to the National Park Service in 1931. During our Civil War it served as both a prison and a place to train recruits for the Union artillery branch and today boasts a fuine collection of mid-ninteenth century artillery pieces. In the photo above, note the limbered fieldpiece along the path leading to the sally port.


View attachment 121728

Outside the fort proper is a reconstruction of the upper battery which during the 1814 attack was armed with large-caliber smoothbore guns mounted on naval trucks or garrison carriages like those here. The fire from these guns and those of a slightly-nearer-the-water lower battery added to guns within the brick fort itself. Most of the cannon at the time of the attack fired shells weighing 18, 24, or 36 pounds like those seen here.

View attachment 121729

These guns were manned largely by volunteer militia artillerymen and merchant seamen from ships within blockaded Baltimore Harbor. In the photo above, these original guns have wooden trucks with iron wheels and are attached to the wall by rope cables to prevent their excessive recoil when fired. The wooden levers or handspikes leaning against them were used in moving the heavy gun tubes on their carriages in order to elevate them and allow the wooden blocks seen at the rear to be positioned.

View attachment 121731

Following the War of 1812, seacoast fortifications underwent periodic additional strengthening and rearmament. The guns placed within them were of heavier caliber and in the 1850's rifling began to be introduced. The Lower Battery seen here replaced the earth-and-wooden one of the war with brick-reinforced earthen ramparts. The guns here are now ca. 1875 15-inch Rodman smoothbore guns of Civil War vintage that have been sleeved with rifled inserts.

View attachment 121732

Any casual visitor to Fort McHenry today would no doubt be confused by guns like this, probably associating them with the much more famous period of the War of 1812 rather than post-Civil War.

View attachment 121733

The Rodman below is the largest cannon remaining in position at Fort McHenry.

View attachment 121730

Next, Part II - Fort McHenry in the Civil War.
When were those Rodman guns sleeved with the rifled steel inserts? What kind of shells would they have fired and until when were they considered effective defensive weapons? I ask this because I have seen similar Rodmans at Fort Mifflin, pictures of them at Fort Mott and at Sandy Hook, Fort Hancock, and always wondered about their use post Civil War. Thanks.
 

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
10,496
Location
East Texas
#18
... I didn't know that they sleeved the Rodman's what type of round did it fire after that was done.
When were those Rodman guns sleeved with the rifled steel inserts? What kind of shells would they have fired and until when were they considered effective defensive weapons? I ask this because I have seen similar Rodmans at Fort Mifflin, pictures of them at Fort Mott and at Sandy Hook, Fort Hancock, and always wondered about their use post Civil War. Thanks.
I must confess I can't answer about the projectiles; when I first saw these, I was thinking Colombiads. The other large Rodmans I've seen are the two 15" smoothbores that are still in position at Fort Foote, Maryland, on the Potomac below Washington. As you can see from this photo of one of them they remain smoothbores. In the period between the Civil War and Spanish-American War there was something of an arms race going on since the entire nineteenth century was very much a period of Industrial Revolution and there were many facets to this such as the development of rifled artillery which led naturally to improvements in defenses, etc. The actual brick Fort McHenry was rendered obsolete during the Civil War by the breaching of the walls of Fort Pulaski, Georgia in 1862 by huge Parrotts and other rifled guns. The present lower battery of these Rodmans largely replaced the fort itself in the 1870's turning it into mainly a barracks and storehouse. Since this was a time of rapid and continual change during a period of government parsimony there was a deliberate effort to renovate, remodel, and "improve" existing stock rather than replacing things entirely.

278-jpg.jpg


For more photos of the Rodman guns at Fort Foote: http://civilwartalk.com/threads/fort-foote-maryland.103832/
 

Similar threads




(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Top