Every other year I have the privilege of accompanying 50 Edmond cadets to Baltimore, Maryland. During our visit, I narrate the events leading up to the British bombardment of Fort McHenry.
I share with them about my ancestors-one an English physician turned Methodist missionary preaching the gospel on Baltimore’s King Street. As we travel down Fort Street and approach Point Whetstone I share with them my Valley Forge ancestor-a Continental Army sergeant marching through Baltimore on his way to a place called Yorktown.
You see, Fort McHenry’s predecessor was actually a revolutionary war fortress too. Some 35 years prior to Fort McHenry’s bombardment-General Washington and French General Rochambeau’s combined army would march to Fort Whetstone.
In 1793, the War Department would build a star fort-now known as Fort McHenry at the same spot to protect Baltimore’s seaport and citizenry.
Arriving at Fort McHenry we step back in time. The year is now 1814 and the very existence of the United States is in doubt. After all, the British had burned our nation’s capital and President Madison had fled the White House. Stepping off the bus, our Edmond cadets head to the visitor center to observe a park ranger narrating events.
After the presentation our cadets stand in respect to Fort McHenry’s defenders and our national anthem. The visitor center’s curtains open displaying a fifteen star American flag flying over Fort McHenry.
Cadets exit the visitor center and explore Fort McHenry’s ramparts observing a point from which Francis Scott Key penned the words to our national anthem. Meeting along the way reenactors and descendants of the American troops-our Edmond cadets learn about America’s army and are invited to raise the colors in observance of the 203rd anniversary.
By Lt. Col Ken Young