tv Baltimore and the War of 1812 CSPAN3 September 26, 2015 3:15pm-3:52pm EDT
students. eads up -- [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> you're watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter at c-span history. for information on our schedule of upcoming programs and to keep up with the latest history news. the american legion recently hosted its national convention in baltimore. up next, chief of interpretation at fort mchenry national monument and historic shrine, vince vase, talks about baltimore's role in the war of 12 at the legion's historian luncheon. also explores the origins of the the "star spangled banner" which was written by francis scott key
after he witnessed the battle of baltimore in 1814. this program is 35 minutes. >> you can call me ranger or ranger vince. i do work for the national park service. probably wherever you live there is a national park near you. i had the pleasure of eating here at florida's table home of st. augustine and the everglades. it is the national park service that preserves the great natural and cultural legacy of the united states. and it's great honor to speak here for you-all, those who have served this nation for many years. i was talking to my boss when sue asked me to speak, the email through, and i could have found one of my rangers to do it and decided to do it myself. my boss said, you're late on some of your reports, you might want to use that saturday for something like that. three oss, there's
entities that you cannot say no to. the first is my mom. so if my mom want meese to speak for one of her clubs, do i it. two, the gold star mothers. and three, the american legion. o we are here. and right here leave you walking away with appreciation for what baltimore represents. an appreciation for all this because this is a really important year. this year, 2015, 200 years ago, really was the year of reflex -- reflection. 2015, about 1815, the cornerstone was laid for a very important monument which still stands about a half a mile up the road, up calvert street. and if you get some time i would ask you to visit it. called the battle monument. it's also sometimes called the baltimore monument. and if you look at the monument,
you can see on top of the monument lady baltimore stands with a laurel wreath t looks like the letter o for the orioles, but really it's the laurel wreath. that was put up there to honor of s, the defenders baltimore from 1814. last year we had our huge bicentennial commemoration of the successful defense of baltimore from the british and the writing of the the "star spangled banner." so if you forget everything that you experience here this weekend, if you get totally fried out on all the meetings and that stuff, remember that this week you visited the home, the birthplace, of the national anthem. it was the battle here, 201 years ago, of which francis scott key was an eyewitness, that led to the words that became our country's song. and the war of 1812 was an born conflict. so that's what i want to talk about today. what was this war of 1812?
why was there a bombardment in baltimore? why were the words that key wrote so important? how do they live on to this day? people write words all the time. people write songs all the time. people write patriotic songs all the time. why did his become the national anthem? i think it's something we should all know. as americans we should know our national anthem and know how it came to be. so that's what we'll explore today. if you have questions feel free to ask. all started back in the 1790's. we already won our independence. the 13 colonies, now the 13 states. we forget what it was like to be a young start-up country. starting things up is difficult whether you are trying to start a business or anything. those first years are really -- that's when a business will fail. that's when a country can fail. you probably don't forget, but i talk to people from all over the world, all over the country
every day of the week. for those -- a lot of us it's hard to remember a time in our nation's history where we were the underdog. where our country was militarily weak. and to where in a world that was ruled like -- if you look at the world in the 1790's, early 1800's, jeaped ruled by the shoguns, the french had their king. england had a king. germany all different principalities and duke comes. the idea of having a democracy, a representative democracy, that was revolutionary. in a way it was almost like that's not going to work. that can't work. most mainstream people of the world and other nations, that united states thing is not going to work. yes the greeks had invented democratcy. that was a couple thousand years ago. the romans professed it, but
couldn't hold on to it. they slipped into that empire. it doesn't work. it's good in theory but in reality it cannot happen. here you have the young united states. we'll make it happen. we did do anything. we beat the british empire and got our independence. the idea of staying independent was by no means a foregone conclusion. done don't forget we always say the 13 colonies. there were more than 13 colonies. the ones that did not take part of the revolution became a thing called canada. it's still there today, trust me it's there. they were quite content to stay with the british empire. so the idea, well, maybe if our democracy doesn't work out, maybe we can be like part of that and go back. the british and other countries treated us as a former colony. in the years right before the war of 1812, englan and france were the great superpowers. the huge napoleonic wars.
these were on the scale of a world war 1 orel world war ii at the time. the united states is -- or world war ii at the time. the united states is trying to stay out of it. we wanted to trade with both countries. the french helped in the revolution. the british were a trading partner. the french navy was largely destroist the british were dominant at sea. the french were dominant on the continent. so the british did not want us trading with the french or sending anything to them. so what they said hey, united states, we forbid you to trade with the french. we're like, well, dad, we kind of moved out of the house now. i got my own place. i can turn my stereo up, pall. still love you, but, you can't tell me what to do anymore. the british were like, no, no. we can. that was the first thing. the sec one was the seizure of american sailors. forcing them into the british navy. it was commonplace where a british warship would pull up
next to an american merchant ship and demand people and take them. if you think about it, what would it be like if that happened today? what if today after all the conferences you went back, flopped down on your hotel bed, turned the television on, said a chinese warship stomped an american neutral ship and took five people off and forced them into the chinese navy. that would be a messagor international incident. this was commom place. -- commonplace. the french impounded american ships, too. the united states wasn't getting a lot of respect around the world. to put a finer point on it, about an hour ago sailing up on the sailing ship the eagle by the united states coast guard. it's docked at the inner harbor. i was talking to a couple of coast guard admirals. we were looking at the american flag waving off the fan tail of the ship. he what's really powerful, especially for you veterans who have been in the coast guard or
navy especially, that when you're on an american vessel at sea, that's american soil. it should be respected. the flag stands for that. well, what is it here in these early days of the young united states, where these vessels could be stopped at will by the british and people taken off? cargo impounded. even though we are neutral. the flag wasn't getting any respect. and the flag wasn't getting respect, did it mean anything? this is what's going through the people's minds at the time. so there was a drumbeat. maybe we should declare war against the british for free trade and sailors' rights. now, i don't know if we have any vietnam era veterans in our audience today, i suspect we probably have a few. looking back, it was a contentious era of american history. but historians say actually the war of 1812, the american people were more divided than they were during the vietnam era.
yeah. we don't remember it in those terms. of course we didn't have tv in 1812, either. but there were many americans who bitterly opposed the united states going to war in 1812. the question is why? i told you one reason why we should have declared war. why shouldn't we have declared war? one was there were some, not all, but some senators and congressmen who were hot heads and they were -- in our government and they wanted -- said things like, it is the destiny of these united states to expand all the way to california. to have everything in mexico and take over all of canada and have everything on this side of the atlantic. so a lot of people are like, you guys just want to pick a fight with the canadians and british so you can take that land. this is a land grab. interestingly enough, francis scott key was one of those people. there were others who opposed the war of 1812 because they believed we were not ready. they had a point. the united states navy in 1812
numbered 18 ships. they were good ships. but there were 18 of them of the the british had 1,038 war ships. the idea is like, hey, man, how are we going to beat that? the idea this will be land war. we'll invade canada and the british are fighting the french anyway. we did invade canada in 1812. this is another reason we don't remember the war because it had bad marketing. think about it. civil war, interesting title. revolutionary name of the war. world war ii, interesting name of the war. 1812, how many of us like dates. most people don't like memorizing dates for history class. to name a war after a date that sound boring, 1812. 1812, so we did invade canada. unfortunately for us, the first few battles of the war of 1812 were a series of american defeats. the american army was very poorly trained at that time. a lot of recruits, officers
weren't that good then. the supply system wasn't really worked out. the war of 1812 becomes the war of 1813 as well. there's still battles around canada. any of you been to the niagara falls, you were near five major battlefields of the war of 1812. matter of fact, later in the war one of the bloodiest battles was called the battle of bridgewater, which you could hear the niagara falls was that close. it was at niagara falls, war of 1812. so the war -- however, the united states navy did pretty well during the war of 1812. matter of fact even to this day many naval people say it was the true of the united states navy. one of the most famous ships of the war of 1812, still on the rolls, active duty naval vessel today, the united states frigate constitution. my buddy here from boston, i had to say that because he's from massachusetts, mr. jake.
essentially beat a number of british ships during the war of 1812. it got the nickname -- old ironsides. that comes from the war of 1812. 1813, though, the british do use their naval might and blockade the chesapeake. blockade the shoreline of the united states. and so they are worried we might actually win and take over canada because the british could not send a lot of troops over here. they were still busy fighting napoleon. they do turn the chesapeake bay into a british lake. like later if you go down the inner harbor, the water there, that's the patapsco river. if you grew up in baltimore city, that's the river horn. that flows down into the chesapeake bay. the british were sailing ships up and down the bay. raiding small towns. burning small towns. a lot of fear. those who opposed the war of 1812 were even louder. how come our army is in canada
and places like baltimore are threatened. anything could happen. then in 1814 things go from bad to worse. in 1814 napoleon was defeated. so the british are like, hey, all the troops we had fighting the brench, we could send them over to the united states and really clean their clock. so if the united states wanted for our terms what, we wanted out of the war, was to take over canada, and a guarantee that the british wouldn't mess with any american sailors or ships, what did the british want? well, the british wanted us to give up some western land. they didn't want to reclaim us as colonies. however they did want the michigan territory. or the illinois-indiana territories, which at that time also were part of wisconsin. so they thought, hey, if you give this up, we are letting you off easy. we are not asking for delaware. we are not asking forry rifflet we are not asking for maine --
massachusetts. that's western land the. the british wanted to give that like an indian buffer state. no, we are not going to do t the americans and british had peace negotiators over in belgium. why during the war of 1812 the british and american peace negotiators were in belgium? crossroads of -- neutral territory. crossroads of europe. here's the deal, folks. food, how good was the food today? really good, right? you said it was delicious yourself. [applause] belgium chocolate. belgium waffles. belgium beer. if you're going to be at a place for a long time, go where the food is good. just saying. neutral ground had a lot to do with it, too. john quincy adams was one of the negotiators. over there. we are at an impasse. the british decided to turn the
heat up on the young united states. they did a few things. slave state. was a any enslaved person, if they went over to the british side, were instantly get their freedom. now, i say that because when we see the the "star spangled banner" flag, as francis scott key would later write, the land of the free and home of the brave. ironically francis scott key was a slave owner himself. i'm not saying he was categorically a bad guy. i'm saying history is the way it is. when we see the american flag, for many generations it is the flag of freedom, but if you were enslaved, the british flag would be the flag of freedom. there were thousands of african-americans that went to the british side. however, this is baltimore. baltimore had the highest population of free african-americans and many of them did fight and contribute to the defense of baltimore city, for them the the "star spangled banner" was the flag of the free. in our hat eventually
nation's history everybody would be free. just different perspectives on this. on a day like today with a spyglass, armstead could look over the wall and see the white sails of the british ships and realizes he has to do something. reinforcement will brought in. it is my intention to have a flag so large the british will have no difficulty seeing it from a distance. hey, if the british want to have these invasion scares, we are going to be ready. a lot of people come up and say that's where betsy ross comes in, right? ok. myth bufters right here. first of all, true, betsy ross did exist. true, betsy ross liffled in philadelphia. true, betsy ross made flags. and she lived during the revolutionary war. no linkage that she invented the american flag. she may have made the first one. but she didn't intervent it. congress created a committee to do that. however, here in baltimore was
mary young pickersgill. her 13-year-old daughter and grace, a african-american endentured servant, it was a flag making business and bed and breakfast. it was like a quasi-hotel thing and flags on the side. basically grace's mom couldn't afford to raise her. what she did was she essentially put her in an endenture to mary. she's like she's going to work for me for a bunch of years. however i'm going to train her in how to do this business and she'll get these skills. that was how they made the deal. army stead ordered this huge flag. they make two. enormous one, 30 by 42 feet. and a smaller one, 17 by 25 feet. small is still pretty big. yes, they were made out of imported british wool bunting. the stars were cotton from the united states. and they were brought, took over a month, to hand stitch.
over a million stitches. you think like 95 degree days, they had to move to a nearby brewery so they could have a room big to lay it out and hand stitch it. and that's brought to the fort. in september, 1814, the british would attack for real. before the british came after baltimore, they landed troops in southern maryland and marched overland during washington, d.c. the capital of the united states. the militia turned out and it's actually the battle of bladensburg. one of the most embarrassing defeats for the united states army. confusion was in the ranks. the great james monroe, great guy, but not on this day. he was the strait -- scathe -- secretary of state andets-e was playing general. teamsters hired, put in the line of fire so they gallupped away with the ammunition. the president of the united states himself, james madison, actually showed up with two
doctor goon pistols strapped to his belt. in the moments before the battle he almost wound up in his haste to get into it road through the american lines and almost got captured by the british until the person turned the horse's stirrups around. within about two hours the american army was in full restreet. the president was galloping away. and the british terrified americans. there was a valiant stand by the united states marine corps and small part of sailors. but eventually they were overwhelmed. later that night the british went into washington, d.c. hours before the british went into washington, d.c., two lerks saved the declaration of independence. saved the constitution of the united states. if you think about t. documents, -- about it, documents, the declaration of independence would be one of the documents
that's sacred. put them in bags and got out of town. enlisted men have a way of getting things done. these clerks were just like that. the history records that they commandeered a wagon. they stole it. and they put these documents as well as the letters of the continental congress and george washington's correspondentens in bags and took them outside of d.c. like hours before the british got there. dolly madison, the first lady, had her butler cut out the portrait of george washington by gilbert stewart. that facial feature of that painting is what's on the dollar bill. if you ever saw that. so that the british would not capture that and parade it into disgrace. that night the british moved into washington, d.c., and burned the government buildings. even from the rooftops of baltimore looking down, you could see a glow in the sky as those buildings went up in flames. people knew this would be next. ironically enough, baltimore
would be next and ironically enough it was september 11, 1814, when the british armada was seen at the mouth of the river. there's an interesting letter by a young jewish volunteer, he said -- he was taking care of his brother. he heard the church bells ringing in baltimore. that was the alarm system. he was a militiaman he took his musket. and there is a hill still there today in the inner harbor, called federal hill. and from federal hill at the time, it was just farmland between there and the fort. from federal hill you could see way down the river. he said i was frozen in my tracks at seeing the length and breadth of enemy shipping below the fort. awestruck by this huge armada coming up. then he took it off and ran down to the fort. army stead was about 1,200 defenders, commander of the
fort. he was a major. had his flag, defenses taking shape. on the 12th of september about 5,000 british red coats land south of the city in march -- and march overlan. the people of baltimore were digging entrenchments. if you remember world war ii news reels the people in moscow or poland digging anti-tank ditches and stuff. it was like that. reinforcements, 15,000 soldiers come to baltimore. during the entrenchments. there is battle called battle of north point. land battle. since i'm with the american legion, ail put a plug in for one of most famous veterans groups in baltimore, we have the fifth regiment armory. the fifth regiment, it was called the dandy fifth because their uniforms were very ornate. red, white, and blue. red lapels, blue uniform, white cross belts, and a marching band hat. that was the style in the era of
napoleon. that unit along with the 27th regiment fought those british and slowed them down. they lost about 250 men killed and wounded. the british lost about 300. the british closed into the outskirts of the city. but the british now with only about 4,700 men, their officers looking through spyglasses could in on 00 americans dug the outskirts of the city. 50 pieces of artillery brought up from the wharmbs of baltimore harbor. if you were a brisht commander, would you risk attacking under odds like that? would you simply retreat or would you pass the buck to the royal navy? that way you can blame it on the navy if nothing happens. blame it on the navy. so words passed that the city will only begin after the royal navy reduces fort mchenry. in the early morning hours of the 13th of september, 1814, 15
british ships close into the fort. once they come within cannon range, some of the larger fort guns swing out. overwhelm of the larger guns were capable of firing a 36-pound iron ball a mile and a half. going at 1,000 miles an hour. they didn't call them cannon balls, they called them shot. so that's a great way to think about it. like if you ever in track and field and threw the shot put, that's what it is. it doesn't blow up. yes. i know hollywood shows them blowing up, trust me. i studied this stuff. it doesn't blow up. it's solid. going at 900 to 1,000 miles an hour when it smacks into a ship, it will knock a hole in it. a blizzard of splinters on the inside of the bulk head. you could do serious damage. and since the cannon balls were also solid, could you heat them up. as one eyewitness wrote, the furnaces at the fort were vomiting hot shot to give the british a warm reception.
so they were actually -- they had brick offense, like brick often pizza, you could put the cannon balls in there and stoke it up and fish out a red hot cannon balls. you bring it up to the gun, ram down the gunpowder, ram down some -- a block of earth, sometimes a wet rag or two, flip in the red hot cannon ball and tap the whole thing down. boom, when you fire the gun, the whole thing fires. now you're firing -- you can imagine what will happen if a red hot cannon ball embeds itself in a wooden ship. can you set it on fire. in the early morning hours, boom, boom, boom, boom. for a few hours the cannon fire is going back and forth. people in baltimore on the rooftops, private douglas wrote i could see their shot strike their frigates in many instances. you could probably see holes appear in sails. it starts to rain. army stead reluck lant-i --
reluctantly orders the gigantic flag hauled down and the smaller flag hauled up. the flag hangs limp because it's frenched with rain water. then the british not willing to lose any ships pull back beyond the range of the fort's guns. even though the fort's guns are hiked up, we could see the cannon balls harmlessly splashing down in the water. and army stead reluctantly says cease-fire. francis scott key was on a small truste ship. he negotiated the release of a prisoner. he was -- was on an unarmed ship behind the british bombardment squadron. but he's not sure what's going on. he knows there's a bombardment of the fort. by the terms of the release of the prisoner he negotiated, he could go back to baltimore only once the battle was over. so his question is who is going to win this battle? and there's this lull in the
battle right now. it gets quiet. this is where the british use five special ships. and i love the names of them. the one was the meteor. the terror. the aetna. the h.m.s. volcano. nd the h.m.s. devastation. that was the seahawk and awe of 1814. each one of those ships could fire a 200-pound exploding shell two miles. now, i'm sure we probably have some folks who fired mortars in their careers in the military. and you know the principle of the mortar, fire and lob the projectile up. these mortars were fixed at a 45-degree setting. if you do the math that bomb will go a mile high in the sky before it begins its descent. imagine you, for some you can
probably imagine it's easy because you did it in real life, being a young recruit, on the receiving end of a bombardment or fire, and unable to return it yourself. that's the most helpless feeling, that's probably one of the worst feelings you can ever get. i was --dy a talk like this for another legion group and a few years ago it was a world war ii veteran, ladies and gentlemen, it was like the german railway guns. one guy stepped up and said i faced those guns. i know exactly what you're talking about. but that sinking feeling of helplessness. the only thing the defenders could do is hunker down behind the ramparts as the shells came in. you could feel the ground shake. the bombs bursting in air as francis scott key could write. give you a cross section of two men who were killed in this battle. fortunately, there were only five killed in the bombardment. but two of the five, one side is a lieutenant levi clagett. was a very rich baltimorian.
he served as a volunteer militia officer. his name is on the battle monument. he was mortally wounded with a shell fragment through his neck. he was remembered. another man, wimbledons, his real name was frederick hall. he was born enslaved in southern maryland. he joined the american army. he changed his name so his master couldn't track him down. fate brought his army unit to fort mchenry. a regular u.s. army infantry regiment. and the shell landed where that regiment was posted. it severed his right leg and he would die a couple weeks later. two guys, right. one is one of the poorest guys, probably if you asked him master he wasn't even considered a citizen of the country he just died for. the other guy is a rich guy. his name's on a monument in baltimore city. really you had everything in between. you had free african-american sailors. you had immigrant white guys like george who was a german immigrant, drummer in the united
states army. musician. the bombardment continued all through the night. one direct hit struck the fort's ammunition magazine, a glancing blow. and never blew up. you talk about those near misses. the shelling continued all into the night. the british had a large attack behind the fort. one defender said you could hear the screams of the royal marines cutting across the rainy night as the fort as cannon ball splintered into the barges, blowing men, body parts, and everything else out the other side. by dawn's early light, the bombardment tapered off. by dawn's early light the british land commander decided to cancel an attack in the city by land and they began to pack up and march back down. the british officers on the ships saw that they -- the fort grounds were cut up but that the defenses were still very strong. they fired over 1,000 shells and
700 rockets. so throwing another 1,000 shells clearly wasn't going to win this battle. to bring up the ship's closer, would improve their acuracy, then the fort might be able to strike them better. they decided, we don't want to risk damaging or losing any ships. so let's turn and sail away. as they did, major george army stad -- army stead ordered the flags changed. it was a routine thing done at 9:00 every morning. on this particular morning it was very special. the small, sopping wet american flag was hauled down. the gigantic flag, carefully kept try, and literally it's the morning, so there was no rain, was hoisted as the five and drums played "yankee doodle" that was like our national anthem song at the time. private isaac monroe, a volunteer militiaman, said everyone jumped out of play the ramparts and cheered as the big flass was hoisted. we even have an aaccount from a british officer in training,
mitshipman, robert barrett, royal navy, h.m.s. hebris, as the ship was sailing away, at 9:00 the americans hoisted over their works the superb and splendid ensign over their battery we even have an account by the british some big flag was hoisted. the most eloquent account was by francis scott key. he knew what was going on. key really wasn't for the war of 1812. however, once the homeland was attacked he most certainly was. key again was not perfect. he was a conflicted man. he recognized in a war not going well, in a time where the capital had only been burned a couple weeks before, there was a lot at stake in this particular battle here. this is bun we -- this is one we had to win. this is a battle for morale. and seeing that flag by dawn's early light, really meant that the republic had survived. as he -- he had this rush of emotion. he'll write a four verse song,
poem if you will, that will be set to music that he titled "the defense of fort mchenry" we today call the "star spangled banner." four not recite all versuses -- verses but i'll conclude with the second verse. we only know the first verse. that's because he could not see the flag when he wrote that. can you see. otherwise he would say see what i see. if you look at the first verse it ends with a question. home of the brave. question mark? why does he do that? you got to read the second verse. i'll give that to you now. and then if you have anything to ask feel free. he says, this is like you're with key on the deck. on the shore. dimly seen. through the midsts of the deep. the early morning fog, steam off the water. inre the fauxes haughty host
dread silence reposes. battle's over. that dread silence. who won? if you can't see the flag, you don't know who won that fight. it could be the british flag going up any minute. what is that? he asks the question again. what is that? or the towering steep as it fitfully blows half concealed, half discloses. so now you know he's talking about a flag. when you see a flag waving and the wind strikes and it blows out like that, that's what he means discloses. when the breeze dies down it droops, it conceals. half conceals, half discloses. now the catches the gleam by the morning's first beam in full glory reflected it shines in the stream, 'tis the "star spangled nner," oh, long may it wave, o'er the land of the free and
home of the brave. excan mation point -- exclamation point. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> moving to our road to the white house coverage. join us sunday evening at 6:30 eastern as harvard professor and presidential candidate, lawrence lessig, talks about his decision to run for president and suggestions to change the political system. and on c-span2's book tv, tonight at 10:00 p.m., fox new