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tv   Baltimore and the War of 1812  CSPAN  October 31, 2015 1:31pm-2:07pm EDT

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baltimore in 1814. [applause] mr. vaise: you can call me vince., or ranger probably everywhere you live, there is a national park near you. heartindeed the national service that preserves the great natural and cultural legacy of the united states. when sue asked me to speak, i could have sent one of my rages to do it, but i decided to do it myself. -- i told my boss,
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there are three entities you cannot say no to. first is my mom. two, the gold star mothers. three, the american legion. we are here. [applause] here, i want to leave you walking away with an appreciation for what baltimore represents. because this is a really important year. this year is 2015, 200 years ago of really, what a year reflection. 1815, the cornerstone of a very important monument was late, which still stands up the road. if you get some time, i would ask you to visit it. it is called the battle monument. it is also sometimes called the baltimore monument. if you look at the monument,
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lady baltimore stands with a wreath. fighters from 1814. if you forget everything that you experience here this weekend, if you get totally fried out on all the meetings, youmber that this week 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 song.ry's what was this war of 1812?
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why was there bombardment in baltimore? why were the words so important, how do they live on to this day? write words all the time. people write patriotic solve all the time. why did his become the national anthem? that is what we will explore today. if you have questions, feel free to us. it all started in the 1790's. ourad already won independent sphere the 13 colonies were now the 13 states. we forget what it was like to be a young, startup country. starting things up is difficult, whether you are trying to start a business, or anything. the first years, that is when a business can fail, when a country can fail. i talked to people all over the world, all over the country,
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every day of the week. for a lot of us, it is hard to remember a time in our nations history where we were the underdogs, where our country was militarily weak. in thelook at the world 1790's, early 1800s, japan, , england,e french the idea of having a democracy, that was revolutionary. in a way it was like, that can't work. most mainstream people of the , that united states thing, that is not going to work. yes, the greeks invented democracy, but that was a couple thousand years ago. the romans could not hold onto
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it. good in theory, but in reality, it cannot happen. states, we caned do anything. the idea of staying independent was by no means a foregone conclusion. don't forget, we always say the 13 colonies. there were more than 13 colonies . the ones that did not take part in the revolution became a thing called canada. it is still there today. trust me. they were quite content to stay with the british empire. the idea of maybe if our democracy does not work, we can go back. british, and other countries .reated us as a former colony england and france with a great superpowers.
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theseuge napoleonic war -- were on the scale of a world war at the i as a matter of fact, we wanted to trade with both countries. the french navy was largely does right -- destroyed. the british were dominant at sea, the french were dominant on the continent. the british did not want us trading with the french. they said, we have for bidding thefrom trading with french. and we were like, dad, i moved out of the house, you cannot tell us what to do any more the british were like, yeah, we can. that was the first thing. the second thing was the seizure of american sailors, forcing them into the british navy. it was commonplace when a british warship would will up
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next to an american merchant ship, and demand people. like, today, you went back, flopped down on your hotel bed, and saw on the television stoppedhinese warship an american ship, and forced the people into the chinese navy? the united states was not getting a lot of respect around the world. it,ut a finer point on i wasone hour ago, sailing up on the eagle. i was talking to a couple of coast guard admiral's. we were looking at the american five, and i said, what is really powerful here, especially for you veterans who have been in the coast guard, or navy,
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especially, when you are on an american vessel at sea, that is american soil. that flag stands for that. what is it here, in these early days of the young united states, that these vessels could evenopped at the wi will, though we were neutral? the flag was not getting any respect. this is what was going through people's minds. maybe wes a drumbeat -- should declare war against the british. i don't know we have any vietnam era veterans, we probably have a few. back, it was a contentious era of american history, but historians say that 1812, the people were more divided than the
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vietnam area. there were many americans who bitterly opposed the united states going to war in 1812. ?he question is why why shouldn't we have declared war? one was there were some, not all, but some senators and congressmen who were hotheads. it is thethings like, destiny of these united states to expand all the way to california, have everything in mexico, take over all of canada, and have everything on the side of the atlantic. a lot of them were like this is just a land grab, not about free trade. interestingly enough, francis got key, was one of those people. there were others who opposed the war of 1812 because they felt we were not ready, and they had a point.
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the united states navy in 1812 numbered 18 ships. they were good ships, but there were 18 of them. sigh deal was, this would be a land war, we would invade canada, and the british would be fighting france anyway. .e did invade canada this is another reason we don't remember the war, because of the title. independence war? interesting war. revolutionary war? interesting title. war of 1812? that just sounds boring. .e did invade canada unfortunately for us, the first few battles were a series of american defeats.
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the officers really were not good. the war of 1812 becomes the war of 1813 as well. there are still some battles around canada. how many of you have been to niagara falls? you were near five major battlefields of the war of 1812. as a matter of fact, later in the war, one of the bloodiest the wateru could hear of niagara falls, it was that close. the united states navy did pretty well in the war of 1812. as a matter of fact, to this day, many say it was the true birth of the united states navy. one of the ships is still an .ctive duty naval vessel today
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it essentially be a number of british ships. it got the name, "old ironside." their navyritish use might and blockade the shoreline of the united states. they are worried that we might actually win and take over canada. the british could not send over a lot of troops. they do turn the chesapeake bay .nto a lake cityu grew up in baltimore , it flows down into the chesapeake a. were burning small towns, a lot of fear. like i said, those who opposed the war of 1812 were like, how come our army is in canada, and places like baltimore are
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threatened? things go from bad to worse. in 1814, napoleon was defeated. the british were like, hey, all the troops we had fighting the french, we can send them to the united states. if the united states wanted to take over canada, and a guarantee that the british would not mess with american soldiers are ships, what did the british one? the british wanted us to give up the western land. they do not want to reclaim us as colonies again, however, they territory,e michigan or the illinois-indiana territory, which, at that time, was also part of wisconsin. they thought, if you give this up, we are letting you off easily, we are not asking for delaware, rhode island, massachusetts, that is western
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land. notould like, no, we are going to do it. the americans and the british peace negotiators over and belgium. why, in 1812, where the peace negotiators sent to belgium? neutral territory, crossroads of europe, ok. .ere is the deal how good was the food today? really good, right? [applause] chocolate, belgian waffles, belgian beer. if you're going to be in a place for a long time, go where the food is good, i'm just saying. neutral ground had a lot to do with it, too. john quincy adams was one of the negotiators. we were at an impasse. the british decided to turn the
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heat up on the united states. they did a few things. one. maryland was a slave state. any and slave person, if they went over to the british side, would instantly get their freedom. i say that because when we see the star-spangled banner flag, as francis got key would later write, the land of the free and home of the brave. ironically, francis scott key .as a slave owner himself when we see the american five, fly, it is a flag of freedom. however, for many, the british flag was the flag of freedom. many african-americans did fight and defend baltimore city, and for them, the star-spangled banner was the flag of the free. in our nations
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history, everybody would be free. different perspectives on this. he realized he had to do something. reinforcements were brought in. this is where he would write that it was my intention to have a flag so large, the british would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance. a lot of people come up to me and say, this is where betsy ross comes in, right? mythbusters right here. first of all, true, betsy ross did exist. true, betsy ross lived in philadelphia. true, betsy ross made slides and lives during the revolutionary lived made flags and during the revolutionary more. she may have made the first lie, but she did not invent it.
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congress would have done that. mary, her and her daughters ran a flag making business and a bed-and-breakfast. basically, grace as long could momafford to -- grace's could not afford to raise her, so she made her work for mary. ,ary trained her in business and that is how they made the deal. they ordered this huge flag. action to make to flags -- two flags. an enormous one, and a smaller one. yes, they were made out of cloth, but theh cotton was from the united
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states. over one million stitches. you think of a 95 degree day -- they had to lay it all out and hand stitch it. in september 1814, the british would attack for real. before they came after baltimore, they landed troops in southern maryland, and marched overland to washington, d.c., the capital of the united states . embarrassingst defeats for the united states army. confusion was in the ranks. the great james monroe, great guy, but not on this day. he was secretary of state, and played general, and misplaced his troops. .eamsters were hired the president of the united states, himself, james madison actually showed up with two pistols strapped to his belt.
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in the moments before the battle, he almost wound up in a it, and almostto .ot captured by the british within about two hours, the american army was in full retreat. the president was galloping away. there was a standby the united states marine corps, a small number 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 the declaration of independence, the constitution of the united states. if you think about it, documents -- if you could say a document is sacred, i don't know if you can, but if you could, the declaration of independence is probably one of those documents.
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they put it in a linen bag, and got out of town. history records that they commandeered a wagon, they stole it. they put these letters and bags, and took them outside of the sea, like ours, before the british got there. dolly madison had her butler cut out the portrait of george featureon -- the facial of that painting is what is on the dollar bill. that night, the british moved into washington, d.c., and burned the government building. even from the rooftops of baltimore, looking down, you can see a glow in the sky. ironically enough, baltimore
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would be next, and ironically enough, it was september 11, 1814, when the british armada was seen at the mouth of the river. there is an interesting letter, written by a jewish volunteer, and he said -- he was taking care of his brother, and heard .he church bells in baltimore andas a malicioutia man, ran down. from federal hill at the time, you can see way down, miles down , the river. he said, i was frozen in my tracks, seeing the length and breadth of enemy shipping. they were all struck by this huge armada coming up. he shook it off, and ran down to the fort. armstead was a major.
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is taking shape. on september 12, about 12,000 british redcoats landed south of the city, and marched overland. the people baltimore were building entrenchments. if you remember the world war and the people of moscow, or poland, digging trenches, it was like that. there is a battle called the battle of northpoint, a man battle -- land battle. i will put in a plug for one of my favorite veterans groups. we have a thing called the fifth regiment army. their uniforms were very ornate, they were red, white, and blue. that was the style in the era of napoleon.
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that unit fought those british, and slowed them down. they lost about 250 men. the british lost about 300. the british closed in on the outskirts of the city. the british, now with only about 4700 men, their officers looking through spy glasses, could see 15,000 americans dug in on the outskirts of the city. if you were a british commander, would you risk attacking under odds like that? retreat, iimply would you pass the ball to the so younavy, seek empl -- can blame it on the navy. blame it on the navy, there you go. in the early morning hours of the 13th of september, 1814, 15 british ships close into the
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port. once they come within cannon range, some of the larger guns swingout. some of the larger guns were capable of firing a 34 pound ball. they did not call them cannonballs, they called them shots. that is a great way to think about it. if you were ever and track and field, and through the shot, it does not blow up. it is solid. 900-1000 miles per hour, when it smacks into a ship, it will blow a hole into it, do serious damage. since the cannonballs were solid, you can keep them up. as one eyewitness wrote, the furnaces were vomiting hotshot to give the british of born
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reception. they had like brick ovens. you can put the cannonballs and their, and then fish out one of .he red-hot cannonballs you bring it to the gun, ran slipped innpowder, the red-hot cannonball, pack the whole thing down, and boom. you could imagine what would happen if a red-hot cannonball embeds itself in the wooden hole of a ship. in the early morning hours, you boom.boom, boom, for a few hours, the campfire is going back and forth. private douglas wrote, i could see the shots. it starts to rain. thetead reluctantly orders
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giant american flag down, and a smaller flag in its place. limp because it is drenched with rainwater. the british pullback. are hikedh the forts up as high as they could go, we , and see the cannonballs the smoke jerks back -- drifts back. francis scott key had negotiated the release of a prisoner. he was on an unarmed ship behind a british squatter, but he is not sure what is going on. by the terms of the release of the prisoner that he negotiated, he could go back to baltimore only once the battle was over. his question is who is going to win this battle. lere is visible -- this
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ull. the british use five special ships. i love the names -- the terr or, the volcano, and the devastation. oft was the shock and awe 1814. each of those ships could fire a 200 pound exploding shell two miles. i'm sure we had some folks who fired mortars in their career. you know the principle of the mortar. these mortars were fixed at a 45 .egree setting if you do the math, that bomb is going to go one mile high in the sky before it begins its dissent . for some of you, it you can imagine this because you did it
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in real life. being a young recruit on the receiving end of bombardment or fire, and unable to return it yourself -- that is probably one of the worst feelings you can ever get. i did a talk like this for another legion group a few years ago, and there was a world war ii veteran. , it wasnd gentlemen like -- one guy stood up, and said, i faced those guns, i know exactly what it was like. bombs bursting in air, as francis go scott key would write. fortunately, there were only five killed in the bombardment. two of the five -- on one side, c re is lieutenant levi
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his name is on the battle monument. he was mortally wounded with a shell fragment through his neck. he was remembered. another man, william williams, 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.
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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 barge 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 the fort grounds were cut up but that the defenses were still very strong. they fired over 1,000 shells and 700 rockets.
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so throwing another 1,000 shells clearly wasn't going to win this battle. to bring up the ship's closer, would improve their accuracy, 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 armistead 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 dry, and literally it's the morning, so there was no rain, was hoisted as the fifes 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 flag was hoisted. we even have an account from a british officer in training, midshipman, robert barrett, royal navy, h.m.s. hebris, as
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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 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.
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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." i will not recite all four 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 mists of the deep. the early morning fog, steam off the water.
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where the foe's haughty host in 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. o'er 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 banner," oh, long may it wave, o'er the land of the free and home of the brave. exclamation point. [applause]
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[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> over the next beauty -- next few weeks, c-span's american history tv will air a selection of oral histories with african-american community leaders. the project titled explorations in black leadership was a collaboration between university of virginia professor phyllis leffler and julian bond. in 10 minutes, we will hear from julian bond as he remembers his career as a civil rights leader. he talks about growing up in the segregated south, his involvement with the student nonviolent coordinating committee, and his later political career. but first, project director phyllis leffler discusses the origins of this oral history collection and its historical importance. this program is a little over 90 minutes.


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