McHenry has played an active role in our nation's history from the
founding of the nation through World War II:
McHenry's history began in 1776 during the Revolutionary War. Originally
an earthern star shaped fort, it was called Fort Whetstone because of its
location on Whetstone Point.
site was an excellent location for two reasons. It was located far enough
from Baltimore to provide protection without endangering the city, and it
was surrounded on three sides by water. Constructing the fort on this site
meant that enemy ships sailing into Baltimore would have to pass the fort
Revolutionary War ended without an attack on Baltimore. However,
improvements to the fort continued. In 1798, a year after Baltimore was
incorporated as a city, a French engineer, Jean Foncin, was selected to
plan a new fort on Whetstone Point.
Secretary of War under President George Washington, was instrumental in
providing support for its construction. The fort was renamed "Fort
McHenry" in his honor.
fort became famous in the War of 1812 when the British attacked on
September, 1814. For 25 hours the British bombarded Fort McHenry from
ships outside of Baltimore harbor in the Patapsco River. The fort's
defenders held firm, and Baltimore was saved.
the American Civil War union troops were stationed at Fort McHenry to help
keep Baltimore out of the hands of those who would have Maryland join the
southern rebellion. The fort's guns were turned toward the city. The fort
was used as a temporary prison where political prisoners suspected of
being confederate sympathizers were held, often without trial. Following
the Battle of Gettysburg in early July, 1863 nearly 7,000 confederate
soldiers were detained in the fort.
McHenry continued its active military service to the country until July
20, 1912 when the last active garrison left the fort.
1915 to 1917 the City of Baltimore used the site as a city park and beach.
1917 the United States Army used the fort site to establish U. S. General
Hospital No. 2 for returning wounded veterans of World War I. It was the
largest military hospital in the United States with over 100 temporary
buildings. Some of the earliest developments in the fields of
reconstructive and neuro-surgery were made in that hospital. When the war
ended, the need for the hospital slowly diminished and in 1925 the
hospital was torn down.
1925 Fort McHenry was made a national park, and it was transferred to the
care of the National Park Service in 1933. Fort McHenry was redesignated a
National Monument and Historic Shrine in 1939. It is the nation's only
World War II the Fort served as a Coast Guard Training Center for fire
control and port defense.
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