State to purchase site of battle in War of 1812

9-acre parcel in North Point to be saved as park

April 12, 2006|By LIZ F. KAY .. | LIZ F. KAY ..,SUN REPORTER

One of the last remnants of the southeastern Baltimore County battlefield where American troops fought off British invaders in the War of 1812 is in line to be preserved.

Next month, the state Board of Public Works is expected to approve the purchase of nearly 9 acres of undeveloped land on North Point Road near Trappe Road, where British and American troops met in 1814 for the Battle of North Point.

The Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit land preservation and conservation group, negotiated the deal to purchase the property from Mars Super Markets. In turn, the state will buy the land from the trust for $1.75 million, using funds from Program Open Space and the state's transportation budget.

The purchase, disclosed this week by state officials, delights local residents and historians.

"It's a miracle that this property has survived all this time," said Robert Reyes, president of the Friends of the North Point Battlefield Inc., a group that has worked to commemorate the battle.

Much of the battlefield where the two forces met is now covered by homes, businesses and roads, including Interstate 695, Reyes said. But the center of the clash, where American Gen. John Stricker stood and directed his troops, remains open. It marks the site of a Methodist meeting house used as a field hospital and headquarters.

The tract to be bought is near Battle Acre Monument, which now marks the one-day fight that, with the British navy's failed assault on Fort McHenry, spared Baltimore from capture.

Though outnumbered at North Point, American forces were able to kill the British general, Robert Ross, which historians say demoralized his soldiers and eventually caused them to give up their advance on Baltimore and return to their ships.

The clashes in Baltimore -- at Fort McHenry and at North Point -- "were pivotal in driving the British to the Treaty of Ghent" that ended the war, Reyes said.

Battle Acre is part of a proposed "Star-Spangled Banner Trail" that, if approved by Congress, would connect War of 1812 sites in Virginia, Washington and Maryland. In December, senators passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes to create the trail, which would be managed by the National Park Service. The bill is pending in the House.

The Mars property would be preserved as a park and added to the trail. It would be managed by staff at nearby North Point State Park, said Department of Natural Resources spokesman Charles Gates. A concept plan is being developed, he said, but the state probably will install interpretive signs and build a walking trail.

"The preservation of this site will not only protect a part of Maryland's history, but it will preserve it for the historical education of our children," said Shareese N. DeLeaver, a spokeswoman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The Friends group contacted the trust about four or five years ago about the site and other properties that might be worth protecting, said Denise Schlener, director of the trust's Chesapeake office. The trust began negotiating in earnest about three years ago, when signs noting the possible lease of the property went up.

"Sometimes we're asked to come in when unfortunately it's the last place that can be protected," Schlener said.

Representatives from Mars did not return calls yesterday for comment.

Battle Acre Monument, across the street and farther east on North Point Road, commemorates the battle, Reyes said. But it was built in 1839 in the middle of a cornfield. Now it's dwarfed by surrounding houses.

So is the Mars property, Schlener said.

"When you go by it, you have to do a double take," she said. "It really is a remarkable place, to say that almost 200 years ago, a major battle occurred there that was kind of a rehash of the War of Independence."

liz.kay@baltsun.com

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