Defenders' Day returns to Fort McHenry

The bombs bursting in air will take on a whole new level of authenticity during this weekend's celebration

  • The Fort McHenry Guard Fife & Drum band performs during last year's Defenders Day events at Fort McHenry.
The Fort McHenry Guard Fife & Drum band performs during… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun…)
September 09, 2010|By Mary Carole McCauley, The Baltimore Sun

The bombs bursting in air will take on a whole new level of authenticity this weekend during the Defenders' Day celebration at Fort McHenry.

About 140 re-enactors — or twice the number there have been at past commemorations — will defend the fort when it is "attacked" at dusk Saturday. The troops will be bombarded by six cannons detonated by members of the Maryland Army National Guard, while fireworks specifically designed to resemble the flame-like trails emitted by Congreve rockets will light up the night sky.

"They want it to look like the red rockets from the national anthem," says Gay Vietzke, the fort's superintendent.

Defenders' Day commemorates the Battle of Baltimore, the successful defense of the city from a combined British land and sea attack that ended on Sept. 14, 1814.

The weekend steps off at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Flag House & Star-Spangled Banner Museum, 844 E. Pratt St., with a parade in which a huge flag will be marched through city streets, with a ceremony at the Inner Harbor amphitheater.

The events for the remainder of the weekend will take place at Fort McHenry. War of 1812 re-enactors will conduct military drills, demonstrate 19th-century cooking techniques and stage musket demonstrations.

The public will be invited to help unroll a flag with 15 stars and 15 stripes, and an actor playing the role of the young lawyer Francis Scott Key will recite the verses to the poem that became the national anthem. There will be fife and drum music, the U.S. Naval Academy Band will perform Tchaikovsky's stirring "1812 Overture" and Saturday evening will culminate in a 30-minute display of fireworks.

"It will sound and look like the real thing," Vietzke says. "Visitors should feel like they're really there."

If you go

Defenders' Day continues from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at Fort McHenry, 2400 E. Fort Ave. Admission is $7 for each day; free for children under 16. Call 410-962-4290 or go to

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