Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fort McHenry: Always Something New in History

Yesterday, to honor Memorial Day I visited Fort McHenry. I’ve gone there before for Memorial Day it is a fitting and inspiring place to honor those who have served. I missed Sarah Palin’s visit, a regret I shall carry to my dying day.

But I did catch the National Moment of Silence, a bagpiper and taps, staring at the massive flag waving above.

In my previous post on Ft. McHenry, I write about the fort’s fascinating history not only in the War of 1812, but also in the Civil War, when it was Lincoln’s Gitmo. He locked up many of Maryland’s most prominent citizens (who were also southern sympathizers) in order to keep Maryland in the Union and keep Washington DC from being surrounded. I forgot to mention that the star forts, of which Ft. McHenry is one of the most famous, inspired the Pentagon’s five-sided design.

Every visit brings new lessons. I knew Ft. McHenry had been an army hospital in WWI, but learned that it was the birthplace of occupational therapy. I also learned that during the War of 1812 and the Civil War, officers continued to carry swords to as badges of rank and pointers.

I always learn something new, but some things stay the same. There is a stunning new Visitors Center and a new movie about the battle. But when the movie ends, with the Star Spangled Banner the screen still rises to reveal, “that our flag was still there…”

If you are really interested in Fort McHenry and its history look for books by Scott Sheads. He is a ranger there. I met him touring the fort about 15 years ago and when I said I was writer he said he dreamed of writing books about Fort McHenry. Since then, he has (several more then me)! Check them out, here.

Finally, some other Memorial Day thoughts (inspired by movies and the slow fade of generations) are here and here.

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