The Battle of Baltimore
The Battle of Baltimore, September 13-14, 1814. On the morning of the British attack at Fort McHenry, Mendes overslept. He awoke to find that his brother, Philip, had gone without him, leaving Mendes to hurry to join Philip at his post. As Mendes raced through the streets of Baltimore, he caught a view from Federal Hill of the British fleet just off North Point entering Baltimore’s harbor.
Turning the Tide
Despite constant bombardment, U.S. troops at Fort McHenry held their ground which led to a British retreat. Although the War of 1812 did not end until February 1815, the U.S. victory at Fort McHenry helped turn the tide against the British.
“Bombardment of Fort McHenry” by Peter Rindlisbacher, courtesy of the artist
O! Say Can You See
From his position at the fort, Mendes could see the ship from which Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner. The poem impressed the fort’s defenders when they first read it, and Mendes later recalled how “they all amused themselves by trying to find a tune for it.”
While Fort McHenry was under siege by the British, a shell struck the powder magazine in which gunpowder was stored. Fearing an explosion, Mendes was ordered into the magazine to retrieve the gunpowder barrels. Fortunately for Mendes, the shell didn’t explode.
War is dangerous. SURVIVAL can be a matter of inches.
Roughly 40 men died at Fort McHenry. Mendes later recalled the scene during the British attack. Shells rained down on the fort’s defenders, killing two members of the company who were standing right next to Mendes and Philip. Fortunately for them, the Cohens were not among the dead, and Samuel Etting was only slightly injured.
How would it feel to survive while a fellow soldier, standing inches away, is killed?
Fort McHenry, Powder Magazine, East Fort Avenue at Whetstone Point, Baltimore, MD. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.