28 August, 2014: We are fast approaching the bicentennial of the Battle of Baltimore and the bombardment of Fort McHenry in the harbor there. As a historian specializing in that war, people often send me material purporting to be relevant and accurate history. Some are great (though often not news) and others are fictitious in the extreme. This morning, I received the ultimate revisionist history in a video sent to me by a well-meaning friend in which a speaker with an excellent “radio announcer” voice told the story – or what someone thought was the story – of the writing of our national anthem. It was supported by interesting graphics which were equally fictitious and, while they supported his version of this wonderful story, had little bearing on the event.
As an example of what’s floating around in the ether, waiting to trap the unsuspecting with bad history, this video spoke of Francis Scott Key being rowed out to a British ship which apparently carried in its hold, a host of American prisoners, held in cages, and whom he was charged with gaining their freedom. The British fleet, was distant in the ocean (not even in the Chesapeake!). He also mentioned several times the fact that the United States was still “the colonies” and having trouble with the “mother country” – ignoring completely the American Revolution and the 1783 Treaty of Paris which recognized the U.S. as an independent nation. The final straw, for me, anyway, was his reference to Fort McHenry (now a National Monument and Shrine) as “Fort Henry.” That was when I stopped watching.
So I post this as a warning to those of you who are interested in the real history to be careful and check the facts before you ‘buy into” anyone’s rhetoric! And in about two weeks, I will be writing about the actual event as we near the September 14th bicentennial.
“Attitude is the difference between ordeal and adventure!” Bob Bitchin
Fair Winds Old Salt