11 SEPTEMBER 2014: A super busy time, historically speaking.
Two days ago, at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, 7,000 Maryland school children formed the largest human flag in history – the Star Spangled Banner if you will, on the grounds of the fort. There are pictures of it on the web, but sadly, while I have several, I can’t post them here. Suffice it to say it was a spectacular event! Of course, it was the kick off for the Maryland and, specifically, Baltimore, celebration of the Battle of Baltimore and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner.
The next day, 10th September, marked the 201st anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie, (1813) after which, Oliver Hazard Perry, who commanded the American fleet on the Lake, reported his famous line, “We have met the enemy and they are ours!” You may recall that when his flagship, USS LAWRENCE was reduced to a floating hulk, he shifted his flag in a ship’s boat to USS NIAGARA and continued the fight. It was decisive because it gave control of the Lake to the Americans and also restored the frontier city of Detroit to American control when the British, unable to access the lake, quit the city.
Also on the 10th, a Canadian exploration team uncovered what appears to be the wreck of HMS Terror (it could also be HMS Erebus – but that would not be as much fun to talk about!) Why is this significant, especially now? Terror was one of two missing ships from the “lost Franklin Expedition of 1845″ which came to grief in the ice of Canada. All hands were lost, including the leader, Franklin, and Parks Canada has been looking for the ships for many year – in fact, they have mounted no less than six major expeditions to find them. OK, you say. Why is that a big deal? Well, if the ship they found is in fact HMS Terror, she has a spot in American history as well as British and Canadian: she was one of six rocket firing ships that took part in the siege of Baltimore and helped to inspire Francis Scott Key to write about the “rockets’ red glare.” She was converted to fulfill the role of expedition ship for the Franklin trip some 30+ years later! Pretty neat, if the wreck is indeed the Terror!
Finally, today, 11th September, (while a sad day in modern times) also is the anniversary of two events from 200 years back. The arrival of the British fleet in the Patapsco River in preparation for the landing of troops at North Point and the reduction of Ft. McHenry (neither of which worked out they way they expected!). Key, of course, was still aboard HMS Tonnant. The 11th also marks the anniversary of Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough’s brilliant victory on Lake Champlain which scotched the British plans to divide the country in two from Plattsburgh NY to New York City. This would most likely have changed the outcome of the war and certainly would have given the British negotiators in Ghent a big advantage in drafting a treaty!
So there you have it. I – and now you – are caught up with the history technical gremlins have prohibited me from sharing. I hope you found it worth the wait!
“Sailing unties the knots in my mind!” Al Noble