O Say, Can You See the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail?

The Fort McHenry Guard holds a flag unfurling ceremony in Fell's Point, Baltimore.

The Fort McHenry Guard holds a flag unfurling ceremony in Fell's Point, Baltimore. Photo © Ed Stierli/NPCA.

With the Olympics in full swing, I can’t help but be glued to the television for every emotional medal ceremony. America’s Olympians stand on the podium, as our national flag, the “Star Spangled Banner,” fills the London arena. There are few prouder moments to be an American.

This week in Baltimore, Maryland, the National Park Service and regional partners remembered our national symbol’s origin with the inauguration of the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail.

The Moment

In September 1814, Americans were engaged in our second war for independence against Great Britain–the War of 1812. Only a month earlier, America’s political leaders had fled Washington as the White House and Capitol went up in flames at the hands of British forces. The powerful British navy set its sights on Baltimore, and began to sail up the Chesapeake Bay. Imprisoned on a nearby ship, attorney Francis Scott Key witnessed the 25-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry. By dawn’s early light, the broad stripes and bright stars of the Fort’s huge American flag gallantly remained. The courageous defense of the fort famously inspired Key to compose “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

A New Land and Water Trail

The Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail is a 560-mile-long land and water route which tells the story of the War of 1812 throughout the Chesapeake region. Along the journey, visitors can follow American and British troop movements through Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, and hear the stories of the communities affected by the war. The Chesapeake landscape provides an abundance of things to do, including hiking, biking, boating, birding, and fishing. The trail’s interactive website provides maps, directions, and reviews for accessing historical sites and outdoor activities which visitors can add to their “Adventure Planner,” a virtual itinerary. National parks along the trail include not only Fort McHenry, but also George Washington’s Birthplace National Monument in Virginia, and the White House.

Impact on the Chesapeake Region

At the trail’s dedication, Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md) acknowledged the trail’s importance to the Chesapeake region’s tourism and economy. Each year, more than 600,000 people visit Fort McHenry, spending over $39 million. Throughout Maryland, every 1 in 17 jobs is directly related to tourism. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md) hopes that the new trail will also encourage people to “stop, read, and think about the history they’re walking through.”

To learn more about the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, visit: http://www.starspangledtrail.net/.

 

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About the Author

NPCA Cheapeake Field Representative Ed Stierli

Ed is the Chesapeake field representative for the Mid-Atlantic region and does grassroots outreach to connect communities with national parks. Passionate about connecting youth with the outdoors and conservation, he also leads the “Freedom to Float” campaign and is an active hiker and paddler. Find him on Twitter at @edstierli.