Tag Archives: FMNP

The War of 1812

Uniform from The War of 1812

Soldiers of the War of 1812


In a recent comedy bit on one of the late night talk shows, the host was asking random people questions about American History. One of the questions was “When was the War of 1812 fought?”  That was apparently a stumper for most of the respondents. It would be easy to laugh and make fun of those people, I mean the answer is right there in the question, but it really isn’t their fault. The War of 1812 gets glossed over in history class and seldom is talked about like the other major conflicts. Which is kind of weird considering it was one of the few wars fought between the United States and another nation here on this continent.

It is sometimes called a continuation of the American Revolution, Round 2 if you like, but that is a little dramatic. The British had no desire at that point to “reclaim” their former colonies. In fact, during the bulk of the conflict, they were more worried about beating Napoleon.  The US really wanted Canada. It had conquered it in 1775 but could not hold it. Now it was thought that it would be an easy grab from the distracted British.


By the end of the war, the United States Army had ballooned from about 7,000 before, to more than 35,000. To supplement the regular troops over 458,000 militia were called up. Of those about 15,000 died during the war.

The photo above is of a uniform worn by a regular soldier. One interesting little tidbit regarding it. Blue was the official color of the uniform coat. When the ranks increased at the start of the war, the blue cloth was in short supply. For uniforms issued it that range, it was not uncommon for the colors to include black, brown, drab, or even gray. Yep, for a short period of time, the US Army wore gray coats. Not unlike another North American army would wear fifty years later…


Rodman Guns

The Rodman Guns of Ft. McHenry

Rodman Guns


Those heavy iron beauties in the picture above are examples of a Rodman Gun. They were designed during the Civil War by Union artilleryman Thomas Rodman. The ones above are located at Ft. McHenry in Baltimore.

The main innovation with these pieces was in the way they were cast. Traditionally artillery pieces were cast as one solid piece with the bore drilled out after cooling. This solid piece method meant that as the piece cooled, it did so from the outside in. This allowed small cracks and imperfections to form. While many of these imperfections would be taken care of during the drilling of the bore, there was always the possibility that others existed.

The Rodman method consisted of casting the piece as a hollow tube with a cooling tube in the center. This allowed the metal to cool from the inside out, which allowed for it to be stronger with fewer imperfections. Here is an article that gets into some of the small details. Basically, it made the gun stronger and allowed for heavier projectiles to be fired.

This casting method became the standard during and after the war and Rodman Guns were produced in many different sizes. Attempts were made to cast the unit as rifled pieces, with the spiral grooves in place, but it was not very successful. Later on, most of the guns were rifled.

The cannons above could fire a projectile weighing up to 444 pounds close to a mile. With that kind of power and distance, they became the go-to for coastal defense. Though several thousand of this style of artillery were made during the Civil War, very few if any actually were fired in combat. The two in the picture above in Baltimore harbor have only been fired for holidays and special occasions.


Star-Spangled Banner Draft

Star-Spangled Banner Draft

The Star-Spangled Banner Draft


Above is something really incredible. This is an original draft of the Star-Spangled Banner written by Francis Scott Key. Originally it was written in September 1814 as the poem, “Defence of Fort M’Henry”. Written during the British siege of Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812.

It proved to be very popular and was eventually set to music. Not just any music though but an old British drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven” which was already popular in the United States. Not the first British song we appropriated, but it would go on to great things.

The Star-Spangled Banner would grow in popularity and would be adopted by the US Navy in 1889 for official use. President Wilson followed suite in 1916. Finally, after more than a hundred years, Congress passed a resolution naming it as the official national anthem in 1931.

The poem that Francis Scott Key wrote was four stanzas and the song follows suit. Though we pretty much always just sing the first verse. Below we have all four verses. Ready to play ball? (Spelling and punction preserved as per the original.)

Defence of Fort M’Henry


O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bomb bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
‘Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.