Interpretative observation of the fighting at Fort McHenry by Marcus O'Henry (AKA Samantha L.)

Fort McHenry


My name is Marcus O'Henry, a tailor and volunteer for the militia. I am 21 years old, married to Patricia O'Henry and the father of 2 children. I was born in 1794. I joined the militia because I wanted to help America, our nation, fight for its freedom and regain power from Great Britain. When I joined the militia, I didn't only want to fight for our nation's freedom, but I wanted to fight for General Armistead's and for everyone's freedom. I wanted to fight for my freedom and my family's also. We didn't want to be a part of Great Britain anymore. In fact, nobody did and we would not stop fighting until we did just that.

August 19, 1813

Two months ago, General Armistead requested a flag. He took his request to Mary Young Pickersgill. The Baltimore Patriot printed that the flag was finished today. The flag had 15 stars and 15 stripes. It measured 42 X 30 feet. Mary Young Pickersgill and her daughter, Caroline, sewed the flag that was requested by General Armistead.

August 25, 1814

I was walking through town today just coming from a busy day at the tailor shop when I overhead a conversation. The two women were saying that the Executive Mansion was burned yesterday by the British troops. They had also defeated the American militia at Bladensburg, Maryland. This was no surprise to me because they were inexperienced, but yet still, they declared war on Great Britain.

It was said that the burning flames could be seen 40 miles away in Baltimore. President Madison, his wife, Dolley, and his Cabinet had to flee to a safer location. The Capitol was gone, along with the Executive Mansion.

Thank goodness there was a thunderstorm that night because that should have kept the fires from spreading. The next day, more buildings were burned and again the thunderstorm dampened the fires.

All the while, this was such an amazement to me because I never knew that Great Britain's cruelness could reach to such an elevated level.

While walking through town to buy the daily newspaper called the Baltimore Patriot, I still thought about what the British had done. After I bought a newspaper, I saw on the front that Dr. Beanes, a close friend of mine, had been arrested! "How could this be?" I kept asking myself. So I read the article to find some more information.

When I was finished reading, I had found out that Dr. Beanes was looking after some wounded British soldiers. After the whole crew had left, three stragglers began making trouble. The doctor had them thrown in jail, but the British got angry and arrested Dr. Beanes! He's such a kind man, but he shouldn't have done that. By his actions, he was causing more trouble for the Americans! Great Britain will be seeing a whole lot of us.

August 26, 1814

Today I went to buy the Baltimore Patriot newspaper and returned home as quickly as I had come. When I got home, I took off my overcoat and sat in my big, soft, comfortable chair. There, I read the newspaper. On page 4 of the Baltimore Patriot, it read that three hostages were being held on a British ship! The names of the three men were Francis Scott Key, Colonel Skinner, and Dr. Beanes, of course.

The only reason Francis Scott Key and Colonel Skinner were there was because they tried to retrieve Dr. Beanes and make sure he was okay. Also they were there to make sure that nothing happened to him while he was in jail. I hope that they are okay because if they die, it would be a great loss to us all.

There was another article about joining the militia. They need young, strong men who can use an arm. I wanted to join to help our nation fight for freedom and be under the command of General Armistead. He could help lead us to victory.

August 27, 1814

Around noon, they called in everyone who had signed up to be in the militia. They needed all the men they could get. I had signed up the day I saw it in the Baltimore Patriot. They wanted everyone in because they were going to start training the soldiers. I took my arm along just in case.

When I got there, there were mostly farmers practicing loading their arms. They were trying to do it in under two minutes. Also others were practicing their aim and inside an office, men were talking about where they were going to anchor the American ships. They had a map out on a desk and were pointing out areas that they thought were good places and giving reasons why.

I walked in and a man told me to sign my name on the sheet of paper over on another desk. After I finished signing my name, the same man came over to me and asked if I had ever been in the militia. I said I had not.

The man led me outside where he showed me to the area where I saw men practicing how to load their their arms. He told me that after I had finished practicing that I should go over to taking aim. Also, I should not go on to the next thing unless I thought I was ready and could do what he required.

This was going to be easy for me. At least I thought so because it looked that way, but I had a feeling that it was going to be easier said than done.

For the next three weeks, we did those two things prior to being placed in a certain spot at Fort McHenry and remembering it. I had everything in my mind and could remember it easily.

This was the last day to do drills and practice with our arms.

September 13, 1814

Now it was time for battle and I was nervous. I had left my wife and five kids at home, worrying about me. The British ships were all arranged on the still waters waiting for battle too. We took our place at the fort and got ready. At 7:00 P. M., the British bombardment began. The British soldiers who were on land, kept shooting at the fort and we were shooting at them. The American and British vessels were in the water fighting. The bombs were bursting in the air and there was a lot of smoke.

When it was all over, the Americans had sunk 22 of the British vessels. We had won!

September 18, 1814

Today I read in the Baltimore Patriot newspaper that the three American hostages were set free. While they were still hostages, Francis Scott Key wrote a few lines for a poem about the battle. That night, while at the Indian Queen Hotel, he finished the four stanzas for his poem. The next day, he went to his cousin, Judge J. H. Nicholson to get it printed. His cousin liked the poem, but the poem needed a name. Judge Nicholson suggested "Defence of M'Henry." That would be the name. We would use the tune of the popular drinking song "Anacreon."

September 20, 1814

Now that all the battles are finished, I am going to settle down and write in my journal more. I only fought one battle because after the first battle, I was so terrified, I came back home.

My wife and children were happy to see me and happy that I was alive.

On my way home coming from the first battle, I stopped to get a newspaper. I was going to start reading more often too and I also bought a book.

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