Two years ago, Baltimore rolled out the red carpet, and then some, for the War of 1812 bicentennial celebration, welcoming tens of thousands of visitors to commemorate what some have called the second war for American independence.
This year, they'll be doing it again. And just about all of Maryland will be helping out.
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Bladensburg Waterfront Park, 4601 Annapolis Road, Bladensburg, MD 20710, USA
On Thursday at Prince George's County's Bladensburg Waterfront Park, Gov. Martin O'Malley joined other state, federal and local officials in cutting the ribbon to officially open the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, a 560-mile land and water route connecting War of 1812-related sites in Maryland, Washington and Virginia. And officials used the occasion not only to raise awareness of the trail itself, but also to shine a light on other celebrations scheduled throughout the summer.
Maryland, O'Malley noted, proved to be one of the key areas during the War of 1812 — not least because it surrounded the national capital.
"One state chose to step up and take the responsibility for saving the United States," O'Malley said, noting the pivotal role Maryland played during the war — one enduring legacy of which is Francis Scott Key's poem, "Defence of Fort McHenry," which was later put to music and, as "The Star-Spangled Banner," would be adopted as the national anthem.
"Two hundred years ago, our citizens endured the shock and awe of their time," O'Malley told the crowd assembled on the shores of the Anacostia River, within sight of the place where the Battle of Bladensburg took place on Aug. 24, 1814. The battle was a decisive American defeat and precursor to the British burning of Washington later that day.
O'Malley noted that his predecessor at the time, Levin Winder, must have been nervous in Annapolis, unsure where the British would head next.
"He didn't know whether these invaders would turn left or turn right," O'Malley said. Fortunately for Maryland's capital, the British turned right and headed for Washington.
Baltimore's Star-Spangled Spectacular celebration, set for Sept. 10-16 at the Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry and other area locations, will commemorate the Battle of Baltimore and the bombardment of Fort McHenry. It will serve as the centerpiece of what is being promoted as the state's "Star-Spangled Summer." But a handful of other celebrations noting pivotal battles and other war-related events in the state are also scheduled for throughout the summer.
Those events include the Raiders & Invaders Weekend this weekend in Leonardtown; Battle of St. Leonard Creek, June 21-22, in St. Leonard; Battle of Bladensburg, Aug. 23 at the Bladensburg Waterfront Park; Battle of Caulk's Field, Aug. 30-31, in Fairlee, Kent County; United States Capital for a Day, Aug. 30-31 in Brookeville, Montgomery County; and Battle of North Point, Sept. 6-8 at Fort Howard Park and Sparrows Point High School in Baltimore County.
In addition to the governor, Rep. Donna Edwards and Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III also spoke about the state's role in fighting the War of 1812 and the many opportunities that will be afforded this summer to celebrate it.
"The fight for freedom is long and it's hard and it's ongoing," Edwards said.
Representatives from many of the planned celebrations were also on hand to promote their roles in the summer celebrations. There are limits, however, to how far the celebrations will go.
"We're going to be re-creating life in 1814 in the place where President James Madison and Dolley Madison sought refuge," said Brookeville resident Ruth Chacon, wearing period garb to promote her town's "United States Capital for a Day" celebration. The day after the burning of Washington, Brookeville served as the de facto seat of the U.S. government.
Added her friend, Sandra Heiler, who lives in the house where Madison spent the day, they'll do it "without taking down the telephone poles or un-paving the streets."