A handful of lucky Baltimore time-travelers got to shoot a cannon at an invading British ship and visit some War-of-1812-era shipyards at Fells Point, with the happy results to be shown at 10 p.m. Monday on the Travel Channel.
In November, the cable channel's "Time Traveling with Brian Unger" set up shop in Baltimore. The premise of the show is to re-create historic events as closely as possible, thanks to the marvels of CGI. A handful of people get to "experience" the events first-hand, and TV viewers get to watch the finished product.
For their visit to Baltimore, Unger and his crew digitally re-created the Fells Point shipyards, out of which sailed the privateer ships that so bedeviled the British in the years leading up to the War of 1812. They also put a live cannon back on the grounds of Fort McHenry and had it fire out into the harbor; set sail on the Pride of Baltimore II, transforming it via computer into a 19th-century schooner; staged a singalong to "To Anacreon in Heaven," the British drinking song whose tune would be appropriated for "The Star-Spangled Banner," and raised the battle flag above Fort McHenry.
"I've always called the War of 1812 the war with the worst branding in wartime America," said Unger. "While people in Baltimore are probably more familiar with, and maybe even academically intimate with, the story and details, we wanted to take four or five Baltimoreans into the field and kind of show them a thing or two that they didn't know."
Unger says he's had great fun bringing history to life, or at least to TV screens.
"We are imagineers here," he said. "Whether we are doing Al Capone's steps through Miami or the occupation of Key West during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we are imagineers as we produce this show. We are re-creating narratives."