American history will take a new path

The Baltimore Sun

Area officials and history lovers gathered Monday at Fort McHenry to celebrate the recent federal approval of a trail marking the Baltimore-Washington region's War of 1812 history.

The Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, part of legislation that President Bush signed into law last month, will commemorate locations in Maryland, Washington and Virginia where key events of the war, often referred to as "the Second War of Independence," took place.

Officials said they hope that the trail will draw attention to the prominent role Marylanders played in defeating the British at Fort McHenry in the historic battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem. The trail is expected to create a convenient route for tourists, facilitate cooperation among the sites and attract funds for preservation.

"It's hard to imagine today how precarious things were in 1812," said Rep. John Sarbanes, who sponsored the legislation in the House of Representatives to create the trail. "It was the first opportunity that we had to defend our experiment" of democracy.

The trail, which will stretch for 300 miles on land and water, will include numerous sites in Maryland, including Fort McHenry and North Point in eastern Baltimore County. The National Park Service will soon begin crafting a plan to develop the trail.

The bill to create the trail was introduced in 2003 by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, then a member of the House, and Paul S. Sarbanes, then a senator. After the elder Sarbanes' retirement, his son, John Sarbanes, continued to push for the trail.

The Fort McHenry Guard, dressed in period military garb, played drum and fife music and fired a cannon to mark the event.

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