Rockets' Red Glare: the War, the Song, and their Legacies

Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission

More than 700,000 people every year visit Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, the site that inspired our national anthem.  In this series, WYPR tells stories of the War of 1812: the people, the places, and the song.

This series has been funded in part with State Funds from the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, an instrumentality of the State of Maryland. However, the contents and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission.

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In 1814, Chesapeake sailors battle the Royal Navy in a series of small battles using small gunboats and clever maneuvers.

National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England

When Rear-Admiral George Cockburn of the Royal Navy arrived in the Chesapeake in the spring of 1813, he was a naval hero of sterling reputation and a household name in Britain.

Courtesy Brown University Library

On a beautiful morning in May 1813, the people of Havre de Grace awoke to a terrifying sight.


Out on the bay were the towering masts of a British fleet, and rowing toward them were landing craft filled with Redcoats. Admiral Cockburn, “the scourge of the Chesapeake,” had brought his reign of terror to the place the Marquis de Lafayette had named "Harbor of Mercy".  As his raiders swept ashore, the American militia fled, leaving only one defiant Irishman standing in their way.  This is his story.

During the War of 1812, thousands of American sailors spent hard time at Dartmoor Prison in England.

1812 Privateer Remembered at Laurel Festival

Oct 2, 2013
Gwendolyn Glenn / WYPR

Commander Joshua Barney made life miserable for the British Navy on the Chesapeake during the War of 1812, harassing the invaders from shallow draft barges, then retreating to shoal waters where the larger ships couldn’t pursue him.

More Than A Flag

Aug 14, 2013
Fraser Smith / WYPR

The war of 1812 may be forgotten by many Americans – but not by Marylanders who now have even more reasons to celebrate its 200th anniversary. The reasons are there in three famous names: Francis Scott Key. Ft. McHenry and Mary Pickersgill.

Zach Quinn / WYPR

In Maryland, the War of 1812’s dominant image is of Francis Scott Key writing down lyrics as bombs burst over Baltimore Harbor. A less-remembered image is that of slave families fleeing plantations for British ships in the middle of the night. Clearly, for Maryland slaves, the War of 1812 was not “America’s second war of independence.” They waited another 50 years before the state constitution abolished slavery.