When I found this vintage Fort McHenry sampler, I was over the moon.
The subject matter is all about the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812 which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthem.
In the War of 1812, the British bombed and burned America's White House and Capitol in Washington, D.C. The British were set to take the port of Baltimore Harbor which was protected by Fort McHenry -- a star-shaped fort that sits at the mouth of Baltimore's harbor.
And it was to Fort McHenry that Jim, Jack and I went on Saturday night to experience the re-enactment of the Battle of Baltimore.
It's an awesome event, it's free and it's rarely crowded.
Re-enactors live in tents on the national park grounds giving live demonstrations and educating kids all weekend long.
On Saturday, volunteers in period costume re-enact a typical battle scene from the war period, firing muskets and cannons and advancing on the enemy across the open fields of Fort McHenry. The Naval Academy band plays patriotic music...and there is a storyteller who narrates the history of the event.
At dark, the battle begins. The Maryland National Guard fires guns from the shore while barges in the harbor set off the "bombs bursting in air" to the sound of the band playing William Tells' overture.
It's loud and creates tons of smoke, re-creating an atmosphere similar to what Francis Scott Key must have witnessed while on board one of the British warships (minus the fireworks).
As the smoke clears, they shine a spotlight on the huge flag -- a full-size replica of the one that Mr. Key saw as the day dawned the night after the battle.
The day when the citizens of Baltimore and the nation were waiting to find out if Baltimore had fallen.
When they all saw the huge flag flying from the Fort, it was a source of tremendous relief and great pride.
And it was this relief and pride that inspired Francis Scott Key to write his famous poem that eventually became the Star Spangled Banner -- our national anthem which is read by an actor.
The re-enactment ends with a fireworks display.
But it's the story of that huge flag that captures my heart.
Major George Armistead who commanded Fort McHenry in 1813, commissioned a Baltimore flag maker, Mary Pickersgill, to make the flag.
It was sewn with over 350,000 stitches by Mary, her daughter and a number of other family members, friends and one slave.
It is HUGE. 30 feet high x 42 feet long -- the height of a three-story building.
It was made from 400 yards of wool bunting and weighed 80 pounds.
The flag had 15 stars and stripes to represent the 15 colonies that existed at the time and Mary was paid a whopping $405.90 to pay for the six weeks of work it took to make the flag (approx. $3,400 US in today's dollars).
You can see what remains of the original flag at the National Museum of American History...
And if you can ever come to Baltimore the second weekend in September, go to Fort McHenry and experience the re-enactment of the Battle that inspired our National Anthem. (And the Star Spangled Banner Flag House...)
It's worth it.