Friday, April 02, 2010

"Oh, say can you see. . . ?"

Hello All

I spent a pleasant day Thursday visiting Maryland Eastern Shore War of 1812 sites in brilliant spring sunshine and during which yours truly got some accolades as a published War of 1812 historian. I also was able to have some input talking to the group at various locations. The last stop was a beautiful colonial farmhouse on the Chesapeake Bay that was burned by the British in 1813. The owners had arranged tea, both hot and iced with mint, on the patio along with gourmet cookies, and there was a brilliant view looking out toward the Chesapeake Bay with black and white ospreys making their peeping cry flying overhead and other waterbirds, ducks and cormorants out in the water. (You can hear the cry of an osprey here.)

My friend Scott S. Sheads, long-time ranger-historian at Fort McHenry, was one of the speakers on the tour. He is an entertaining and informative fellow. Scott always delivers whatever he is saying in a deadpan manner, a very funny guy.

Scott said he had a lady come up to him at the Fort who told him that "The Star-Spangled Banner" is the Baltimore Orioles (baseball team) theme song and that she amazed to learn that it was actually the U.S. national anthem. Hard to know if it was a true story. Donna pointed out to me that on the "Oh!" of "Oh, say can you see. . .", the crowd always shouts out the word "Oh!" for "O" in "O-rioles" so there may be some truth in the story.

Scott is co-author, with Ralph Eshelman and Dr. Don Hickey of the new book, The War of 1812 in the Chesapeake: A Reference Guide to Historic Places in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia (Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010, which I highly recommend. Ralph was one of the tour leaders on yesterday's tour of Eastern Shore sites along with Mary Margaret Revell Goodwin who is working on saving part of the Slippery Hill Battlefield of August 1813 near Queenstown, Princess Anne County. See Eastern Shore 1812 Consortium.

For an article by me on Fort McHenry and the story of the Star-Spangled Banner titled "Birth of a National Icon" click on the title above.

I should add something more about Scott Sheads:

Scott is impassioned about honoring the men who fought in the War of 1812. In Spring 2006, when Robert Reyes and I were working on saving 9 1/2 acres at the center of the battlefield at North Point that had originally been slated for a supermarket that was never built -- land that is now, thankfully, safely in the hands of the State of Maryland's Department of Natural Resources as part of North Point State Park, Scott came along in a private capacity as a historian and citizen with Robert and myself to a meeting of the Board of Public Works in Annapolis. Some local Dundalk, Baltimore County politicians made a last-minute attempt to ask for an extension of Trappe Road across the piece of land, which effectively would have cut the land in half and defeated the object of trying to preserve as much of the battlefield as we could. (As many of you may know, a small section of the North Point Battlefield, known as "Battle Acre" was donated for public use to commemorate the battle by local landowner Jacob Houck in 1839; Battle Acre is on the west side of Old North Point Road south of Trappe Road, while the acres that needed to be saved, which formed the very centre of the Baltimore City Brigade under Brigadier General John Stricker on that memorable Monday, September 12, 1814, are on the east side of the road.)

Scott stood up before then-Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (himself a former Governor of Maryland and Mayor of Baltimore) and spoke passionately about the sacrifice the militia of Baltimore had made on the battlefield and that therefore the land should be saved for posterity. Thankfully, both Governor Ehrlich and Mr. Schaefer agreed with Scott. Obviously, the land needed to be preserved to tell the story of the battle for future generations.

And long may it be!

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