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War of 1812 Bicentennial Kickoff Event Held

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

National Park News

On Monday, June 18th, 200 years to the day after the United States declared war on Great Britain, thereby beginning the War of 1812, the park observed the anniversary with a program entitled “From Enemies to Allies.”  The event commemorated the start of the war and celebrated the alliance between the U.S., Great Britain and Canada that has been forged in the two centuries since the conflict. 

Representatives from all three governments, including Maryland Governor (and Fort McHenry volunteer) Martin O’Malley, Canadian Ambassador to the United States Gary Doer and British Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott, signed a “Declaration of Peace” in which they pledged to “firmly commit ourselves to continuing the legacy of peace and accord between our three nations.”  Fort McHenry is the site of the September 1814 Battle of Baltimore that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the Star- Spangled Banner.

“From the creation of our country’s national anthem to its sense of national pride and unity, the legacies of the War of 1812 are as relevant today as when the war was fought 200 years ago,” said Tina Orcutt, superintendent of Fort McHenry National Monument.  “We were proud that Fort McHenry could serve as the site for the kickoff of the War of 1812 bicentennial, and as a reminder of America’s strong alliance with the United Kingdom and Canada that emerged from the war.”

The program also featured taped greetings from President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  In his remarks, President Obama reflected on the war involving the three nations 200 years ago, while recognizing that “…the end of the war also laid the foundation for the growing relations between the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada — bonds we now celebrate as the strongest of allies and closest of friends.” Cameron concurred, stating that the relationships between the three countries is about more than security and defense; “it’s also in business, education, research and personal ties where you can see the strength of our bonds.”

The “From Enemies to Allies” ceremony was hosted by former CBS Evening News Anchor Bob Schieffer and featured keynote remarks by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Governor O’Malley, and Senator Barbara Mikulski.  The Fifes and Drums of the Fort McHenry Guard, Royal Marine Marching Band, U.S. Navy Band and Morgan State University choir provided musical entertainment throughout the ceremony. 

Despite intermittent rain and threatening skies, more than 500 invited guests and park visitors attended the event, including the Maryland congressional delegation, representatives from crews of several of the international tall ships in Baltimore for the occasion, and the crew of the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”). 

The “From Enemies to Allies” activities were part of a weeklong observation of the start of the War of 1812 in Baltimore billed as the “Star-Spangled Sailabration.”  On Wednesday, June 13th, an international parade of sail featuring more than 40 tall ships and military vessels sailed past Fort McHenry on the way into Baltimore, while Saturday and Sunday were highlighted by an air show featuring the Navy’s Blue Angels.  By the time the tall ships departed the following Tuesday, more than 65,000 visitors had attended events at Fort McHenry.


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