Celebrating our History
The War of 1812 and the Civil War
This year, State lands will feature commemorative battles and events observing the anniversaries of two significant wars fought in Maryland.
War of 1812
Fought against the British Empire, this 2-year war is one of the lesser known conflicts in American history. It was overshadowed by the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s march across Europe.
The Americans declared war for several reasons. First, they wanted to expand into the Northwest Territory. The British imposed trade restrictions and their support of Indian tribes against American expansion further fueled the flames.
On June 1, President James Madison asked Congress to declare war on England. Although unaware of a newly enforced blockade, Congress narrowly approved the war on June 18. Western states generally favored the action while New England states disapproved because it affected their trade activities with other countries.
The war was fought on land and at sea. Warships on both sides attacked each other’s merchant ships. The British blockaded the Atlantic Coast and mounted large-scale raids. Royal Naval forces progressed by way of Lake Champlain, the Chesapeake Bay and the Mississippi River. The South and the Gulf Coast saw major land battles in which American forces destroyed Britain’s Indian allies and stopped the British invasion at New Orleans.
A British victory at the Battle of Bladensburg allowed the British to capture and burn Washington, D.C. The Battle of North Point in September 1814 delayed the British advance against Baltimore, buying valuable time for the defense of the city. The engagement was part of the larger Battle of Baltimore, a strategic American victory in the War of 1812.
Local flag maker Mary Pickersgill made the 30-foot by 42-foot American flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the 1814 Battle of Baltimore. Francis Scott Key saw the banner while held captive on a British ship, and was inspired to compose the poem that became the National Anthem. The flag is currently housed at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
Did you know...
The Battle of Bladensburg in August 1814 is the only battle in American history where the President, the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of State were all present? And…the Americans lost.
Maryland, a slave state, straddled the North and South during the Civil War. Due to its location and a desire from opposing sides to sway its population to their respective causes, Maryland played an important role in the Civil War. In 1860 its population was 687,000. Approximately 60,000 men joined the Union while 25,000 fought for the Confederacy.
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, campaigned against the expansion of slavery beyond the states in which it already existed. The Republicans were strong advocates of nationalism and in their 1860 platform denounced threats of disunion as treason.
Following Lincoln’s election, seven southern states seceded to form the Confederate States of America, while 25 supported the Union.
Hostilities began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked a U.S. military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. President Lincoln responded by calling for a volunteer army from each state to recapture federal property. As more slave states seceded, both sides raised armies; the Union seized control of the border-states early in the war and established a naval blockade that ended cotton sales, which the South depended on for its wealth.
The Battle of South Mountain occurred on September 14, 1862, as part of the Maryland Campaign. Three battles were fought for possession of three South Mountain passes: Crampton’s, Turner’s and Fox’s Gaps. Major General George B. McClellan, commanding the Union Army of the Potomac, needed to pass through these gaps in his pursuit of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Despite being significantly outnumbered, Lee’s army delayed McClellan’s advance for a day before withdrawing.
Three days later, the bloodiest day of combat in American military history occurred near Sharpsburg at the Battle of Antietam. More than 23,000 soldiers died during this confrontation. Soon after, President Lincoln issued his famed Emancipation Proclamation. In 1864, the Battle of Monocacy helped delay a Confederate Army bent on striking the Capital in Washington D.C.
The American Civil War was one of the earliest true industrial wars. Railroads, telegraphs, steamships and mass-produced weapons were used extensively. It remains the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of 620,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties.
After four years of warfare, mostly on southern soil, the Confederacy surrendered and slavery was outlawed.
Did you know...
The first fatalities of the war happened during the Baltimore Riot of 1861? It took place between Confederate sympathizers and members of the Massachusetts militia en route to Washington for Federal service in the war on April 19, following the attack on Fort Sumter.