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This late 18th century star-shaped fort is world famous as the birthplace of the United States' National Anthem. The guardian of Baltimore's Harbor from attacks coming up the Chesapeake, it was the valiant defense of Fort McHenry by American forces during a British attack on September 13-14, 1814, that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner." Following the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, the fort never again came under attack. However, it remained an active military post off and on for the next 100 years. In 1933 the fort became an area administered by the National Park Service, and of all the areas in the National Park System it is the only one designated as a national monument and historic shrine.
Park: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Star Fort: 9 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Visitor Center: 9 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Closed: Thanksgiving Day, December 25 and January 1.
(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)
The entrance fee to the historic area of the park is $10.00 for adults 16 years of age and older; children 15 and younger are free. This fee provides the visitor with a 7-day entrance permit to Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. You must keep your entrance eceipt to re-enter the park in the 7-day time period.
Park Annual Pass is $30.
Visitor Center is wheelchair accessible, fort is mostly accessible, closed-captioned orientation film; scripts are available for wayside exhibit text.
Pets are allowed outside of the historic zone, an area bounded by a split-rail fence and including and surrounding the historic Star Fort. They must be leashed at all times and owners must pick up after their pets.
British ships attacked Fort McHenry early on September 13, 1814. For 25 hours they sent a constant barrage of solid shot, mortar shells, and Congreve rockets toward the fort. Finally, at 7 am the next day, the firing ceased. Remarkably, the fort withstood the bombardment. On the nearby Patapsco River, three Americans aboard a truce ship tried to catch a glimpse of Fort McHenry. Georgetown lawyer Francis Scott Key and John Stuart Skinner, the US agent for the exchange of American prisoners, had been meeting with British commanders. They negotiated the release of Dr. William Beanes, who had been captured at his Upper Marlboro home. The three watched the battle while anchored among the British fleet. When they saw the American flag flying over the fort, they knew it had survived. Inspired, Key began writing lyrics to a song, and over the next few days, he perfected the four verses of “The Defence of Fort M’Henry,” It was eventually re-titled “The Star-Spangled Banner.”