Hear this right as you enter the tunnel…
EXIT 55 I-95n: Fort McHenry Tunnel entry
“Ok Road Trippers, listen up. And you in the driver’s seat, please turn on your headlights, cause you are going down! And back -- in time!
The official name of the tunnel ahead is the Francis Scott Key Tunnel named for the prisoner of war who wrote the poem that became America’s National Anthem.
It was during the War of 1812 and the war was going badly for the United States. Still angry about losing the Revolution over 20 years earlier the invading British were attacking Baltimore. They would at one point march down the road to nearby Washington DC. There the invasion force burned down the White House.
Fast Fact: the National Anthem was a poem that grew to be hugely popular years before it was ever set to music.
Fast Forward to 1985; the 8-lane Fort McHenry Tunnel became part of I-95. The Tunnel crosses under the Patapsco River south of Fort McHenry, and connects Locust Point and the Canton areas of Baltimore City.
You are about to go under the famous Fort McHenry whose bombing inspired that Prisoner of War, Francis Scott Keys to write what would become the National Anthem. As a POW aboard a British ship, he had witnessed the British bombardment of Baltimore's final fortification and before going to sleep, he assumed the end was imminent for the new nation.
When the sun rose in the morning of September 14, it shone on the last shreds of the American flag. Like the song says, “Wow! Our flag was still there!”
After nearly 24 hours of shelling, the huge British fleet almost immediately ceased fire. Frustrated and low on ammo, the Brits released Francis Scott Key and their other prisoners. Then they surprisingly withdrew.
Months later, a peace treaty was signed over in Belgium.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, “Although neither side achieved decisive or lasting military gain, the War of 1812 did have beneficial consequences for the United States. The nation emerged stronger at least internationally. No matter how poorly prepared the United States had been, the government’s readiness to take up arms against a mighty foe substantially enhanced American prestige abroad. Former President Thomas Jefferson said the war demonstrated that “our government can stand the shock of war.” Delaware Senator James Bayard expressed a commonly held sentiment when he vowed: “It will be a long time before we are disturbed again by any of the powers of Europe.”
Indeed, within a decade, President Madison’s successor, James Monroe, formulated the Monroe Doctrine, which put “European powers” on notice that the United States would tolerate no further incursions on the “American continents.”
From skirmishes with European powers trying to run un-taxed cargo into the United States to the Russians placing Missiles in Cuba, America has been the police man of the Western Hemisphere. Good or bad, no world Wars have happened here under this “Pax Americana”.
From the harbor above you, ripples went out into the world. The United States had come of age.
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