The Defenders

An illustration of a group of men arming and firing cannons.
Soldiers and sailors man the heavy cannons at the Fort's water battery during the Battle of Baltimore. (c) Richard Schlecht

"Not a man shrunk from the conflict."
Major George Armistead, Commander, Fort McHenry September 1814

The 1,000 men who defended Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore were members of various types of fighting units. Some of the units stationed at the fort during the battle were part of the regular army that was stationed there normally, such as the Corps of Artillery. Others were citizen soldiers, defending their homes in militia units. And some, such as the men of the Chesapeake Flotilla and Sea Fencibles, were from other units that found themselves manning defenses to swell the ranks and keep the fort from falling.

These units were filled with many different men of many different backgrounds and motivations for being there. Some men, especially in the militia, found themselves defending their homes, families, neighbors and livelihoods. Others were regular members of the army, there for pay or patriotic duty to defend their nation. Nearly a third of the defenders were immigrants, there to either defend their new country, or find employment in their new home. Interestingly enough several African Americans found themselves fighting under the very same flag of the country that sought to enslave them.

In spite of their different motivations for serving, all of the men had one thing in common — the protection of Baltimore from destruction. The bravery of these men and their skill in operating the cannons helped defend the city. Together these men would endure a 25 hour bombardment from the world's greatest navy, and together they would makes sure that the flag was still there. It was their stand of bravery at Fort McHenry that truly earned them the name of "Defenders."

A picture of living historians firing a cannon while wearing corps of artillery uniforms.

Corps of Artillery

Regularly stationed at Fort McHenry, learn about the role of the Corps of Artillery at the Battle of Baltimore.

A close up image of living historians firing muskets while wearing militia uniforms.


Defending their homes, militia units were called up to support the defense of Baltimore.

Living historians dressed as Sea Fencibles marching out of Fort McHenry.

Sea Fencibles

Raised to defend port cities, Baltimore needed the Sea Fencibles to hold their ground.

Living historians dressed as flotilla sailors show off weapons that sailors would have used.

Chesapeake Flotilla

Previously engaged in the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay, the Flotilla members now looked to defend the City of Baltimore.

Last updated: September 10, 2020

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