Map courtesy of World Atlas Maps
What is it about some places? Sometimes I feel an instant connection but for others, I can’t get away from them fast enough. Whatever “it” is, Annapolis has it in spades for me. Charming with a capitol “C”, it has everything that makes me swoon: seaside cottages positively dripping in maritime romance plus an impressive resume of colonial history.
The Governor's Home and St. John's College.
Former Capitol of the United States
Not only is Annapolis the Capitol of Maryland, it also served as Capitol of the United States for nine months, from November 1783 through August 1784. George Washington resigned his commission as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and the Articles of Confederation were ratified, all in the Maryland State House.
I Didn't Know That!
Pursued by the redcoats during the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress hung their official hats not only in Annapolis, but in seven other places as well. Philadelphia, Baltimore, Lancaster, Pa., Princeton and Trenton, N.J., and New York City were all the Capitol of the United States for a time. Lancaster lasted only one day as the nation’s capitol because Congress, with British soldiers hot on their trail, had to run for their lives.
Maryland State House, Capitol of the United States for nine months.
Impressive History and Seaside Charm
Near the Chesapeake Bay, the seductive sea breezes and lovely blue skies enticed me to fall totally in love with Annapolis. The quaint downtown, like most seaside villages, is alive with youthful energy and friendly people. Home to the famous Annapolis Naval Academy, the shops are filled with Academy and maritime souvenirs. We spent a relaxing afternoon wandering in and out of the boutiques where I found a necklace made out of a sailor’s knot that I just had to have. Even though I've yet to wear it, it will always remind me of a place that makes me smile.
Great friends and "capitol" guides, Paula and Chuck
Paula, Chuck and I ended the day with a two hour late lunch on the wharf, savoring crab, clams and good conversation. Does it get any better?
FORT MCHENRY AND THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER
My early American history lesson continued the next day as Paula and Chuck took me to see Ft. McHenry located about 31 miles north of Annapolis on the Chesapeake Bay. Wondering out loud what the significance of the fort was, Chuck told me that it played a key role in the War of 1812. Well, that did little to shed any light on my question since I remembered practically nothing about that conflict, and I made a mental note to look it up after I got home.
The War of 1812 in a Nutshell
Basically, the War of 1812 was an extension of the Revolutionary War. The British were stirring up trouble for us with the Native American Indians on our borders, kidnapping men to serve as British sailors, pirating our ships and restricting our trade. With those insults and injustices, it’s no wonder America had had enough and declared war.
Oh, Say Can You See By the Dawn’s Early Light…
Why the fort has become such an important symbol of our resolve and quest for sovereignty is due to a young American lawyer named Francis Scott Key. In September of 1814, British warships surrounded Ft. McHenry and anchored ominously in the Chesapeake harbor. Francis Scott Key boarded one of the British ships to try to broker the release of a captured friend. Granting his request, they allowed Key and his friend to return to their own ship but forced them to remain there under guard. A week later, on September 13, he stood on the deck of his ship and watched helplessly as the fort suffered horrendous bombardment by the British. Thrilled to see that the fort still stood and its flag still waved after 25 hours of relentless attack, he wrote the poem that became our National Anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”.
Upon arriving at the Visitor Center, tourists are required to sit through a short presentation before being allowed to go up to the Fort. Ushered into a small room lined with displays, we were invited to sit on the few curved benches provided. The benches faced toward a projection screen, which also served as a blind to a large window behind it. Impatient to see the Fort, I didn’t bother to sit; hoping whatever we had to watch didn’t last long. Slowly, the impelling story of the Fort and Francis Scott Key’s involvement unfolded on the screen, expertly recreating the emotions that inspired Key to write his poem. As the movie came to an end, and as the screen slowly lifted to reveal the Fort on a high knoll in the distance, we heard the soaring voice of Whitney Houston singing the "Star Spangled Banner". There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as she sang:
Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Built as an earth embankment, the Fort was able to withstand the brutal bombardment.
Who could have guessed that a visit to an old fort would be so enjoyable and inspiring? About 40 miles outside of Washington, D.C., be sure to put it on your list of places to visit next time you are in the area.
Thanks, Chuck! Thanks, Paula! You know what I like
**Next time: Washington, D. C.
(Some images courtesy of Google)