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Battle Acre

3200 block Old North Point Road, east of Trappe Road
(N. W. of the Randall obelisk and S.E. of the Methodist Episcopal church)

Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake about it: for years after 1814 it was not the bombardment of Fort McHenry that Marylanders thought of when they referred to the “Battle of Baltimore” — it was the fighting at North Point. Their outlook arose probably from two facts: the momentousness of the unexpected loss of the enemy commander, the realization that if the British forces had swept on to capture Baltimore, Fort McHenry and its garrison would have become only an incidental strong-point that could have been casually starved into submission.

Cornerstone laid September 12, 1839 (twenty-fifth anniversary). Proceedings featured an oration by one of the veterans, Benjamin C. Howard, now a Brigadier General in the Maryland Militia and U.S. Congressman from Maryland. To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary, The Star-Spangled Banner, the Fort McHenry Garrison flag, was spread on the ground for viewing. The entrenchments and were still visible and so was a log hut with marks from cannonball and shot. The flag was returned to Louisa H. Armistead at her home in Mount Vernon.

Erection of the monument lagged until 1914, when-the. Star-Spangled Banner Centennial Association finally brought the project to completion. Historical marker put up by the State Roads Commission (now administered by the Maryland Historic Trust), following research by the Maryland Historical Society, not until 1964.

The chief action at North Point swirled bloodily around this acreage where the monument stands. We are just east of Bread and Cheese Creek — a reassuring appellation which stands on the earliest maps of the area and has nothing to do with the enemy soldiers’ rations — an inlet of the Back River. The date was Monday; September 12 (1814).

The defenders were elements of the Third Brigade, Maryland Militia, including the Fifth and other regiments, under command of Brig. Gen. John Stricker. They totaled about 3,200 men. The enemy totaled about 4,700 men, most of them better trained and equipped. When the tide of conflict ebbed, and the screams and cannon bursts had begun to die upon the wind, the following (approximate) casualty figures took shape:

KilledWoundedPOWTotal
American2413950213
British46295?341

One of the enemy officers participating, Lt. George R. Glee, attributed the relatively high percentage of British wounded to the defenders’ use of buckshot and their advantage of cover in the heavily wooded terrain.

Looking at these statistics, a Marylander of today’s world would have to concede that here certainly was no crushing victory. In point of fact, all that the defenders had hoped to accomplish was to execute a holding action. They achieved their purpose, and Marylanders have a right to be proud thereof. That this proud memory lingers is evidenced by the fact that, quite recently in the Baltimore area, there expired a gentleman whose family had seen fit to grace him at birth with the given names of North Point (Sun, June 23, 1973 [A-15]).

At the time Maryland private enterprise lost little opportunity in attempting to reap a legitimate profit from the event. As promptly as September28 there went on sale in the Old Town neighborhood of the metropolis an engraving entitled, “First View of the Battle of Patapsco Neck,” by 1st Corp. Andrew Duluc, a member of the Baltimore Yeagers under Capt. Philip B. Sadtler. Two originals of this quaint, rare copperplate repose today in the Peale Museum, where hand-colored reproductions are available for purchase. Scrutiny of the “First View” will suggest to connoisseurs that Corporal Duluc, combat witness though he was, posed no significant artistic threat to the reputation of any of the Peales.

On September 11, 1839, this acreage was presented to the State as a gift by Jacob Houck, M.D., Health Commissioner of. Baltimore County, who owned property in the area and who had made it a custom each September. 12 to invite any North Point veteran to dine at his summer home here overlooking Swarm’s Creek. Dr. Houck, incidentally, was the grandfather of the late Mrs. William F. Pentz (a family connexion of one of your Society’s past presidents, John A. Pentz) and of the late Mrs. Reuben Ross Holloway, a redoubtable preservationist in her own right and a grand dame renowned almost equally for her personal battles with politicians and the High Gothic splendor of her headgear.

The enclosing iron fence was rescued from the grounds of the Asylum for the Blind on east North Avenue, Baltimore, when that property was condemned by the City for the erection of the Polytechnic Institute. The emplacement of the fence, as well as the inscriptions on the monument, are one of the many accomplishments of the National Star-Spangled Banner Association, which was formed at Baltimore in 1914 under the first presidency of Mayor James H. Preston. It sponsored the Star-Spangled Banner Centennial, which did much to foster country-wide recognition of Francis Scott Key’s poem as the appropriate and only National Anthem.

In 1960 one of our Society’s three Honorary as well as Life members — the others are the Baltimore Harbormaster, Jean Hofmeister, and the late General of the Army Douglas MacArthur— Neil H. Swanson, in his column in the News-Post for August 11 saw fit to caption that column, “Battle Acre, a Disgrace.” Any of you who, until recent times, chanced to visit North Point sites on a non-Cavalcade occasion will understand why he did so.

In March, 1962, the State Board of Public Works tacitly endorsed journalist Swanson’s point of view when it restored this area, then ordered the State Roads Commission to maintain it properly henceforth. The Commission complied, but pointed out that, at the moment, a twenty-foot section of the fence was totally missing and that its responsibilities surely did not include going to look for it?

Sources

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