Aberdeen, MD and the War of 1812 – May 2022

From Fort Belvoir, we had a relatively short drive to our next stop, Aberdeen Proving Grounds (APG), north of Baltimore, MD. APG offers two small RV parks. Marylander RV park and Shore Park Travel Camp. Marylander is the older of the two and has campsites, with no other facilities. Shore Park is the newest (2016) and has a bathhouse and laundry room, and a boat launch. It has 24 RV sites and 5 cabins. It’s a nice, quiet park with plenty of opportunities for walking and biking. As a proving ground, there is always some kind of testing going on and we heard ( and felt) several large explosions while we were there.

After so much sightseeing in Washington we took is easy and spent a lot of time relaxing and taking advantage of the free laundry. It seems the farther north we go, the more we have to spend for fuel. We discovered that WaWa has a phone app that gave a discount of 15 cents per gallon for a period of time. I suggest for anyone traveling the eastern states to check this out. Fuel prices are still painful, but this made it less so.

One day we drove to Fort McHenry in Baltimore’s harbor. It was during the siege of Fort McHenry, that Francis Scott Key wrote a poem that became the lyrics to the “Star Spangled Banner.” There is a nice visitor center that tells the history of the fort and the 1814 siege, and there were several Ranger-led events. At 10:00 am each day is the exchange of flags. During the first night of the siege, the U.S. forces flew a small “storm” flag because they were in the middle of a storm as well as under cannon fire from the British fleet. As the dawn came, the defenders, as a sign of defiance, lowered the storm flag and replaced it with the largest flag they had, a huge flag the measured 42 x 32 feet. Every morning park volunteers and Rangers, assisted by visitors perform this same flag exchange.

On June 18, 1812, the new United States declared war against Great Britain. This was due to the British policies that interfered with American trade, and their policy of capturing American seaman and pressing them into the British Navy. For two years, the conflict raged in the Great Lakes region and in the Gulf of Mexico. To bring the war to the center of the nation and to distract forces from Canada, the British waged a war in the Chesapeake Bay. They occupied Tangier Island and raided towns in Maryland and Virginia.

On August 24, 1814, the British defeated a force defending Washington and burned many government buildings, including the Capital and the White House. A few weeks after withdrawing from Washington, the British headed to Baltimore. They landed a force at North Point and marched toward Baltimore.

It is easy to see why the British had to subdue Fort McHenry to get close enough to support British troops approaching Baltimore from the north. Baltimore’s defenses were too strong to be defeated without naval gunfire support and the British fleet would have been shot into splinters had they tried to sail past an active Fort McHenry. Unable to defeat the defenders at Fort McHenry the British withdrew their forces from North Point.

The defeat at Baltimore, coupled with the American victory on Lake Champlain, signaled that the end of the war was in sight. The British ultimately agreed to this at the Treaty of Ghent in 1815.

From Fort McHenry, we rode our bicycles to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. It was an interesting ride, the last part along the harbor shoreline. We stopped at the Visitor Center and got some great advice of what to see and do from a volunteer. My focus was on the Four Historic Ships and the lighthouse that are displayed in the harbor basin. The ships are the USS Constellation, The Coast Guard Lightship Chesapeake, the submarine USS Torsk, and the Coast Guard Cutter Taney. The Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse was in active operation until 1948, but was later moved to the Inner Harbor.

The USS Constellation is an 1854 sloop of war and the last sail-only warship built by the Navy. The LV116 Chesapeake was built in 1930 and was one of the most modern lightships of its time. It was added to the  Historic Ships collection in 1982. The USS Torsk was commissioned in 1944 and was the only submarine of its class to see service in World War II. The Torsk joined the Historic Ships in 1972. The USCG Cutter Taney (WHEC 37) was berthed at Honolulu Pier 6 during the Japanese attack on December 6, 1941. She fired on Japanese aircraft as they flew over the city. In 1986 she was decommissioned at Portsmouth, VA and joined the Historic Ship fleet. The Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse was built in Chesapeake Bay in 1856 and is one of the oldest lighthouses in existence.

The foundation that manages these ships does an outstanding job keeping them in good shape.

We rode into the Little Italy neighborhood and had lunch at Amicci’s. This is a quaint restaurant with a series of small dining areas, so you can feel secluded, even on a busy day.

After lunch we rode to Federal Hill that overlooked the Inner Harbor. During the Civil War Federal troops fortified this hill to maintain control over a population that largely sympathized with the South. It is now a green space and site of many community events.

We did a lot of relaxing and riding our bikes around the post. We enjoyed generally good weather and it felt good to kick back and take it easy.

On our last day we drove into nearby Havre de Grace. During the Revolutionary War, the small town was known as Harmer’s Town. It was visited several times by General Lafayette, who commented that the area reminded him of the French seaport of Le Havre. It had originally been named Le Havre-de-Grâce. Inspired by Lafayette’s comments, the residents incorporated the town as Havre de Grace in 1785.

We visited the local lighthouse. I am a lighthouse fanatic and if there is a lighthouse in the area, we have to see it! The Concord Point Light was constructed in 1827 and is the second oldest lighthouse still standing on Chesapeake Bay. The Coast Guard decommissioned the light in 1975, but it was not transferred to the City of Havre de Grace until 1977. While the city owned it, little was done to maintain and restore it until the Friends of Concord Point Lighthouse formed in June 1979 and took on the task of saving and restoring the lighthouse and keeper’s quarters.

The lighthouse was manned by some enthusiastic volunteers, and I was inspired by the energy they demonstrated. This is a great stop for any lighthouse enthusiast.

We wanted to have dinner on the waterfront and, based on recommendations of our friends, Roger and Bonnie Ford, we chose the Tidewater Grill. What a great spot! Tidewater Grill is located on a small peninsula and there was an abundance of outdoor seating. It was a good choice for our last night in the area.

Next stop, Hershey, PA

About Michigan Traveler

Bob and his wife, Pat, are fulltime RVers. They sold their home in Michigan in June, 2011 and now travel the country, living on the road. Home is Where You Park It!
This entry was posted in Maryland, Military RV Parks, National Parks and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Aberdeen, MD and the War of 1812 – May 2022

  1. Roger says:

    Nice write up! Bonnie and I were married at Concord Point Light. My Mother’s family lived on the southern side of Federal Hill on Warren Ave. Bonnie and I lived on our catamaran in Harborview Marina below Federal Hill. Thanks for the memories 🙏

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