When Freemen Shall Stand: Maryland Citizen-Soldiers in the War of 1812
The Chesapeake Bay campaigns of 1813-14, culminating in the climactic Battle of Baltimore, were a watershed event in the life of the young republic. For nearly a year and a half, British naval and ground forces burned and pillaged their way through the Chesapeake watershed, hoping to create a diversion from the “main effort” in Canada and to teach a hard lesson to the American public in retribution for American operations in Canada. Towns across the region were sacked and burned, including portions of Washington, DC, in early August 1814.
Coming just three weeks after the traumatic defeat at Bladensburg and burning of many public buildings in the nation’s capital, the British assault on Baltimore was a potentially devastating blow to the nation’s third largest city and most significant contributor to the hordes of privateers who raided British mercantile vessels across the globe. At Baltimore, the British hoped to burn out the “nest of pirates” and achieve a major operational victory that could hasten the end of the war on British terms.
While most Americans know of the defense of Fort McHenry, the larger story of the combined efforts of many Marylanders is not as well understood. “When Freemen Shall Stand” explores the pivotal role of Maryland’s forces in the Chesapeake campaign and in the heroic defense of Baltimore that was a significant factor in the shape of the peace that followed.
The phrase “When Free Men Shall Stand” is drawn from the first line of the fourth and final stanza of Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner (“Oh thus be it ever when free men shall stand, between their loved homes and war’s desolation”) This title nicely captures the exhibit’s primary theme, the role of ordinary Maryland citizens in defense of their state.
Interactive Maps: For the student of military operations, understanding of the tactical and operational elements of the conflict is directly tied to understanding the relationships of enemy and friendly forces, of terrain and time. These digital “maps in motion” convey those relationships in simple yet powerful terms.
Traveling Exhibit: “When Freemen Shall Stand” includes a traveling exhibit that conveys the major stories and themes of the fixed museum exhibit, helping to bring this chapter of Maryland’s military history to her citizens across the state.
Educational Resources: Lesson Plans for K-12 educators to use in their curriculum to teach classes about Maryland’s role in the War of 1812.
Online Exhibit Tour: Cant make it to the Museum, take this online tour.
Sponsors: This Maryland Museum of Military History exhibit was made possible through the generous financial support of several organizations as well as the many dedicated people that freely gave their time and talents to create this exhibit.