Thursday, February 23, 2012

Stolen Valor

Even though I knew something of the case before reading yesterday's editorial in the Washington Post and the issues involved, the subtitle to the editorial nonetheless shocks and disappoints me, viz.,

"The Supreme Court should rule that lying about military medals is free speech -- not a crime."

How could they say such a thing? I suppose it's okay for imposters to claim they were heroes in a battle, that they held such and such a rank. What is next? It's okay to claim you are the President of the United States or the Secretary of State? Such a move impugns the honor of anyone who served in America's wars, and those who were wounded or were killed. The Post editorial is well meant because it derives from a case of a disturbed veteran who called into a help line and was given away but nonetheless people who falsely claim military honors should not be rewarded for their deceitfulness, and nor should anyone be allowed to claim honor that does not belong to them.

Tonight. . . .
Baltimore National Heritage Area invites you to
Our History Happy Hour
Thursday, February 23rd 5:30-8:00 p.m.
Renaissance Baltimore Haborplace Hotel
Get a sneak peak of Anthem, The independent documentary film about the story of
The Star-Spangled Banner and the music of The War of 1812.

Featuring 1812 historian Dr. Ralph Eshelman and musicologist Dr. David Hildebrand,
this film will educate a broad audience on the important role Maryland plays in our national identity.

Please join us and meet the filmmakers,
see a preview and socialize over a cocktail with others interested
and involved in the heritage of the birthplace of our national anthem!

Make sure you are in the Know when the ships come in….both times!

$3 Special pricing on Killian’s and Domestics
$4 Snap Dragons
$5 Specialty War of 1812 cocktails
Munchies on board


Janet Caslow, CTA
War of 1812 Coordinator
Baltimore National Heritage Area
100 Light Street 12th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202
cell 410-241-8693
....a National Celebration in Baltimore, *Star Spangled 200

The winner of the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Don't Miss the War of 1812 Course at Johns Hopkins this Spring

USS Constitution vs HMS Guerriere

USS Constitution captures HMS Guerriere, August 19, 1812, one of the most significatnt American successes of the War of 1812, that helped give birth to the legend of "Old Ironsides" popularized by the 1830 poem of that name by Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of the iconic American national symbols to come out of the war.

My long-time colleague historian Dr. Martin K. Gordon is offering in March and April what I would suggest is a recommended overview of the War of 1812 in the Odyssey adult continuing education program at the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus. Dr. Gordon is the master of ceremonies for our annual National War of 1812 series held usually in Baltimore the first Saturday of October (watch for news of this year's upcoming event, due to be held on Saturday, October 6). Many of the speakers in the course have spoken in our symposium series and I plan to attend as a student--the campus is just across the street from me where I live off University Parkway in Baltimore. Hope to see you there!
Here are the details of the course:

The War of 1812: A Bicentennial for Baltimore and the Nation

Martin K. Gordon, PhD, Program Coordinator

The War of 1812 marked the culmination of sixty years of fighting for the North American landmass east of the Mississippi River—the region now composed of Canada and of the eastern half of the United States. When the fighting started in 1754, the American colonials, the British, the French, and the Native Americans all fought for control. Fifty-eight years later in 1812, the Americans, now independent, fought the British, the Canadians, and the Native Americans for ownership in Canada and on the Ohio and Southwest frontiers. But now there was a new challenge.

The 23-year-old United States had maritime interests to protect in addition to its landward thrusts. This was the era when Baltimore earned its reputation as a “nest of pirates” for its profitable privateering. Meanwhile, conflict on the Great Lakes and on land on both sides of the border with Canada strengthened both American and Canadian national identities.

Along the East Coast, the war gave us “The Star Spangled Banner,” commemorating the heroic defense of Baltimore, after the British burning of Washington, as well as continued growth for Baltimore and its shipbuilding and trade businesses.

To the southwest, Native Americans forever lost their lands east of the Mississippi to Andrew Jackson’s forces. Jackson then went on to work with the real pirates of Barataria Bay, Louisiana to defeat the last British invasion at the Battle of New Orleans.

Through slide lectures and guest speakers, participants in this course learn of the victories, defeats, and historical legacy left all around them by this war, which played such a crucial role in confirming the independence and westward growth of our nation.

March 8. The Causes, Conduct, and Consequences of This War
With its causes rooted in the outcome of the American Revolution, the War of 1812 was fought along the land and maritime frontiers of the new nation. This comprehensive overview prepares participants for the sessions to come and for their own readings and touring after the course. Martin K. Gordon, PhD, Program Coordinator.

March 15. The Maritime War Along the East Coast
The Royal Navy had long practiced blockading the coast of France during the Napoleonic Wars. But in blockading the United States it didn’t have enough ships. While the United States Navy contested the blockade, winning its ship to ship fights with the British, Maryland merchants, especially from Havre de Grace and from Baltimore took advantage of every opportunity to damage British commerce and enrich themselves through privateering. William S. Dudley, PhD, Director Emeritus, United States Naval Historical Center and author, most recently of Maritime Maryland: A History.

March 29. Baltimore “a nest of pirates”
Baltimore started its participation in the war before it even started, with rioting so violent to give one example, the Revolutionary War hero and father of Robert E. Lee, Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, never recovered from the beating he received during those protests. Baltimore’s resistance to and contributions to the war effort including its successful defense in 1814 are the subject of this talk. Scott S. Sheads, author, popular lecturer, speaker on PBS’s 1812 documentary, most recently co-author of The War of 1812 in the Chesapeake: A Reference Guide to Historic Sites in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

April 5. Fighting in the West
Future president William Henry Harrison made his reputation fighting Tecumseh and other Native Americans and their British allies for control not only of Ohio, but of the Old Northwest and even into Canada, winning the only major American victory during the several attempts to conquer that territory. Martin K. Gordon, PhD.

April 12. Fighting in the South: Andrew Jackson and the Creek Campaign
In 1814 during the Creek War, Jackson’s forces won a crushing victory at Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River. The Creeks, allies of the British, were no longer a threat on the frontier, and Jackson, also victorious at Mobile Bay and Pensacola was promoted to major-general. Harold W. Youmans, Esq., author, lecturer, editor emeritus of the Journal of the War of 1812.

April 19. Fighting to the North: Canada and the Great Lakes Campaigns
The United States Army and Navy along with the states’ militia made several attempts to conquer Canada. The Navy gained control of the Great Lakes, but the land forces were unable to follow up with comparable victories. Although they did capture and burn York, the capitol of Upper Canada, but at the cost of the life of Brig. Gen. Zebulon Pike, the soldier and explorer of the west. Richard V. Barbuto, PhD, Deputy Director, Department of Military History, Command & General Staff College, U.S. Army; and author of Niagara 1814: America Invades Canada, among other works.

April 26. Jean Lafitte, Andrew Jackson, and the Battle of New Orleans
In deciding to help the Americans at New Orleans in late 1814/early 1815, Lafitte and his gang went from the status of “banditti” to “gentlemen.” This presentation offers a look into the world of the Baratarians and, especially, their contributions to the American victory at the Battle of New Orleans. What role did they really play? How has the legacy of Jean Lafitte been transformed over the years? Tom Kanon, PhD, archivist at the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville, has written numerous articles and essays on topics of the early American frontier period, particularly on the War of 1812 in the South.

Coordinator Martin K. Gordon, PhD, is a popular Odyssey series coordinator and speaker. Adjunct Professor of History, University of Maryland University College and adjunct member of the graduate faculties at the University of Oklahoma at Norman and at the American Military University.
Course no. 910.676.01 Homewood Campus
$180 (10.5 hours) 7 sessions
Thurs., Mar. 8–Apr. 26, 7:30–9 p.m. No class Mar. 22.

To download the Spring course catalogue as a pdf file, go to Odyssey Spring Course Catalogue.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Will the British Burn Havre de Grace?

The Burning of Havre de Grace, May 3, 1813, as illustrated by Philadelphia Scottish-born caricaturist William Charles.  Courtesy of the Brown University Library, Providence, Rhode Island.

I am getting ready to talk tonight in Bel Air, Maryland about the British burning of Havre de Grace.  See below.  I have been engaged over the past year researching the British May 3, 1813 attack on the town, which became an American poster child for British misbehavior and outrages after the British burned two thirds of the town of sixty houses and British troops even broke the windows an damaged pews at St. John's Episcopal Church.  Of course, our Canadian friends will argue that these "atrocities" are no worse than out of control American troops did in Canada.  And they would be right.  Nonetheless the British actions at Havre de Grace gave ample grist to the American propaganda machine as at least in the forum of public opinion the supporters of President James Madison could prove to Federalists or neutrals that the British were a disgrace to the human race.

St. John's Episcopal Church as illustrated in Benson J. Lossing's The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812 (New York: Harper's, 1868).

As part of the Havre de Grace marking of the Bicentennial of the war and the city's role in it, a model is being built in the new visitor's center. See a blog posting by my fellow historian, Mike Dixon at I saw the model for the first time last weekend. Unfortunately, as now planned, the model, being built under the direction of Mitch Mitchell, will not show the British attack or the British burning the town. The idea, after earlier an earlier decision to not show the British in the town, is to show the town on the day before the battle. I think this is a mistake. The diorama at Bladensburg showing the British coming across the Anacostia (then the Eastern Branch of the Potomac) comes to mind as an example of how splendid it would be to see those scarlet-clad Royal Marines and the lads in blue, Cockburn's tars, in the town.

After viewing the model, I was prompted to write the following email to HdG 1812 Project Director Heidi Glatfelter and others on the project.  I follow it with her reply:

Hello Heidi et al.

Thanks for the meeting yesterday. I appreciated the opportunity to view the model for the first time. I wanted to express a concern that I voiced when I was with you. I really think that the model will be disappointing if it does not show Havre de Grace at its most significant moment in American history.

Showing the town as it looked before the attack is rather dull and lifeless. I think you could do a lot better if you show the attack in progress and include the destruction of some of the buildings.

What you have now is interesting but it won't excite the public.

Heidi said that the problem is that you don't have full data on houses that were burned. That's true but you will never have complete data, so do the best with what you have. The model is always going to be in large part conjectural and won't show the town as it was exactly. You do know of some of the buildings that were burned. Show them in flames, and add the excitement to the diorama that is presently lacking.

Best regards

Christopher T. George
Terror on the Chesapeake: The War of 1812 on the Bay


Hi Chris,

Thank you for your thoughts on showing the attack on the model. I understand your reasons for wanting to make the model more dynamic, but at this point in the process, I don't think we should derail the model builders. They had a great deal of discussion prior to beginning the model about what time period (pre/during/post attack) to represent, and for a number of reasons, they decided to go with the day before the attack.

I have been thinking about how we could show the attack on the model, and don't really think we could do it justice anyway. As you saw, the people are so small that it would be difficult to distinguish red coats from townspeople, and and I don't think the effect would be that startling. However, I do think we need to represent the attack well on the exhibit panels, as we discussed. Perhaps we can blow up a photo of the model of the town and have an artist draw in the attack, which would help represent it with  more impact. I'm open to other ideas - I know films and interactive displays were also discussed. They aren't covered in the grant, but perhaps a local corporation or donor would be interested in making a contribution. Our exhibit firm can also help us figure out how to represent the impact of the attack, which is the primary story, of course.


Heidi Glatfelter
Project Manager
Havre de Grace War of 1812 Committee
Home Office: 410-252-7519
Cell: 443-928-3383

Photographs of Model of Havre de Grace a-building. Courtesy of Mike Dixon.

Talk by Christopher T. George, Lecture on the Burning of Havre de Grace, Bel Air, Wed., Feb. 8, 2012

BRITISH REAR ADMIRAL GEORGE COCKBURN ATTACKS HAVRE DE GRACE – MAY 3, 1813 – NEW FINDINGS, Wednesday, February 8, 2012, 7:30 P.M. Historical Society of Harford County Headquarters, 143 North Main Street (at the corner of Main and Gordon Streets), Bel Air, Maryland. Sponsored by the Archeological Society of Northern Chesapeake (ASNC). No Charge.  Note: Archeological Society meeting starts at 6:30 P.M.

Also see a new entry on my other blog about the facts and myths of history.  Go to