War of 1812 Historic Sites Slated for Improvement

Baltimore County Now

Apr 25, 2013

Jay Doyle
Department of Planning

It was a day of reckoning, a day to face the ultimate test. The heat was bearable, but enough to put sweat on the brows of the men in their cotton-wool uniforms. In the afternoon sun astride North Point Road in southeast Baltimore County, the American militia faced the British host.

It was 2 p.m. on Monday, September 12, 1814.

The redcoats had landed in the twilight hours some ten hours earlier, bringing 4,200 veterans of the Napoleonic wars onshore at the tip of the North Point peninsula via all manner of ship, craft and skiff. After barreling through the brush and woods, they marched past one of Baltimore County’s earliest homesteads, Todd’s Inheritance. They were bound for Baltimore, eager to give it a severe lashing. This was the British land operation. Just five miles away as the crow flies, the king’s ships were gearing up to rain bombs down on Fort McHenry.

The American scouts posted at the Todd house had detected the British force and raced north to warn American Brigadier Gen. John Stricker. Stricker sent out a small detachment from his force of 3,200 to probe the British movements. This led to a skirmish and some major consequences before the main battle.

September 12, 1814, is the crux of Baltimore County’s story in the War of 1812. While by no means the whole story, it is the main event. The Battle of North Point unfolded a day before the bombardment of Fort McHenry, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became our National Anthem.

Maryland and other states are now in the midst of a bicentennial commemoration of the War. Baltimore County is pleased to report that key historic sites associated with the Battle of North Point will be getting some much-needed attention. The county has secured funding to make improvements from a variety of sources. Our main goals are to strengthen public access to our top-priority sites, to improve their educational value and visitor appeal, and to advance historic preservation. Our top-priority sites are not only central to the County’s 1812 story, they are destinations on the newly designated Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. They are not just historical artifacts. They are visible, well-known properties woven into the fabric of active communities. Their condition and viability influences the quality of life of the communities in which they reside.

In April, the Department of Planning learned that it will receive a $100,000 grant award to improve Battle Acre Park. The funding from the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission will be matched with $100,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds put forward by the Department. Battle Acre Park preserves one acre of the land upon which the Battle of North Point was fought. It was donated in 1839 by a local landowner to serve as a commemorative space in which the public can reflect upon the event and remember the soldiers who fought, including 24 Americans who died.

The concept plan for Battle Acre recommends establishing a new pedestrian walkway and plaza area that is needed to provide safe pedestrian access to the site along North Point Road. Sections of the park’s wrought iron fence, which dates to 1914, would be restored and repaired. The park’s granite pillars would be cleaned and improved. A drainage problem would be resolved.

Another preserved piece of the battlefield that lies only 300 feet from Battle Acre, called North Point State Battlefield, is slated for improvement. The recently approved Maryland capital budget includes $500,000 for improving this parcel. The County’s pursuit of this funding was a continuation of County Executive Kevin Kamentz’s request for War of 1812 project funding made last year. This year’s success involved a collaborative, team effort. The county executive and county staff advocated for and supported the request. Delegate John Olszewski, Jr., chairman of the county’s Annapolis delegation, was instrumental in securing the funds, as was Delegate Adrienne Jones and Senator Edward Kasemeyer.

The state and the National Park Service are now collaborating on a final design plan for North Point State Battlefield. Improvements are likely to include a parking area, a loop trail, vegetative screening, interpretive landscaping and other interpretive elements.

Even more good news came when County Executive Kamenetz released his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The County Executive seeks to invest $1750,000 in making improvements to Todd’s Inheritance (mentioned above), a signature waterfront gem that was first settled by the Todd family in 1664. April has been a fantastic month the county’s War of 1812 Bicentennial program. We hope to keep the momentum going.

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