Freemason Roadtrip: Fort McHenry

by Midnight Freemason Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

"And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

~Francis Scott Key

We all know the story.  On the morning of September 13, 1814, British warship began a brutal bombardment Fort McHenry--a bombardment that lasted 25 hours.  However, the following morning, September 14th, it was obvious that the Fort had withstood the constant bombardment of cannon fire and rockets.  The message was clear.  The small storm flag which measured 17 x 25 feet, had been replaced with the garrison flag that Major George Armistead had ordered when he took over Fort McHenry.  He described the flag he wanted made as "a flag so large that the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance."  That flag measured 30 x 42 feet.  When the British saw that flag the next morning, it signaled to them that the Americans had won.  Francis Scott Key having witness that bombardment and the Star Spangled Banner waving proudly that morning wrote a poem called "The Defence of Fort M'Henry."  The words of that poem would later become the National Anthem.  The British withdrew, and Baltimore Harbor was safe.

I visited Fort McHenry a couple years ago.  Three Masons from Illinois decided to go on a road trip to Washington D.C.--Greg Knott, Denver Phelps, and myself.  We stopped a few places along the way.  Gettysburg and Fort McHenry were two stops we made.  I've visited old forts before, and generally, there isn't a lot to see other than brickwork.  Fort McHenry did have a huge place in American history, so I was pleased to have a chance to see it.  And it was a beautiful June day--clear blue sky, and a nice cool breeze.

They had a very nice visitor's center at Fort McHenry.  The fort is some distance away up the hill from it.  We went through the museum and took in all the exhibits.  Just about the time we were getting ready to leave they started a video presentation.  We decided to stay and watch it.  It was a description of the 1814 bombardment of Fort McHenry.  It was very well done, and made us all feel very patriotic and very anxious to go up and see the fort.  As the presentation ended, the National Anthem began to play--of course all the veterans stood up.  Suddenly, the entire wall that the movie was being shown on began to open up, and behind it was a huge picture window.  And up the hill in the distance stood Fort McHenry, with its enormous Star Spangled Banner waving over it.

That may have been one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen--it couldn't have been any better choreographed.  It's one of those things that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your arms, and puts a lump in your throat.  I've seen a lot of America, and visited many famous places, however, I'm unlikely to ever forget the first time I saw Fort McHenry.  I saw it much the same way Francis Scott Key had back in 1814.  I believe that was the entire point of that presentation--to show visitors Fort McHenry for the first time as Francis Scott Key had seen it as the daylight dawned on September 14th, 1814.

If you're in the Baltimore area, don't miss it. 


 Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754.  He is a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282.  You can contact him at:

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