Fort Howard (Maryland)
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Sited near the present-day settlement of Fort Howard and the later Fort Howard Veterans Hospital (of the former United States Veterans Administration), located on the geographic point of North Point which juts into the Chesapeake Bay on the lower Patapsco River to the south and between the Back River to the north. "Old Roads Bay" is just to the west of North Point and between Sparrows Point and Bear Creek to the northwest. The Fort and the Point are to the southeast of a major suburban, residential, waterfront areas of Dundalk, Edgemere and to the south of Essex and Middle River, Maryland up the Back River.
War of 1812
This park's historical significance is its connection with the War of 1812 and largest invasion of the United States in history, on the morning of September 12, 1814, celebrated since as a state and city holiday as "Defenders' Day". In the Battle of Baltimore, the British landed about four thousand, five hundred (4,500) men near the site that later became Fort Howard, as a part of a campaign to capture and burn Baltimore. In coordination with their Royal Navy's bombardment of Fort McHenry (during following two days, September 13-14) under the command of Lt. Col. George Armistead, (1780-1818), the British troops in coordination were to march up the "Patapsco Neck" peninsula and capture Baltimore from the east. But the British advance was demoralized when the commander, Major-General Robert Ross, (1766-1814), was killed (possibly by Daniel Wells and Henry G. McComas, local Baltimore County Sheriff's Deputies and Maryland Militia-men/soldiers). The advance was then temporarily stalled by the Americans' fierce resistance by several regiments of the Maryland Militia under the command of Brig. Gen. John Stricker, (1758-1825), in the Battle of North Point on September 12, on the "Patapsco Neck" peninsula southeast of the city in Baltimore County. After the several hours battle that afternoon, the American left-wing finally collapsed and retreated in good order to the far more substantial dug-in fortifications with about 100 cannons and 20,000 volunteer and drafted citizens and militia erected under the supervision of Maj. Gen. Samuel Smith, (1752-1839), (Commander of the State Militia, Revolutionary War hero, city merchant, U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Navy and later Mayor of Baltimore) on the heights east of the city, "Loudenschlager Hill" (later "Hampstead Hill", in modern Patterson Park, near the Highlandtown and Canton neighborhoods). When the British, now under Col. Arthur Brooke, (1772-1843), perceived the strength of the substantial American defenses and failing to make any successful flank attacks, awaited the reinforcements of the British fleet to come upriver to bomb and shell the Fort and force a passage past the sunken ship obstacles in the Harbor channel. After two days and a rainstorm-filled night, disheartened, they withdrew and the troops retreated back to North Point (later Fort Howard by 1898) and reboarded their ships. Sailing away to meet another defeat four months later in the Battle of New Orleans at Chalmette Plantation on the Mississippi River by Gen. Andrew Jackson, (1767-1845), in January 1815 (several weeks after the Treaty of Peace was signed in Europe at Ghent - [modern Belgium]).
Late 18th century
In the 18th century, the site served as an important part of the transportation route between the Eastern Shore and the port of Baltimore.
Originally known as North Point at the confluence of the Patapsco River, Back River and the Chesapeake Bay, the site was taken over in 1896 by the federal government for the construction of coastal artillery fortifications (known as the "Endicott" or "Third Period") in the pre-Spanish-American War era before 1898. Other similar Baltimore Harbor forts in the outer Patapsco River of this time were also constructed: Fort Smallwood at Rock Point in Anne Arundel County and Fort Armistead at Hawkins Point on the Baltimore City-Anne Arundel County Line of 1919. These featured deep trenches accessible from the rear for reinforcements in troops and ammunition along with higher-powered gun emplacements with retracting mechanisms and revolving assemblies. Large banks and berms of earth and steel-bar reinforced horizontal concrete pads surrounded the artillery. Wide cleared unforested areas cut around the fort batteries enabled "clear lines of fire". Underground tunnels connected the various guns of the fort from every angle offering protection to the soldiers and the artillery from newer heavier sea-based rifled guns on the new steel cruisers and battleships powered by steam and coal and increasingly oil of a newer modern navy.
An earlier island fort named Fort Carroll was begun in 1848 on 3 dredged acres with millions of bricks in 3 planned tiers and 350 gun embrasures under the supervision of Capt. Robert E. Lee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (which also supervised the construction of the later 1890s fortifications. This was similar to several other island harbor forts on the East and Gulf coasts of the United States and the more famous example of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor in South Carolina where the first shots of the Civil War were fired in April 1861. This type of high brick-walled structure (known as the French "Montalembert" or "Second Period" of fortifications) quickly became apparently obsolete with the technical development during the war of rifled barrels of newly forged larger cannons which sped up the speed and increased the accuracy of the projectiles fired and could smash all the older forts to rubble (representing expenditures of millions of dollars over 80 years) as exampled in the Union Navy's attack on Fort Pulaski outside Savannah, Georgia in 1862 and the large substantial holes and damage suffered.
The fort was named by Elihu Root, Secretary of War under President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902 after Colonel John Eager Howard (1752-1827), a Baltimore philanthropist and distinguished officer and commander of the "Maryland Continental Line" regiment of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, famous at several battles at Brooklyn in New York and at Monmouth in New Jersey and in North Carolina at Guilford Courthouse and South Carolina's Cowpens. Later, the fourth Governor of Maryland (1788-1791), Howard owned "Belvedere" a mansion and estate north of Baltimore Town, also known as "Howard's Woods", which was the site of the erection of the Washington Monument and later development of the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Victorian-era neighborhood. The installation earned the nickname the "Bulldog at Baltimore's Gate" and served as the coastal artillery headquarters for Baltimore.
The installation was turned over to the U.S. Veterans' Administration (now the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) in 1940, which still owns the majority of the property. The portion of the property containing the old coastal artillery fortications was declared surplus federal land and was transferred to Baltimore County in 1975 for use as a historical park. Interpretive plaques and signs were placed throughout the park explaining the various military fortifications, weapons and their purposes. Since the mid-1980s, the Park has also been the site of annual "Defenders' Day" obervances with a historical fair and 1812-period military reenactments and skirmishes of the Battle of North Point with the help of several historical and civic organizations in the nearby Dundalk, Edgemere and Sparrows Point areas of southeastern Baltimore County along with various heritage and historical groups from the rest of the county, the city and state and even Canada and Britain. These observances go along with similar ceremonies, reenactments and exhibitions at Fort McHenry and Patterson Park along with the various monuments and memorials throughout the city and county.
In the 1960s it was used as an auxiliary training area for the U. S. Army Intelligence School at Fort Holabird in Dundalk. A typical Vietnamese village was built there to train Special Forces ("green Berets") for counterinsurgency operations. The village had realistic tunnels. Instructors acted the part of insurgents who were captured and subjected to training interrogation and often to harsh treatment. Also in the 1960s and until the mid-1970s, other students were trained there in water and land infiltration and instructors were the opposition. When students were caught they were interrogated in the underground coastal defense bunkers. Interrogation usually meant the students holding bricks on their outstreched arms while standing naked on rubber tires. All training ceased when the Intelligence school moved to Fort Huachuca in Arizona.