Within American history, Baltimore is probably most famous for being the city that gave us “The Star Spangled Banner.” Here’s the skinny: Back in 1814, the British, fresh from burning Washington, D.C., to the ground, took their navy up into Chesapeake Bay planning to bring Baltimore—one of the country’s most important ports—to heel. Baltimore lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key was sent to parlay with the British admiral, and was held on the enemy ship while the British launched a two-pronged attack that was repelled by Maryland militia and the men manning Fort McHenry, which guards the approaches to Baltimore harbor. After seeing the “bombs bursting in air,” Key wrote a poem, set it to a contemporary drinking song ("To Anacreon in Heaven”) and boom—you’ve got the opening song to every baseball game in America. Today Fort McHenry is a quiet, National Parks-managed spot. The fort’s old foundations are still visible. You can watch the ships roll in and an awesomely corny video clues you in on the history.
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