Follow the trail of British troops as they fought their way up the Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812, eventually clashing with American defenders in a battle immortalized by the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
Enjoy the beauty of the colonial revival garden at Historic Sotterley Plantation. During the War of 1812, several of the plantation's enslaved labor force escaped to fight alongside the British.
106miles of both wide-open country and city driving from Solomons to Baltimore
Places along the way
Journey back to the pivotal days of the War of 1812, also sometimes called “America’s Second War of Independence,” while visiting Southern Maryland towns, the state’s largest city and sites surrounding the nation’s capital. As fighting continued throughout the summer of 1814, Maryland’s brave defenders not only stood strong against British invaders up and down the Chesapeake Bay, but also inspired the poem that would become our National Anthem.
After British Navy ships blockaded the Chesapeake Bay, Revolutionary War hero Joshua Barney came out of retirement to be commissioned commodore of a fleet of lightly armed, shallow-draft barges expected to be more maneuverable than the enemy’s vessels. Barney’s “Chesapeake Flotilla” would be tested during the summer of 1814.
Solomons, a marina-rimmed fishing village with seafood and other dining options, offers a number of attractions. The exhibits at the Calvert Marine Museum feature war artifacts and trace troop movements as Commodore Barney fought against a larger and more heavily armed British force. Also, stop by the Solomons Regional Information Center to learn about the area, and then spend the afternoon at Annmarie Garden, a 30-acre public sculpture park affiliated with the Smithsonian.
Enjoy a sidetrack to Sotterley Plantation, a 300-year-old Tidewater plantation house that overlooks the Patuxent River and was the site of a British raid during the War of 1812. A rare slave cabin, gardens, nature trails and outbuildings are found on 100 acres at this National Historic Landmark.
By July 1814, Royal Marines occupied Chaptico, Leonardtown and other Southern Maryland locations, raiding private homes and confiscating supplies. The following month found more than 4,000 enemy troops probing deeper along the Patuxent River, seeking a suitable landing spot for an invasion of Washington, D.C. They chose Benedict, a riverside town now as well known for its War of 1812 history, as for its fishing, sailing and seafood restaurants.
See more of Star-Spangled Banner
See the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, the home where young Mary Pickersgill worked alongside others to hand sew the fifteen-star fifteen-stripe flag that flew over Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore.
The AnnMarie Sculpture Garden features a wooded walking path that meanders past sculpture, including works on loan from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art.
Photo By: AnnMarie Garden Sculpture Park and Arts Center, Solomons
The breathtaking Calvert Cliffs at Lusby are reached via hiking trails through lush woods and wetlands in Calvert Cliffs State Park.
Time your visit for the Battle of North Point “Defenders Day” re-enactment that is held at the state park in early September, followed a week later by a “Star-Spangled Banner Weekend” at Fort McHenry.
This idyllic view of the sunrise over Benedict on the Patuxent River decries the chaos of March 1812, when the British landed here to invade Washington, D.C.
Photo By: Jeff Smallwood
Benedict to Baltimore
Including MD 381, MD 382, US 301, MD 4, I-495, MD 202 & I-295
The British army and navy linked up in Upper Marlboro, where a spectacular view and access to the Patuxent River is available from the Mount Calvert Historical & Archaeological Park. Upper Marlboro is also popular among equestrians who go horseback riding on miles of trails in local parks and attend events at The Show Place Arena & Prince George’s Equestrian Center.
At a waterfront park in Bladensburg, you can see the Anacostia River Bridge, near the site where British forces crossed to attack American defenses in August 1814. In the battle’s aftermath, Rosalie Calvert volunteered slaves to bury the dead, and then collected weapons and other items. Riversdale, as her Federal-period plantation home is known, now offers docent-guided tours and is a favorite place for special events.
British forces soon marched unopposed into Washington, D.C., and burned many of the public buildings before returning to the town of Benedict to re-embark their ships. This route takes you into the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area, past College Park, Greenbelt and Beltsville. Attractions in this area range from performing arts venues and an agricultural research center to a NASA space facility and aviation museum.
Including MD 295
The War of 1812 lit up Baltimore in September 1814. Expecting to cruise into the city’s harbor with little resistance, a British fleet was instead frustrated by Lt. Col. George Armistead and his men defending Fort McHenry. Their courage was witnessed by Francis Scott Key, a lawyer who had been detained on board a cartel vessel after facilitating an American prisoner’s release. Throughout the night, the British bombarded the fort with Congreve rockets and mortar shells, but by dawn’s early light, Key saw a large American flag — measuring 42 feet by 30 feet — still waving over the fort’s ramparts.
Visitors to the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine can hear Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner” during a presentation at the Visitor Center and walk the ramparts of the star-shaped fort. Meanwhile, the earliest original manuscript version of Key’s poem is housed nearby at the Maryland Historical Society. Also in Baltimore is the home of Star-Spangled Banner flagmaker Mary Pickersgill and the Inner Harbor-based Pride of Baltimore II, a re-creation of an 1812-era topsail schooner.
Just prior to the naval bombardment of Fort McHenry, about 5,000 British troops landed at Fort Howard in Baltimore County, southeast of the city, and engaged American troops in a battle on the North Point peninsula. North Point State Park’s Defenders Trail follows the route of the British as they progressed toward Baltimore before confronting the city’s defenses and being compelled to retreat.
From Baltimore, you can continue on into the town of Frederick to discover more about Francis Scott Key (a hometown hero) and visit the cemetery where he is buried.
Take a Side Trip
Hear more about the War of 1812 in Havre de Grace, Annapolis and across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on Maryland's Eastern Shore. St. Michaels, for instance, has been called "The Town that Fooled the British" ever since a summer night in 1813 when, to misdirect a British naval bombardment, residents supposedly extinguished all of their lights and hung lanterns in trees north of town.
Tour the exhibit barn at Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum to experience the British invasion on the Chesapeake during the War of 1812 from the viewpoint of locals who endured the turmoil.
Baltimore’s financial district is a mix of old and modern architecture, with the highlight being Charles Center, a striking metal and glass building designed by modern architectural pioneer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.