Attendees at this year’s Defenders’ Day celebration got to get a little more hands-on and up close than previous years.
Just two years ago, the defense of Baltimore during the Battle of North Point was celebrated with a full reenactment of the 1814 battle, as it had been for many years prior.
That celebration “draws really a lot of people” who come to see the cannons and gunfire at Fort Howard, Defenders’ Day chair Debbie Staigerwald said this week.
The Defenders’ Day celebration was canceled last year due to COVID-19, but came back this year in a different format, and at a different location, than usual.
“We still had a good turnout,” Debbie Staigerwald, the chair of the Defenders’ Day celebration, said. “The people who came were really interested in our history.”
The stations at Veterans Park included a talk about the landing of the troops at North Point, a talk by female demonstrators about the British troops coming to residences, a map which traced the movement of troops and a demonstration of the “crude” surgical techniques of the era.
The annual event honors the Battle of North Point, which was followed by the Fort McHenry battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to write what would eventually become the national anthem.
“When Key first put his poem into song a few days later... There was one hell of a big party,” Buzz Chriest, a director of the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society, which runs the celebration, said. “You had several thousand militiamen who saved the city, and it was a big celebration.”
The veterans of the war would continue to party on the anniversary of the Sept. 12 battle for years later.
“They partied for a couple of days, but it immediately became a tradition,” Chriest said. Although there was no Labor Day yet, the time of the year was perfect for a party, as there was a lull between the harvest of crops and people had an “easy weekend.”
He said Defenders’ Day celebrations still gathered on the North Point Peninsula for many years, before petering out during the Civil War area. Now, although history buffs put on a show almost every year, he worries that the holiday is only being celebrated on milestone years.
“On those odd years in between the centennials, we’ve got to keep the spark going,” he said.
“I like to say, if it wasn’t for Dundalk, we’d all be speaking with a British accent,” she said.
The Defenders’ Day committee is hoping to bring back the full Defenders’ Day experience next year, but is planning on keeping some of the living history exhibits which were brought on this year.