27 July 2010

The Battle of Baltimore

[During the bombing of Fort McHenry] The barrage was so intense that, on average, a bomb a minute thundered out of the British barrels for hour after hour. Hoping for a combination of luck and calculation, the crews measured lengths of fuses expected to ignite the power while the shells were still airborne. A perfectly timed explosion would rip the shell casing apart a few yards above ground, spraying deadly shrapnel in every direction…

The stream of explosives created an awesome sight. Observers clearly saw the trail of sparks from burning fuses stuffed inside the streaking shells. Men, women, and children crammed the roofs of houses to see what one spectator described as “the most awful spectacle of shot and shells and rockets shooting and bursting through the air.”

The night sky lit up with such a brilliance of bursting shells and fleeting rockets that observers gasped at its peculiar beauty. (208-9)
Excerpts from The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814, by Anthony S. Pitch, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1998.

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