Maryland's scenic byway system includes 18 designated roads that span over 2,400 kilometres of this beautiful and historic landscape. One of these 18 trails is the Star Spangled Banner Scenic Byway, which is combined with the Star Spangled Banner Trail to take in some of the most historic sites from throughout Maryland and indeed all of America. This byway runs from the fishing village of Solomons in Chesapeake Bay to the massive urban hub of Baltimore, spanning 170 kilometres and following the route of British soldiers during the Chesapeake campaign in the War of 1812 – also known as "America's Second War for Independence." The final battle of the campaign served as the inspiration for Francis Scott Key's famous Star-Spangled Banner.
Calvert Marine Museum
Calvert Marine Museum generally serves as the first stop along the Star Spangled Byway system as it is located in the fishing village of Solomons. The museum showcases a huge exhibit where it demonstrates how the landscape in the area has changed since prehistoric times.
Drivers along the byway are sure to spot it by the iconic New England style Drum Point lighthouse that dominates the museum's waterfront area. The Calvert Marine Museum hosts the Patuxent Small Craft Guild, which contributes to many of its exhibits by creating historic recreations and restorations of traditional Chesapeake Bay watercraft.
For those tracing the Star Spangled Byway for its war of 1812 history, check out the War of 1812 exhibit. This exhibit hosts war artifacts and traces troop movements as they fought the more heavily armed British.
Jefferson Patterson Park Museum
Located in Calvert Country, the state park and museum of Jefferson Patterson is located along the Patuxent River near St Leonard. This was once the property of U.S. Diplomat Jefferson Patterson before being donated to the United States by his wife Mary Marvin Patterson.
Aside from the usual park activities of hiking, biking, and paddling, the park is also home to almost 70 archeological sites that sift through the buried history of near 9,000 years of human occupation. The visitors’ centre is located in an old cattle barn that features displays on archaeological ventures, and it also hosts a sizeable exhibit on the War of 1812.
This property once served as a camping spot for British soldiers in 1813, so there are plenty of artefacts on display. The exhibit also tells the tale of two battles that also occurred in the area in June 1814 that very nearly resulted in the capture of the U.S. Navy's "Chesapeake Flotilla".
In 2007, the park set up a Native American village to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Smith's exploration of the Chesapeake Bay area and its various tributaries. The village features four longhouses, a central fire pit, racks for smoking fish and meat and a working garden that grows crops.
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary
This beautiful forested wetland is located near Prince Fredrick in Calvert County. It provides excellent scenic views for those travelling on the Star Spangled Byway, but drivers should definitely consider pulling off the road to its natural beauty.
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp serves as the northernmost site of naturally occurring bald cypress trees in North America, which has earned it the title of National Natural Landmark. The area also serves to protect various species of songbirds, like prothonotary warblers and waterthrush, frogs like green frogs and spring peepers, and various wild flower species. It truly is an environment that can only be enjoyed in Maryland.
Benedict is a small fishing town located on the Star Spangled Byway that’s famous for its great New England style seafood restaurants. During the War of 1812, it was still just a small fishing village that served as a staging point for the British. This is where the British Navy offloaded troops in order to lead an invasion of Washington D.C.
Unfortunately for Benedict, before the British left the area, they burned the city to the ground. Benedict was rebuilt by 1863, but this time it was called Camp Stanton, and served as home to Maryland's 7th Regiment in the Civil War. Later in the war it became home to Maryland's 19th Regiment of the United States Coloured Troops that was formed of free slaves who wished to fight for the Union.
Today, this sleepy little New England fishing town has several small museums dedicated to the events of these wars, including the preserved ruins of Camp Stanton. So after a meal of clam chowder, be sure to stop at some of these great historical sites.
Mount Calvert Historical And Archaeological Park
Mount Calvert serves as the midway point along the Star Spangled Byway, and it is considered a must-stop location. During the War of 1812, Mount Calvert was an important stopping point for both British and American forces.
After the Chesapeake Flotilla was scuttled at Pig Point, British Admiral Cockburn arrived with his fleet at Mount Calvert. He ordered marines, marine artillery and seamen to disembark and join up with British forces marching to Washington D.C. While the British attacked Washington, Mount Calvert stayed occupied by British forces. However, when the British left the Patuxent area, the American naval forces moved in. Mount Calvert then served as an important place where the U.S. Navy salvaged, sorted and shipped materials from the scuttled American vessels upriver to American forces that could use them.
Today, Mount Calvert serves as one of the more important archeological sites for the War of 1812. From April to October, the area is open to visitors who want to try their handsat being an archeologist; visitors can work on uncovering the ruins of the ancient Charles Town or work on the various salvage sites from the War of 1812. For those not interested in getting their hands dirty, the area still offers unbelievable panoramic views of the Patuxent River, which made Mount Calvert such a strategic military stopping point.
Bladensburg served as a seaport during the colonial period. This is where tobacco harvests were brought in and graded. However, this small town is best remembered for the historic Battle of Bladensburg in 1814. This battle served as the only battle in American history where the president, who was James Madison at the time, rode into battle. Of course, the Americans lost this battle, which was hailed "the greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms".
The defeat at Bladensburg opened the way for the British to ride into the nation's capital and burn it to the ground. While the town did not have much involvement in the Civil War, it was a famous dueling ground for those with differences of opinion after the Civil War ended.
Today, the town is no longer a seaport, as the Anacostia River silted up and larger ships can no longer reach port. The town is now on the crossroads between Philadelphia and Baltimore, where visitors stop to enjoy a meal or visit many of the historical sites.
Riversdale House Museum
On a historic site located just a few miles north of Bladensburg, lies the Riverdale Mansion, an elegant Federal style manor house that was constructed in 1807 for the Flemish aristocrat Henri Stier. The house was home to Henri Stier's daughter Rosalie and her husband George Calvert, who was the grandson of the fifth Lord Baltimore.
It is the elegant architecture that makes this mansion such a gem along the Star Spangled Byway. It has been restored and preserved to reflect the lifestyle of the Calverts. Inside, it has become a museum to those turbulent times, hosting the journals of Rosalie Calvert and Adam Francis Plummer, an enslaved man that the family owned.
Baltimore and Fort McHenry National Monument
Creativecommons.org/Jim, The Photographer
The final stop on the Star Spangled Byway is the Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore. This fort served as the staging point for the infamous Battle of Baltimore. The heroic defense of the soldiers within Fort McHenry inspired Francis Scott Key's Star Spangled Banner. Baltimore was a major turning point in the War of 1812. Today, visitors can spend hours guiding themselves around this beautifully maintained fort, imagining the broad stripes and blue stars so gallantly streaming by dawn's early light with the rocket's red glare and the bombs bursting in air.