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    Architectural Study

    F o R T Mc H E N R Y


    ,, LEE H. NELSON


    January, 1961


    Eastern Office, of Design and ConGtruction 143 South Third Street

    Philadelphia 6, Pennsylvania

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    This architecturally-oriented study is limited to the physical history of the "star fort" and its successor, the pentagonal fort, on Whetstone Point, Baltimore, from 1776 to 1857, Later changes, though interesting, are not included since the fort and buildings have not undergone any structural change since that date.

    This study does not deal with the outworks or outer buildings, nor is it concerned "'ith. general llistoric events, except as they affected the construction and the alteration of the fort, Those aspects are discussed at length by Dr, s. Sydney Bradford and Franklin R, Mullaly, National Park Service Historians, in their report, "Fort McHenry, Historical and Archeological Research Project, 1957~1958." The "riter acknowl- edges their cooperation in undertaking the architectural evaluo- tion of the documents, which they collected and arranged for the Fort }JcHenry research library. Credit is also due G. Hubert Smith, Archeologist, l1issouri Basin Project, Smithsonian institution, for his assistance during th" smrimer of 1958, and for reading the te:>

  • • CHAPTER 1.

    PART A.

    PART B, •


    FORT WHE'fSTOt\E AND FORT MCHENRY (including Sally Port, Casemates, and Guard-Rooms), 1776-1857


    FORT \.l~TSTONE, 1776-1797 •••••• , , • , , ••••••• , , , , ., • • l The Earthen Redo

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    • I

    CHl\PTER II. C0Ml111ND1NG OFFICE!< 1 S OFFICE AND QUARTERS (Illustrations only)

    CHAPTER III. THE PQ\,lllf.ll. l•L\GAZlllE

    PART A. HISTORICAL INFORtlATlON,,, , • , •••• , • , , , , , , , , , ••• , , , • , 71

    PART B. ARCHITECTURAL INFORt~TION., ..•. ,., .• , .•••••• , ••.• ,. 82

    ILLUSTRATIONS Ai'ID DRA11INCS •• ,(follow page) •• ,,,.,,, 84

    CHAPTER IV. OFF!CERS' QUARTERS (Illustrations only)



  • I -----

    CllAPTE:R I

    FORT lffiETSTONE, the Revolutionary War earthen "star fort"; its successor, FORT MCHENRY, a brick-faced, five-bastioned pentagonal fort; and the Fort McHenry SALLY PORT, CASJ!MATES, and GUARD•ROOHS.

    11.A.B.S. No, MD-63


  • Pl\RT A. Historical Information

    FORT WHETSTONE, Wh~TSIONll POINT, Ef.L7!L10RE, 1776-1797

    The Earthen Redoubt or "St~!'." :"ore"

    As early as Janunry 20, 1776, tho Me1ryland Congress of Depu-

    ties, or Convention as it ''"s populnrl)· calles' hereafter as Ars_~. ~!~.

    ~o r·-. r.··.·0,1_::·:--: c_s 'r-o-_,n, ~'1.d to ma::e out an Estimate o~ tlte e::r--o»~ '" of c~-::1:.

    Resolution of th!! 1l:i.!tir.•:irn C"unt:' CJ .. r"i:~,-~, Jn-iu~ry 2!1, 1716, American Archive~, Fourth Sari'>~, I\', ~7?>. c:;:t.·:I ''"'rcnfter as Amer. Arch.


  • ' two gentlemen, James Alcock, Baltimore schoolmaster, and Felix Louis

    ~lassenbacn, occ»pation unknown, were to play a significant role in

    f '

    . 3 designing tll.e de enses at \,'hetstone oint,

    On February 2, only two days after the conference, the Council

    ..ient to \·lhetstone Point, "to inform themselves of the situation thereof,

    and consider 0£ tJ>e practicability of fortifying the same."4 lt is

    very probable that the Baltimore Committee of Observation, together

    with Alcock and ~\assenbach, met the Council at \·ihetstone Point on

    that occasion and presented a p.-oposal for land fortifications and

    channel obstructions, Such a proposal was submitted to the Council

    and approved February 3. The Baltimore Coo.riittee agreed to undertake

    tne business and complete tb.e same "with all convenient speed," for

    the sum of ' "'6,200. The money was appropriated and worl< was begun in earnest on February 13, as recorded four days later.

    We have tuesday

    ab[out] 50 hands

    ' at Whetstone ••• at ~ork on a battery since

    3Journal of the Council of Safety, January 31, 177G, Arch. Md., XI, 127. Alcock's n111lle is sowetimes spelled Allcocl' in the documents, The correct spelling is uncertain. In the 1790 Census, Alcock is used. Hassenbach's name is variously listed as Maussenbaugh, ~lassenback, and Nassenbaugh. Upon resigning his c""""ission, the name is listed as Mr. Felix Louis Baron Massenbach.

    4Journal of the Council of Safety, February 2, 1776, Arch. Md., XI, 133. The selection 0£ l/hetstone Point was based primarily on its strategic location. When the Council determined that 1'hetstone Point t•as the most ad.,antageo>is site for BaltiDJore•s defenses, the property was confiscated fraDJ the Principio Company, a British association of ironmasters, which had been engaged in the removal of iron-ore on along the Point. See Appendix I, "Whetstone Point Lands."

    5Journal of the Council of Safety, February 3, 1776, Arch. Md., XI, 136.

    6 sam>iel Purviance to the Council, February li, 1776, Arch. Hd., XI, 167 •

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  • ,---------- - -


    the Otter not only ca•_1e«'1 eO>sl.:ur;t:lon;; ~" bl' pl--ced in the chanoel

    betWll!en Whetstone and Gorsuch 1s 10 l:'oint, but motivated the hasty

    erection of another gun battery and a b:reastwork, or lo-lying,

    earthen "star fort." 11 Tbough the British sloop turned tail and

    wei:i.t "provlin,g" down the bny, the Balti:n~re defenders were detetmined

    to "puah" the ne"' wo-,,!e marauders' return. By March 16, the C"""-'ittee re;;>otted,

    Our Fort at 1''1ctstoc-. is ready to \llOunt 8 guns, and we shall us e.very e·-,;: ·_: _ •• ," t:o.l timore Ccnnmittee, March 7, 1776, ~C'::-5 .. ,,_:c.:r.~~· Fo1:r•'1 S~:cil \:::> E:il_tiruo1·c C=ittee, JUD.e 5, 1776, Arch,_1:!1~· Xt, 405, .1~>;..:·'l c~ t:''°' C::ii.:::~l.1, l~rch 28, 1776, ~­ !!!ho XI, 294, Jour:iJle.:> ;orts~s as t" ,,·:c~''c~ ~h'! term "Fort" iB here \lsed interchaugeaJly "it'., the batt

  • ------------------ -


    Not only did they expedite cOlllpletion of the fortifications, but

    there was talk of adding buildings at the Point. ln a letter to the

    Council, Nathaniel Smith cotr.rnitted to writing, " ••• what wuld be

    necessary to have done about the fort." lie proposed the addition

    of ", •• a Magazine, Hospital and Laboratory, wh.ich in my opinion no

    fort oic garrison ought to be without, •• "13 Later, in May, S1Pith asked,

    I should [sic] be glad to have Orders to git [sic] a Flagg {sic] for the Fort, & to know lffiat Device you wou'd {sic] have on it (if aney) {sic],

    and pressed for the erection of a maga~ine, "as we Cannot possibly

    do well without it,"14

    A plan, apparently for the m.agazine, was submitted by Colonel

    Francis Ware, then stationed at the fort, Though the Council hesi-

    tated to advance any sums for t! purpose, they left the matter to

    the discretion of the Baltimore Committee, and that sroup determined

    to proceed with the magazine. h'hen Colonel Ware left the fort, he

    left the erection of the magazin~ in the hands of Nathaniel Smith

    but the powder storage house was not actually built.15

    1'N, Smith to Council, March JO, 1776, Arch. Md,, Xl, 300-301. 14Nathanie1 Smitlt to Council, May 20, 1776, Arch, Md., XI,l.o3l.o,