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September Coin of the Month

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine Quarter

Every year, Defenders' Day is held in Maryland to celebrate those Americans who fought the Battle of Baltimore.  As some defended the city on land (the Battle of North Point), others manned Fort McHenry to protect from an attack by sea.  If the defense failed in Baltimore, one of the nation's largest cities and ports in 1814, the War of 1812 might have ended very differently. 

And yet, the defense of Fort McHenry was not among the most costly battles in terms of life or property.  Why not?  Because the enemies kept their distance.  The distance was 2 miles. 

Although the range of the Americans' firepower was only a mile and a half, the British guns could reach a distance of 2 miles.  That gave them the advantage of being able to strike while staying safely beyond the Americans' reach.  The disadvantage, though, was that their cannons were not very accurate at such a great distance.

Still, there was one shot that could have ended the whole battle.  A bomb landed directly on the powder magazine (storehouse) where so much gun powder was stored that its explosion could have wiped out the fort.  But somehow, the bomb never exploded.  Whether the heavy rain had put out the fuse or the bomb was simply a dud, no one knows.

After the war, Fort McHenry became less valuable for defense, but its value during the war earns it a primary place in Defenders' Day, a state holiday in Maryland.  With the stipulation that the fort could still be used for military purposes in a national emergency, it was named a national monument and historic shrine in 1939.

Now, there are many monuments in our national parks, but not many shrines.  What is a shrine, anyway?  Well, the dictionary says it could be a religious place or container, but it could also be a place or object that's special because it has a strong connection to history, and that's the meaning here.

For more on this coin, see the Ft. McHenry quarter page!


Back of the Fort McHenry quarter.
Reverse:  Fireworks explode over Fort McHenry during a Defenders' Day celebration.

Front of the quarter.
Obverse:  George Washington's profile is surrounded by the inscriptions "United States of America," "Liberty," "In God We Trust," a mint mark, and "Quarter Dollar."

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