George Armistead Monument (Federal Hill)

George Armistead Monument, public art, Baltimore 

Public Art : George Armistead Monument

Designed by: Unknown

Description: The Armistead Monument is a white marble cenotaph dedicated to Lieutenant Colonel George Armistead (April 10th, 1780 – April 25th, 1818), who not only successfully commanded and defended Fort McHenry (Baltimore) following a 25 hour bombardment by the British in 1814 but was also part of the Star Spangled Banner history. The monument features four upward facing cannons and four cannon balls. The cannon balls are behind battlements at the top of the cenotaph representing Fort McHenry. At the top of the memorial is a globe with a series of stars on a strip wrapped around it, above it is a smaller globe that has eroded over time. I assume the stars represent the fifteen stars and the fifteen stripes that were on Mary Pickersgill's flag that was flown at "dawns early light" at Fort McHenry following the unsuccessful attack by the British. 

Date Unveiled: The George Armistead Monument at Federal Hill was unveiled on September 12th, 1882. This is a replacementof the original monument erected at the Old City Spring in 1828. After the war it was pretty much left in ruins thanks to vandals and neglect so a new one was commissioned and relocated to Federal Hill.

Location: The Armistead Monument is located on top of Federal Hill Observatory, overlooking Baltimore, the city he helped save in 1814.


This monument is erected in honor of the gallant defender of Fort McHenry near this city during its bombardment by the British fleet on the 13th and 14th September 1814. He died universally esteemed and regretted on the 25th of April 1818 in the 39th year of his age.


Appointed Second Lieutenant of 7th Infantry January 8th 1799. Appointed Ensign of Infantry January [illegible] 1799. Appointed First Lieutenant of the 7th Infantry May 14th 1800. Transferred to the 1st Regiment of Artillerists and Engineers February 16th 1804. Appointed First Lietenant in the Regiment of Artillerists April 17th 1802. Appointed Assistant Military Agent at Fort Niagara [NY] May 1802.


Transferred to the [U.S.] Artillery Corps under the Act of May 20th 1814. Appointed Brev. Lieut. Col September 20th 1814 for gallant services in defense of Fort McHenry September 12th, 13th, and 14th 1814 [as] such from September 12th 1814.


Erected by the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore September 12th 1882. Wm. Pinkney White, Mayor, in pursuance of a resolution approved May 3rd 1882, as a substitute for the monument erected by a former Mayor and City Council, in pursuance of resolutions approved March 4th 1827 and February 4th 1828, which stood in the Calvert street Spring grounds until it became defaced and destroyed by time during a period of thirty-five years.

Trivia: In 1813 while in command of  Fort McHenry , Colonel George Armistead ordered a flag to be made "so large that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance." . That flag would  later became the inspiration for America's National Anthem , The Star Spangled Banner.

The large flag (The Star Spangled banner) which had 15 stars and fifteen stripes was made by local Baltimore resident Mary Pickersgill, her daughter, and seven seamtresses and it measured 30 x 42 feet (9.14x 12.8m). Large enough for the British to see.

Francis Scott Key wrote the poem "Defence of Fort M'Henry" in 1814 after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships during the attack of Baltimore in the War of 1812. This poem would later become the words of America's National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. The actually tune was set to a popular British song of the time written  by John Stafford Smith for  a men's social club in London.

After the 1814 battle, George Armistead kept Pickersgill's flag, and after his death in 1818 his widow, Louisa Hughes Armistead, kept it. During the 40 odd years she had it she removed pieces of it to give away as gifts (a common practice). On her death the flag was passed down to her daughter and then to her grandson. It was her grandson Eben Appleton, who in 1907, loaned it to the Smithsonian where it is now a permanent fixture.

In 1998 the flag underwent a $18 million conservation treatment.

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