Among the celebrated Old Defenders’ of Baltimore was Isaac Munroe. He was born near Boston in 1774, learned the printer’s trade and eventually in his maturity founded the Boston Patriot. In 1812 he removed to Baltimore and in 1813 founded the Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser newspaper that chronicled the Battle for Baltimore in 1814.
September 17, 1814. Three days after the bombardment of Fort McHenry, Isaac Munore, editor of the Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser wrote a letter to a fellow editor of The [Boston] Yankee. As a private in Captain Joseph H. Nicholson’s U.S. Volunteers, the Baltimore Fencibles at Fort McHenry he had personally witnessed the preparations and bombardment. His letter provides crucial evidence of those moments that gave birth to a new national song. Here are extracts from the letter:
“I will give you an account of the approach of the enemy before this place, so far as it came under my observation…while we were marching to town, the enemy tacked about, and just at dusk were seen under press of sail, with a fair wind, approaching the town. There movements were closely watched at the fort…We were all immediately rallied, and arrived at the Fort before 12, although the rain poured down in torrents. On our arrival we found the matches burning, the furnaces heated and vomiting red hot shot, and everything ready for a gallant defense..Tuesday morning, at which time they had advanced to within two and a halfmile of the Fort, arranged in most elegant order, all at anchor, forming a half circle, with four bomb vessels and a rocket ship…
…two of their headmost frigates opened upon us, but finding their shot not reaching us, they ceased and advanced upa little nearer. The moment they had taken their position, Major Armistead mounted the parapet and ordered a battery of 24 pounders to be opened upon them; immediately after a battery of 42’s followed, whe the whole fort let drive at them. We could see the shot strike the frigates in several instances, when every heart was gladdened, and we gave three cheers, the music playing Yankee Doodle….
…The bomb vessels advanced a little, and commenced a tremendous bombardment, which lasted all day and all night…the most tremendous bombardment ever known in this cuntry, without means of resisting it, upwards of 1500 bombs having fallen in and around the Fort…”
“…till dawn of day [on September 14], when they appeared to be disposed the to decline the unprofitable contes. At this time, our morning gun was fired, the flag hoisted, Yankee Doodle played, and we all appeared in full view [upon the ramparts] of a formidable and mortified enemy, who calculated upon our surender in 20 minutes after the commencement of the action.”
He died on December 28, 1859 and “was respected for his integrity and general uprightness of character.” His final resting place is unknown.
Sources: The Yankee (Boston), September 30, 1814; “An Yankee Doodle played: A Letter from Baltimore, 1814” by Scott S. Sheads, (Maryland Historical Magazine, No.76. Fall 1981), 380-382; Civilian & Telegraph (Cumberland, MD), December 29, 1859.