Riverside Park

Today, from the rise within Riverside Park, established in 1875, a visitor can see the rowhouses and churches of South Baltimore densely packed around the park in every direction. During the War of 1812, this rise, long known as Look-Out Hill, instead offered a clear view of Locust Point and the Patapsco River that made it essential for the U.S. Navy in their efforts to prepare Baltimore against the threat of attack by the British. In 1813 Captain Samuel Babcock, with the U.S. Corps of Engineers, designed and built a 180-foot diameter circular battery with earthen ramparts, a ditch with abatis, and an earthen powder magazine that made up Fort Look-Out.

In September 1814, the U.S. Navy assigned Lieutenant George Budd, a Maryland native from Harford County, from the U.S. Sloop of War Ontario at Fells Point to command Fort Look-Out. The U.S. Sloop of War Ontario was a sixteen gun rated sloop of war built by Thomas Kemp at a Fells Point shipyard but the ship was trapped in the harbor by the British blockade of the Chesapeake.

In the earliest morning hours of September 14, 1814, the anticipated British attack on Baltimore began as twenty naval barges advanced on the Baltimore harbor while 5,000 troops waited just beyond the eastern defensive line that cut through what is today Patterson Park.

Though Francis Scott Key provided the most memorable recollection of that evening's fight in the lyrics to the Star-Spangled Banner, one observer on Federal Hill recalled the efforts: “The night of Tuesday and the morning of Wednesday (til about 4 o’clock) presented the whole awful spectacle of shot and shells, and rockets, shooting and bursting through the air. The well directed fire of the little fort, under Lieut. Budd (late of the U.S. Frigate Chesapeake), and the gallant seamen under his command, checked the enemy on his approach, and probably saved the town from destruction in the dark hours of the night. The garrison was chiefly incommoded by the shells, which burst in and about the fort, whilst they had bomb proof shelter. As the darkness increased the awful grandeur of the scene augmented....”

The successful defense forced the British to retreat and sail on to New Orleans where they fought in the final battle of the War of 1812. Lieutenant Budd went on the serve aboard the U.S. Frigate Java at Baltimore and continued to serve in the navy up until his death in Boston in 1837.

Images

Riverside Park (1876)

Riverside Park (1876)

Map image of Riverside Park and surrounding blocks. | Source: Atlas of Baltimore, Maryland and its Environs, published by C.M. Hopkins, 1876. View File Details Page

Street Address:

E. Randall Street and Johnston Street, Baltimore, MD 21230 [map]

Cite this Page:

Eli Pousson, “Riverside Park,” Explore Baltimore Heritage, accessed June 23, 2017, http://explore.baltimoreheritage.org/items/show/187.
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