Construction on the Battle Monument began on September 12, 1815, a year to the day after Baltimore soundly defeated the British in the War of 1812, and the monument endures as a commemoration of the attack by land at North Point and by sea at Fort McHenry. In addition to serving as the official emblem for the City of Baltimore on the city flag, the work is extraordinary in the history of American monument building for a number of reasons. Architecturally, it is considered to be the first Egyptian structure in the United States with a base, designed by French-born architect Maximilian Godefroy, to look like an Egyptian sarcophagus. The base sits on 18 layers of marble, symbolizing the 18 states that then belonged to the Union. The main column is of Roman design and depicts a fasces: a bundle of rods held together with bands in a symbol of unity. In an age when the United States had few public monuments at and when war memorials focused on generals and commanders, the Battle Monument stood out for its focus on the common soldier recognizing all 39 of the fallen soldiers, regardless of their rank, in a ribbon of names spiraling up the central shaft. Italian sculptor Antonio Capellano created Lady Baltimore — one of the oldest monumental sculptures in the country. She wears a crown of victory on her head and holds a laurel wreath in her raised hand as a symbol of victory over the British. In her lowered hand, she holds a ship's rudder as a testament to Baltimore's nautical role in the war. Both arms are now prosthetics after having been blown off in storms. Both also were created by well-known Baltimore artists. The raised hand with the wreath is the work of Hans Schuler, and the lowered hand with the rudder is by Rueben Kramer. The same year that the monument was adopted as Baltimore's emblem, it also helped give rise to the city's nickname as "The Monumental City." In 1827, President Adams visited Baltimore and stayed at a nearby hotel. The Battle Monument had been completed and work was underway for the nation's first public monument to President Washington in "Howards Woods," soon to become the Mt. Vernon neighborhood. At a dinner with dignitaries and veterans from the war, President Adams gave the final toast of the evening: "Baltimore, the Monumental City: may the days of her safety be as prosperous and happy as the days of her danger have been trying and triumphant!" Baltimore's new monuments made an impression on the President, and enough to spark a name that has lasted nearly 200 years.
Watch our Five Minute Histories video on this monument!