Grab your fife and drum because your next four weekends are booked solid with historical reenactments, fireworks and 19th-century-themed festivals commemorating the War of 1812. For people living in and around Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland, as well as other key sites of the war, history will come alive. Check out the events below for hearty celebrations.
Battle of Bladensburg Encampment, Bladensburg, MD (August 23)
Kick off the bicentennial with a commemoration of the Battle of Bladensburg. Hosted by the Prince George’s County Committee on the War of 1812 and the Battle of Bladensburg Task Force, the day begins with a dedication of a new monument, followed by an 1812-era festival at the Waterfront Park, including reenactments, demonstrations, family activities and an evening of music and fireworks.
Washington is Burning, Washington, D.C. (August 23)
Walk in the footsteps of the British soldiers who set fire to D.C. on a two-part walking tour with Washington Walks. Highlights of the tour include the Sewall-Belmont House, U.S. Capitol, Rhodes Tavern, U.S. Treasury building, the Dolley Madison house (where you meet the former First Lady herself!) and the Octagon.
Flee the British 5k, Washington, D.C. (August 24)
For those interested in a more adrenaline-inducing commemoration of the burning of Washington there is the Flee the British 5k at the Historic Congressional Cemetery. Run alongside "Dolley Madison" as she rescues the Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington and pick out the graves of some of the war’s figures. Worried the kids won’t be able to keep up? Not to worry—immediately following the 5k is a 2k Kids' Run.
“The Dinner that was Never Served” at Martin’s Tavern, Washington, D.C. (August 24)
Indulge yourself after that 5k with “the dinner that was never served” at Martin’s Tavern, a Georgetown establishment that has served every president from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush. The menu draws from President Madison’s favorite foods, including apple pie and Virginia ham, but it wouldn’t be a proper Madison meal without ice cream, a dessert Dolley Madison was known to serve.
The War of 1812—The Hollywood Version, Alexandria, VA (August 27 & 28)
Catch Hollywood’s version of the War of 1812 with the 1938 and 1958 versions of The Buccaneer at the Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum. The former was only recently released to DVD, and both bear illustrious director Cecil B. DeMille’s unique filmmaking style, though he received no film credit for the 1958 release.
Celebrate Charles! March from Benedict, Benedict, MD (August 30)
Surrounded by historically famous fields and the Patuxent River, Benedict creates an immersive experience of the British Army’s landing with music from the time period, walks to the historic burial site, a performance of the Star-Spangled Banner and tobacco demonstrations. Other activities include hayrides, authentic oxen cart rides and a petting zoo, as well as the opportunity to purchase locally-produced meats and vegetables from Harvest House.
1814 Battle of Credit Island Bicentennial Event, Davenport, IA (August 30)
The site of the last battle for control of the upper Mississippi, Credit Island invites visitors to recognize the historic battlefield by hosting a nature walk, exhibitor booths, presentations and, in honor of this event’s significance in Native American history, a lacrosse demonstration.
Ft. McHenry Helicopter Flights, Baltimore, MD (June 30-September 30)
Since June 30, Monumental Helicopters has offered tours of Ft. McHenry, which explain the role geography played in this important battle. The tour highlights Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Fells Point and Patterson Park in particular, because of how instrumental these positions were in the daylong assault.
Brookeville War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration, Brookeville, MD (August 30-31)
Two hundred years after acting as the United States capital for a day, Brookeville will transport festival attendees back to that time in August 1814 with the (re)arrival of James Madison, costumed living history demonstrations, a traditional Quaker supper, exhibits, a military encampment, craft demonstrations and time-period-appropriate food and drink.
200th Anniversary of the Battle of Caulk’s Field, Kent County, MD (August 30-31)
The number of events Kent County has managed to pack into just two days is astonishing. The first day acts as the prelude to Sunday’s reenactment, offering several educational presentations and exhibits, a parade and march to the river featuring reenactors, and the opportunity to explore the Pride of Baltimore II. The formal battle reenactment the following day (after an American artillery demonstration) is capped off with a music performance by Lions of Bluegrass. Plus, should you need help convincing family and friends who aren’t quite the history buff you are to join you, there’s a drawing for Baltimore Ravens tickets that could make for a great incentive.
War of 1812 Signature Event, Alexandria, VA (August 30-31)
Alexandria takes a slightly more whimsical approach to the bicentennial by hosting events that pit Team Alexandria against Team Britain (as represented by the British Defence Staff of the UK Embassy), from a cricket match to a yacht race to a good old-fashioned tug of war. The two-day event also includes a wreath laying ceremony at the Old Presbyterian Meeting House Cemetery & Columbarium, a U.S. Navy Band concert and a festival at Waterfront Park.
Defenders Day at North Point, Fort Howard, MD (September 6-7)
If the three reenactments of the Battle of North Point are any indication, this weekend celebration aims to transform attendees into an active militia by offering troop assemblies, drill demos and even junior militia induction exercises. But equally important are the artistic representations of the time, as portrayed by performances of Women’s Voices—The Battle of North Point by Sky’s The Limit Players and music of 1812 by David Hildebrand Colonial Music Institute.
O Say Can You See! Star-Spangled Spectacular, Baltimore, MD (September 9-16)
Perhaps the longest-running event associated with the bicentennial, the Star-Spangled Spectacular spans eight days of maritime merriment, civilian and military reenactments, and aerial maneuvers by none other than the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron. But the main attraction has to be the Star-Spangled Spectacular: Bicentennial of our National Anthem. This two-hour concert at Pier Six Pavilion that will be broadcast live on PBS features performances from Kristin Chenoweth, Smokey Robinson and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, among many others.
The Story of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Washington, D.C. (September 11)
For the more musically inclined, the Society of Cincinnati will be hosting an event about Francis Scott Key and what inspired him to pen the lyrics to the “Star-Spangled Banner” at Anderson House. David and Ginger Hildebrand of the Colonial Music Institute will lead the program, treating audience members to a performance of the popular song that would become the tune for the anthem.
200th Anniversary of the Battle of Plattsburgh, Plattsburgh, NY (September 12-14)
To commemorate 200 years of peace, Plattsburgh offers reenactments on both land and sea, historical exhibits (including a quilt exhibit at City Hall), a lecture by local author Keith Herkalo, an appearance by the Gratto Family Stilt Walkers and an Old-Time Village Fair for children. But more impressive is the diversity of musical performances on tap. Standard fife and drum fare aside, the weekend’s lineup incorporates folk music, classic rock, country, jazz and concert band music, so there’s something for everyone.
Presidential Salon with James Madison, Alexandria, VA (September 13)
Who better to speak on the political and personal issues of 1814 than James Madison himself? Join President Madison at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, a tavern he—as well as presidents George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe—frequented in his lifetime, for a stimulating discussion of the War of 1812.