The Burning Kind in Baltimore

THE BOMBARDMENT OF FORT McHENRY  BY ALFRED JACOBS MILLER 1810-1874

THE BOMBARDMENT OF FORT McHENRY
BY ALFRED JACOBS MILLER 1810-1874

“Baltimore: the Monumental City—May the days of her safety be as prosperous and happy, as the days of her dangers have been trying and triumphant.”   President John Quincy Adams 1827

I, like so many other Americans, was disheartened by those images of the recent civil unrest and violence in the city of Baltimore. The glow of fires against a night sky evoked memories of the riot plagued streets of our urban communities during the 1960s. Now as then, I questioned the logic and motives of those who participated in the wanton and reckless destruction of private property.

Today, my mindset on such matters is much more introspective, and no longer prone to the range of emotions that often accompany the thought processes of someone trying to make sense of human behavior through the eyes of an adolescent. At this point in my life, I’ve come to the simple conclusion that whenever groups of human beings are in disagreement there is the distinct possibility that amongst them are individuals that would prefer to make their point with a gun, a rock, or some incendiary device. And within the chaotic cover of the crowd, or the perceived protection accorded them by a position or institution, these individuals achieve the anonymity needed to commit their crimes of convenience.

This predisposition towards aggression and criminality is not by any means more prevalent in one group than another. It is not a matter of race, ethnicity, religious creed, or financial status–it is sadly just about the nature of a small percent of humankind. But that relatively small percent tends to establish a foothold in almost every situation. And throughout human history they are the ones that set the stage for the confrontations and conflagrations that too often become the defining story.

On the evening of September 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key, while under temporary confinement on a truce ship anchored in the Patapsco River, watched the relentless bombardment by British Naval forces on Baltimore’s defenses at Fort McHenry. Throughout that long night, Key had to wonder if the city would eventually suffer the same fate that he had witnessed in Washington weeks earlier. Many of the same British troops that had looted, vandalized, and put the torch to our nation’s capital, partly in retribution for similar American atrocities against English settlements in Canada, were now on the threshold of taking this prize on the Chesapeake. But on the morning of the 14th, Key’s spirits would be bolstered by the realization that the heroic defenders of Baltimore had saved the city.

Ultimately, those wishes for prosperity and happiness uttered by John Quincy Adams in 1827 would be visited upon the city. Baltimore would become one of the nation’s leading industrial centers, a major rail transportation hub, and the second largest seaport in the Mid-Atlantic states. But along the way those days of danger would be many, and they would not necessarily always give way to triumph.

In August of 1835, rioting mobs took to the streets of Baltimore in response to the deceptive business practices that led to the collapse of the Bank of Maryland. Bystanders cheered as the disgruntled throngs fueled their public bonfires with the personal possessions taken from the ransacked homes of the city’s wealthier citizens.

Baltimore Riot 1861

Baltimore Riot 1861

On April 19, 1861, just a few days after Southern artillery had accomplished a  casualty-free,  gentlemanly  surrender of
Fort Sumter, sympathizers to the “Confederate Cause” living in Baltimore attacked Northern militia units as they
marched through the city en route to a train bound for Washington D. C. The resulting melee and riot left 4 soldiers and 12 civilians dead. Some historians contend that this bloody encounter put both the Union and the Confederacy in a position where neither would be dissuaded from engaging in a full-scale war.

Baltimore Rail Strike Riot 1877

Baltimore Rail Strike Riot 1877

On July 20, 1877, Maryland Governor John Lee Carroll ordered the state’s  National Guard to quell the spreading unrest among the striking workers of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad who had blocked rail service at Cumberland. As troops left their armories in Baltimore and headed toward the Camden station they were physically harassed by citizens who supported the strike. The guardsmen responded by opening fire on the attacking mob. It would take the further intervention of federal troops and marines over the next two days to restore order. By then 10 people were dead, scores of soldiers and civilians were wounded, several pieces of rolling stock were destroyed, and portions of the rail yard and station were burned.

After the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4,1968, the city was subjected to that same wave of emotional outrage and bloodshed that was sweeping through the streets of so many of America’s poorer neighborhoods. Even today, sections of Baltimore remain blighted and scarred by that weeklong period of rioting.

While I am not quite ready  to pen a new national anthem over recent events in Charm City, for it appears now that both the police and Baltimore’s criminal element might be taking advantage of the situation,  I am cautiously optimistic about the overall local response to the initial mayhem that occurred as a result of the death of Freddie Gray. In our nation’s past, all too often those voices that could have brought about calm remained quiet as the bullies and belligerents on either side of the issues ruled the day.

If we are to have a constructive conversation concerning America’s ongoing racial and economic divide, we must first silence the discord of those that would have us burn down the house in order to make a case for better furniture.

Click on the image below to read about one of our favorite public houses that has proudly weathered the tumult and turmoil of Baltimore’s stormy past.

The Wharf Rat

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

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Who’s That Knockin on December’s Door?

There is no other marked period of time that has more impact on the human psyche–just the word “December” evokes a vast array of human emotion. Moments of joy, sorrow, regret and rebirth punctuate those last 31 days of each year’s journey.

So in order to help the readers of American Public House Review better cope with those less than pleasant aspects of the  season, our own resident ghosts of  Christmas Past. Present and Yet to Come have cobbled together a special holiday gift package. 

Joel grey as Ghost of Christmas Past 1999

A nicely appointed apparition provides passage through the festive old neighborhoods of Bethlehem, PA and Baltimore, MD.

Edward Woodward as the Ghost of Christmas Present 1984

This rather gregarious ghost spreads the Christmas cheer with some traditional songs of the season from singer/songwriter   Chip Mergott and the Celtic troupe Runa.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

And this somber specter reveals what lies ahead as he takes us on a daily jaunt down the decorated alleyways and streets of Princeton, NJ

How Would Have Jesus Voted on Health Care Reform?

Jesus at Ale Mary's - Baltimore, MD

After the President put his pen to the Health Care Reform Bill, I immediately went over to my liquor cabinet to check on the fate of my whiskey supply. Much to my surprise, my selection of American bourbon and rye had not been transformed into cheap Russian vodka as a warning from the heavens above that our nation was about to usher in a new age of Soviet style Godless Communism right here in the land of mom and apple pie. In fact by day’s end the Dow was up by 103 points. Apparently the free market had once again found another route around the Beltway Bolsheviks.     

I am among those millions of Americans that have some misgivings about the legislation. While I support any effort to rein in the unconscionable business tactics of the insurance industry, I would have liked to have seen a bill that went much further in revamping the practice and delivery of medicine.

During a recent tavern chat session at the Indian Rock Inn, one of the patrons seeded the debate with these two questions: Why all the vitriol over what should be a fairly innocuous subject,  and how would have Jesus voted on health care reform? I called upon my many years of familiarity with both sides of the bar to answer his first question.    

It has been my experience that no bar fight has anything to do with the stated reasons for the malicious transgression. It’s never truly about who won at pool, who looked at whose girlfriend, or who is the better NASCAR driver. These conflicts are fueled by ignorance, low self-esteem, prejudice and just plain not liking the guy sitting next to you. Unfortunately, these behaviors have once again found their way into our national political dialogue. As far as the Son of God’s position on health care reform, I’m still pondering that one; but I suspect most people will spin the divine perspective according to their own personal point of view.     

The Tea Party types would most likely say that there is no way Christ would support a bill that might contain some loopholes for abortion rights. And the newly formed Coffee Party would most likely proclaim that Jesus, the humanitarian and social activist, would vote yes, and furthermore demand a public option. Both Democrats and Republicans would thank Christ for taking the time to care, but would respectfully remind the Savior about the separation of church and state, rather than have him be privy to what really goes on in the halls of Congress.    

In actuality, Jesus would not have to vote on health care reform. He would just simply heal the sick, and for an extra measure of preventative care, he would change their water into wine.  And the only premium that would be raised is the expectation that we treat our fellow-man, even if they are just politicians, with dignity, kindness and respect.     

Now if  He would only come back and turn the coffee into great whiskey, and the tea into a really fine India Pale Ale!    

Amen to that!!                               

   Posted by: Chris Poh     

    

Looking for Signs from Above

Since the time of our primordial ancestors man has attempted to discover his fate by turning his gaze toward the cosmos. The marking of any new year  seems to heighten our inate need to chase the comet’s tail or  attach undue importance on the alignment of heavenly bodies

As we embark on yet another cycle of the Gregorian calendar the staff of American Public House Review would like to share some of the intriguing, if not downright mystical, signs that have guided our journey during the past year, and that will undoubtedly help to shape the course of future events.

Click on each sign below to take an unparalleled  journey through time and space!

 

Summertime Submarine Watching

Ohio Class Nuclear SubmarineA gentle rain fell on the streets of New London as Fran and I sipped our pints of Cottrell Old Yankee Ale at the bar of the Bank Street Road House. During breaks in our conversation, I would cast my gaze beyond the back deck and across  the channel of the Thames River in hopes of spying a Virginia or Ohio class submarine making its way upstream to the Electric Boat facility at Groton. On this particular  August afternoon, the behemoths of “The Silent Service” would not rise from the depths. Though south of my position something was stirring up Atlantic waters.

A Russian Intruder?An interesting photograph found its way onto the internet of a surfer in the waters off  Strathmere, New Jersey. In the background appeared to be what was  possibly a  Russian nuclear submarine. Staff writer John West, who was on assignment at McMenemy’s Pub in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was summoned back to New Jersey to take  command of naval operations from aboard the Escape Goat (the flag ship of  American Public House Review’s Atlantic fleet). As fate would have it, the boat was conveniently docked across from Maynard’s Cafe in Margate, New Jersey–in close proximity to the supposed Russian intruder.

Commander West on Patrol in the Waters off Strathmere, NJCommander West began his investigation at Maynard’s,  knowing full well that this legendary local hub of hard partying and well respected repository of useless information was the kind of joint foreign agents might target in order to glean military secrets. When he was satisfied that nothing sensitive was compromised, other than the inside line on next week’s Notre Dame game, he moved the “Escape Goat” to the docks adjacent to Twisties Tavern in Strathmere. Once more his inquiries did not turn up anything unusual other than a report of a group of pale skinned tourists asking how many rubles were needed to purchase a Twisties tee shirt and a bottle of vodka. Commander West concluded that what was being mistaken as a Russian intruder was nothing more than a deep sea dredging operation.

After filing his report with the Coast Guard,  John returned to Portsmouth to complete his story about  McMenemy’s Pub. According to his findings, this fine old Irish tavern may be haunted by a number of  the ladies that provided companionship and comfort to the sailors who served on the more than seventy submarines that were built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard during the Second World War. One of which, “The Galloping Ghost of the Japanese Coast” the USS Torsk now keeps a watchful periscope on our favorite pubs in Baltimore: The Wharf Rat, Slainte Irish Pub and the Cat’s Eye.

USS Torsk - Inner Harbor Baltimore

 

For those of you that are still not convinced that our shores are safe from an incursion by the Soviet Navy, our own intelligence gathering unit, operating out of the Trinity Brewhouse in Providence, Rhode Island, has confirmed that the only Russian sub operating in U.S. waters this summer was the Juliette class K-77. She was commissioned on October 31st, 1965, and assigned to the Soviet Northern Fleet. The submarine remained on active duty until 1988, and was decommissioned in the early 1990s. In 1994, the boat was sold to a Finnish businessman, and it was operated as a rather unique restaurant and watering hole, (this writer’s idea of a great “Dive Bar.”)

Juliette Class K-77

In 2000, the K-77 was moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia where it was used in the film K-19: The Widow Maker, the fact based film starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson. Then in 2002, the boat began its final assignment as a museum ship operating with the USS Saratoga Museum Foundation in Providence, Rhode Island. In 2007, the K-77 sunk after a combination of high tides, heavy winds and a storm surge flooded the submarine . The boat was raised in 2008, but the extensive damage made restoration and repair economically unfeasible. Sadly, the Juliett Class K-77 made her final voyage on August 11th, 2009, down the Providence River to a site owned by RI Recycled Metals to be dismantled for scrap.

Juliette Class K-77

The staff and writers of American Public House Review salute all those intrepid souls that have served in “The Silent Service”– and we raise a glass to those that are still on patrol!

Thanks to stevehdc for his photo of the Torsk.

Posted by: Chris Poh

A pirates wedding dreams come true!

This week the American Public House Review takes us on the most personal of journeys, as we head to Baltimore once again for a story of true love, promises, and lots of really good ale at the Cat’s Eye Pub.  (What, did you think the principal creative force behind a website dedicated solely to great taverns throughout the world would have his wedding reception at the Holiday Inn?)

Const10

Now I have only been to the Cat’s Eye Pub in the Fell’s Point section of Baltimore once, and that was on assignment to take the photo of the taps you see in the article.  But what I could clearly see in that short span of time was that this place suffers from an excess of personality and character.  Being a city and a center of commerce for the area, many places in Baltimore’s more popular destinations, like Fell’s Point, can be crowded with tourists and conventioneers.  That may also be true of the Cat’s Eye, but you can hardly notice them under the hooting and hollering of the regular set of Scallywags that call this wonderful place home.

Cats Eye Taps

So quite some years back, two nice folks came to Baltimore to be wed.  And to celebrate this momentous event, they chose to head to a place the groom describes as “a bit of Bourbon Street or the Barbary Coast”.  Calico Jack Rackham himself would be jealous of such a wedding reception!

Posted by: Dave McBride

You’ll find the good captain in the tavern

So, you’ve come seeking adventure and salty old pirates, aye?  Sure, you’ve come to the proper place…

The USS Constellation

Those immortal words are from Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean and serve as a welcome warning to those who have arrived for what lies ahead.  This week we take you back to the city the British used to refer to as America’s “Nest of Pirates”, Baltimore.

WharfRat9

In Fells Point, Baltimore’s immersive old port section, the history seems to come up through the cobblestone in the streets.  Walk along its roads and you could swear you hear the whispers of privateers conspiring to raid a British merchant vessel coming from one of the numerous taverns.  Has the brash Captain Thomas Boyle come back to add to his tally of sunken British ships? 

WharfRat15

Captain Boyle was perhaps America’s most famous and feared privateer captain. He commanded the clipper Chasseur, a ship born and bred in Baltimore, the city that boasted America’s largest privateer fleet during the War of 1812.   With it he wreaked havoc upon British commerce.  During the war, while taking many prizes along the coast of Great Britain, he even sent ashore a proclamation to the crown that declared a blockade of the entire conutry…by only his ship!  Yes, we can imagine the good Captain taking great pride in his own sense of humor.  Soon Fells Point and all of Baltimore would refer to the Chasseur as the “Pride of Baltimore”. 

WharfRat21

Now I can’t say this for certain, but Captain Boyle, or at least the large majority of those who served under him, probably enjoyed a mug or two of grog after a long voyage.  If he were around today, I would point the good captain in the direction of the Wharf Rat.  It is  certainly a place where a group of privateers could grab a few pints and make the rafters roar.

Posted by: David McBride @ American Public House Review

Next Time – Take the Train

New Jersey Transit Train at Mountain Lakes

New Jersey Transit Train at Mountain Lakes

As politicians and the press  argue about what mode of transport best suits auto executives when traveling from Detroit to Washington in order to attain another bailout,  it occurs to me that had we not been so quick  to trade our steel wheels for rubber, perhaps we wouldn’t  be on the verge of  totally derailing the U.S. economy. While one can not deny the role of the “Big Three” in fueling  America’s juggernaut  postwar growth, one might question the wisdom of those that put the iron horse out to pasture. 

In the current issue of American Public House Review our correspondents expose their passions for trains big and small. From Lionel to the Lackawanna we explore our nation’s railroading history, and as always we find the time and a proper stop for some track side libations at The Station  at Mountain Lakes.

The Bar in the Station at Mountain Lakes

The Bar in the Station at Mountain Lakes

But never let it be said that we as an organization live too much in the past and refuse to embrace the future. In an upcoming article, written from a bar stool at the  Slainte Pub in Baltimore, our editorial staff will unveil their choice for the future in hybrid transportation.

Fells Point Boat Parade

Fells Point Boat Parade

 Posted by: Chris Poh

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