Orpheus with the Awkward Foot

The Battle of North Point, I’m sure you haven’t thought about this battle of the War of 1812 in a long time if ever.  So let me refresh your mind a bit in case you don’t remember it.

The location is Baltimore, Maryland and American soldiers are getting bombed by British boats at Fort McHenry. The date is September 14, 1814, and the fort which was built in 1798 is holding tough till finally, the British Navy gives up and victory comes to America. The battle is over and so the Americans at the fort raise a large flag, 17 by 25, over the fort. A lawyer/poet named Francis Scott Key watches the flag go up after the night of the bombing at a nearby ship. Inspired he pens a poem called “Defence of Fort McHenry” which once set to music was renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

I have been a big fan of this tune and think it should be the national anthem, but that’s a topic for another day.

In 1914, Congress set aside money to build a monument to honor the writing of the spangled banner and the defense of Baltimore. They have a competition and the winning idea is of a giant statue.  After a delay because of World War 1, the statue was finally completed and dedicated on June 14, 1922. Designed by Charles H. Niehaus, it is named Orpheus with the Awkward Foot. The circular base is 15 Feet high with Orpheus, the Greek hero of music and poetry, standing 24 feet high. Made of bronze, Orpheus is playing a five-stringed lyre.

I know you are asking yourself, what does this have to do with Key and the battle? Well for that we turn to the Greeks 

If your Greek Mythology is a bit thin, let me quickly tell you the tale of Orpheus. He had a beautiful wife named Eurydice. One day she stepped on a snake and died from the venom. Pretty sad already, right? With his Lyre in hand, Orpheus went to the underworld to pled to the ruler, Hades. Laying down his tune, Hades was persuaded to let her go under the condition that Orpheus would not look at her till they were out of the underworld. Unable to hold out, he looked at her and she quickly went back to the underworld.

Bummer of a story, nothing that has to do with battles, ‘merica or Key. Well, this is where you have to kinda need to put on your imagination cap. You see, Orpheus is the hero of music and poetry. So it kinda fits who we are honoring but not really. 

I happen to really like this statute a lot. It has a touch of class that is many times missing when honoring those who died in battle or of a war event. You would expect a canon or some soldier in battle but instead, you get a hero who went against the odds to get what he loved. Much like how the brave soldiers went up against the British to save the brave land that they loved. 

If you happen to come to Baltimore, I would highly suggest taking the time to come to Fort McHenry and the amazing statue of Orpheus.

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