1 July (Canada Day) 2013
Pride of Baltimore II is currently climbing her way over the Niagara Escarpment through the Welland Canal. I departed the ship yesterday, leaving her in the capable hands of Captain Miles for her passage through the mighty locks. Leaving by car, I crossed the border between Canada and the US in a vehicle other than a ship for the first time in 14 years. The Niagara Peninsula was spectacular – stands of trees, vineyards, and grassy parks shown in vibrant green under a cloud-speckled blue sky.
All along the way, however, were the relics of 1812. Scattered stone walls, stately Fort George, and towering over the forested bluffs of Queenston Heights, Brock’s monument, commemorating the heroic death of General Brock at the battle there. All reminders that 200 years ago this picturesque expanse was host to a heated war between two young nations. The War of 1812 defined both Canada and America, particularly along the Great Lakes, where a dozen or more American invasions found Canadians united in a cause for the first time in their short history.
Baltimore was also defined by invasion during the war. During the Battle of Baltimore immigrants, merchants, former slaves, militia, and descendants of original settlers all joined together with the few federal troops on scene to defend Baltimore against a powerful British Force. Their successful efforts had the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry to inspire Francis Scott Key to write our National Anthem.
Nearly two centuries later, we still commemorate and remember the heroism of 1812 on both sides of the world’s longest undefended border. But we also celebrate the long-standing peace between the United States and Canada. For our part in commemorating and celebrating, Pride, Inc. has been presenting each Canadian port Pride II visits with a special gift – a three-foot by five-foot linen replica of the 15-star, 15-stripe Star-Spangled Banner of 1812. Each of these flags were flown over Fort McHenry, on the pole standing on the very spot it did during the Battle of Baltimore, folded by Maryland students visiting the Fort, then carried from Baltimore aboard Pride II, and flown over the ship in local waters as we approached each port.
So far this year, we have presented these flags in Miramichi, New Brunswick and Brockville, Toronto, and Port Dalhousie, Ontario, always citing the 199 years (and counting) of friendship between our nations. Each presentation has been met with hushed astonishment from public officials, roaring applause from the gathered crowds, and whoops of approval from local Canadian Legion Veterans. Even after four presentation ceremonies, it never got easier for me to contain my own emotions as I witnessed the heartfelt appreciation with which the flag was accepted. This small token carries enormous import and weight.
History, peace, and friendship are cargo that Maryland’s Goodwill Ambassador joyfully carries. From our departure past Fort McHenry (America’s only National Historic Shrine) on 21 May, Pride II has not been burdened by carrying these flags, but made more buoyant in her role. So on Canada Day we remind our brothers and sisters to the North that we are right beside them as they “stand on guard.” And when our Star-Spangled Banner waves this Thursday, we will remember there is freedom and bravery in great store on both sides of the Great Lakes.
Captain Jamie Trost