BALTIMORE -- Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, and other dignitaries commemorated the U.S. declaration of war against England, beginning the War of 1812, during a ceremony at Fort McHenry in Baltimore June 18.
The ceremony, titled "From Enemies to Allies: 200 Years of Peace," included performances by the U.S. Navy Band, Her Majesty's Royal Marine Band, and the Fort McHenry Guard Fife and Drum Corps.
In addition to Mabus, speakers included the Canadian and British Ambassadors to the United States, Gary Doer and Sir Peter Westmacott, respectively.
Fort McHenry served as the backdrop for Francis Scott Key's poem, "Defense of Fort McHenry," which would later become the national anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner." During the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, it was Fort McHenry's flag that Key saw from offshore and wrote, "Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight, O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?"
Guests spoke about the unique relationship between the U.S., Canada and Great Britain during and after the War of 1812, as well as the enduring symbols and traditions of the United States that were forged during the conflict.
"The lasting impact of this war is in many ways greater than the actual war.. Many of the symbols and successes of America, and especially of the United States Navy, were born in that conflict," Mabus said. "Those early battles in 1812, in which our fledgling fleet met and mastered the previously invincible royal navy, were defined by American ingenuity and boldness, traits that live on today in our Sailors and Marines."
Mabus commented that Great Britain and Canada, our bitter enemies during the war, fought against us with great tenacity and spirit, but would eventually become two of our greatest allies in the years to follow.
"Today, we stand together as inseparable friends. We work together, we advance together, we fight together, and we do the same with our brothers and sisters to the north in Canada," Mabus said.
Doer echoed that sentiment of camaraderie following the war.
"Since that time, we have become allies and friends to work together around the world to fight for democracy wherever it exists," Doer said. "Canada, the U.S. and U.K., since the end of the War of 1812, have worked together in World War I, World War II, Korea and even today in the war on terrorism."
The ceremony concluded with a proclamation, presented by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, commemorating the anniversary of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the continued cooperation between the U.S., Canada and Great Britain.
Navy Week Baltimore is one of the signature events around the country commemorating the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Star-Spangled Banner. The Navy week is part of Baltimore's Star Spangled Sailabration and commemorates the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of "The Star Spangled Banner." The United States Navy and its partners will commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 from 2012 to 2015, honoring all who fought and continue to defend safe passage on the sea.
(Staff writer Paul Bello contributed to this story )