All are eyeing the 2014 bicentennial of the Battle of Bladensburg as the focus for major commemorations and events.
Giannetti has long been fascinated by the battle, which took place within a few miles of the studio his family has owned since the 1930s.
(Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST) - A workbench at John Gianetti's Studio has early drafts of the memorial along with photographs of the models and other artwork used to create the sculpture Monday, November 26, 2012 in Brentwood, MD. Working from photographs with models as her subjects as well as drawings of the historical figures, Joanna Blake created the first draft of the memorial that changed over time.
“The Battle of Bladensburg is always something very prominent in my mind,” Giannetti said. “It is one of the most misunderstood things. It was always looked upon as a great disgrace, but really that is not what happened. We were just caught unprepared.”
Giannetti, who has worked steadily on the project for nearly three years, is nothing if not prepared. He hopes the memorial will help call attention to Barney’s stand at Bladensburg. Unlike the civilian militia, the commodore’s detachment — made up of Marines and sailors, including Ball, who had been forced to scuttle a little fleet operating on the Patuxent River — did not retreat.
The work originally was titled “Undaunted in Defeat,” but Giannetti said that former Prince George’s Planning Board chairman Samuel Parker suggested the more optimistic “Undaunted in Battle” — the title the sculpture will carry.
The project got a big boost in December. The Maryland Board of Public Works — Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), a big supporter of the state’s War of 1812 commemorative efforts; state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D); and Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) — approved a $125,000 bond bill to help fund the memorial. Francis de C. Hamilton, a Scot who is a descendant of British General Robert Ross, Barney’s nemesis at the Battle of Bladensburg, has also promised a donation. The Aman Trust put in $60,000. And the county’s planning commission already has donated the land in Balloon Park.
Giannetti believes the vision he and colleagues from the Aman Trust had for the memorial is close to being realized, though backers are still about $60,000 short of what they say is necessary to create a well-marked site with sufficient historical markers.
“One epic moment survived that mournful day,” Giannetti said of Barney’s stand in the battle that historians have called “the Bladensburg races” because of the precipitous retreat of the militia.
“This American force” — Barney’s — “refused to retreat.”