200 Years…Star Spangled Banner

200 years ago on September 13-14, 1814, was the bombardment of Fort McHenry.  Occurring during the War of 1812 (yes, the war actually lasted 2 years: 1812-1814), this attack was part of the British attempt to seize Baltimore, Maryland.

On the morning of September 14, 1814, an American lawyer named Francis Scott Key was aboard a ship in the harbor, where he’d gone to try and negotiate the release of a prisoner. After a sleepless night listening to the cannon fire, he watched for the breaking of day, eager to see if the Americans still held the forts.  In “the dawn’s early light” he saw a large American flag still flying over Fort McHenry. He wrote a poem to remember that moment:

O say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

In 1931 this poem became the United States’ National Anthem. (I wish we sang the fouth verse too, but I suppose many people just want to get to “play ball.”)

The following video has a lot of good info about the Battle of Baltimore/Fort McHenry and nicely animated maps.

Well, there’s your history trivia for the weekend…

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. What’s your favorite verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner”?

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, historian, living history enthusiast, and historical fiction writer. When sharing history, I try to keep the facts interesting and understandable. History is about real people, real actions, real effects and it should inspire us today.
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