"The Star-Spangled Banner"

The words to our National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," were written 198 years ago
on September 14, 1814, by Francis Scott Key.

Maryland Governor's Office
America was again at war with Britain in the War of 1812.  Two years into the war, in mid-August, the British landed on American soil and marched to our capitol, Washington, D.C.  There they burned down the Capital building and the other government buildings.
From Washington, D.C., the British soldiers marched toward Baltimore, Maryland.  Their next target was a strategic military fort called Fort McHenry, located by the harbor in Baltimore.  Not only were soldiers on land preparing for the attack, but a large fleet of the British Army's ships were waiting in the harbor to attack Fort McHenry.
Because of an incident in another small town in Maryland, one of Francis Scott Key's friends, the elderly Dr. William Beanes had been taken prisoner by the British and was being held on a British ship in the harbor of Baltimore. 
Francis Scott Key received permission to speak to the British Admiral to request the release of Dr. Beanes.  Because of this, he was on a ship in the harbor and watched as the British attacked Fort McHenry.  The battle began September 13, 1814, and lasted over 24 hours.  All during the night, the bombs and cannons continued to explode.  Early the next morning, just before dawn, the battle ended.  The Americans on that ship strained their eyes to see if the American flag was still flying over the fort.  The smoke was still thick over the harbor, and the morning fog had settled in.  Only as the smoke and fog began to clear, they probably heard someone shout, "There it is!  I see it!"  The Americans rejoiced, and Francis Scott Key was inspired to write those words we know and love.  "Oh, say, CAN YOU SEE..."
Morning at the fort
The flag that was flying over the fort during the battle was 30 feet tall and 42 feet long.  The flag was made by Mary Pickersgill at the request of Major James Calhoun.  He wanted a flag "so big that the British would have no trouble seeing it!"  Notice the size of the flag in the picture.  This is a replica (exact copy) of the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's famous poem.
You can learn more about this famous historical event by visiting the websites for the Fort McHenry National Museum http://www.nps.gov/fomc/index.htm as well as the Smithsonian Museum of National History where the flag is displayed http://americanhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/.
Last Modified on October 23, 2012

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