Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Star-Spangled Banner

We all know The Star-Spangled Banner—Francis Scott Key, a lawyer, wrote our national anthem. But do you know what event in history inspired it? I’ll admit I had no idea. I’ll even admit that up until recently, I thought Francis was a female… yeah. That’s why this girl needs to get smart, girlfriend.

The event was the War of 1812, but it
wasn’t until the turning point of the war more than two years later that Key was moved to pen the words to our national anthem.

Resentment for Britain’s interference with American international trade and
impressments of American sailors combined with American expansionist visions led Congress to declare war on Great Britain in June of 1812. The war drug on and it wasn’t until Napoleon suffered a defeat against an on-going war with France that Britain turned their focus to an ill-prepared United States. August 24, 1814 British troops entered Washington, burning the US Capitol, President’s Mansion and other public buildings while local militia fled. With Washington in ruins, Britain next planned an attack on Baltimore by land and by water.

At 6:30 AM on September 13, 1814 British naval forces, planning to enter Baltimore Harbor and take the city, began a 25-hour bombardment of Fort
McHenry. Rockets whistled through the air bursting into flames upon impact, bombshells exploded overhead raining down fiery shrapnel. Major Armistead’s men held Fort McHenry, refusing to surrender and forcing the British to pull back from their advancements. That night, British attempts at a diversionary attack failed and the next morning, the fleet withdrew. Due to a heavy rainstorm, Fort McHenry had flown its smaller storm flag during battle. When the British began to retreat, the smaller flag was replaced with a great garrison flag that could be seen for miles.

Eight miles down river aboard a British boat Francis Scott Key, who had been asked to assist in a legal matter with the release of his prisoner friend, was being detained. The British feared he would alert the fort of the impending attack after Key overheard details of the plan. Key had spent an anxious night watching the bombardment and hoping for a sign that the city—and nation—might be saved. When he saw “by the dawn’s early light” that the American flag soared above the fort, he knew that America had not surrendered. Moved by the sight, he began to compose a poem on the back of a letter he was carrying.

The poem was initially titled
The Defense of Fort McHenry and was sung to the 18th century British melody Anacreon in Heaven. Sometime in October 1814, a music store published the words and music under the title The Star-Spangled Banner. During the 19th century it became one of the nation’s best-loved patriotic songs, gaining special significance during the Civil War. Decades later, President Hoover signed into law our official national anthem March 3, 1931.

The Star-Spangled Banner Lyrics

Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.

No comments:

Post a Comment