Veteran Owned - Veteran Operated

National Anthem

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History

On a rainy September 13, 1814, British warships sent a downpour of shells and rockets onto Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, relentlessly pounding the American fort for 25 hours. The bombardment, known as the Battle of Baltimore, came only weeks after the British had attacked Washington, D.C., burning the Capitol, the Treasury and the President's house. It was another chapter in the ongoing War of 1812. 


A week earlier, Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old American lawyer, had boarded the flagship of the British fleet on the Chesapeake Bay in hopes of persuading the British to release a friend who had recently been arrested. Key's tactics were successful, but because he and his companions had gained knowledge of the impending attack on Baltimore, the British did not let them go. They allowed the Americans to return to their own vessel but continued guarding them. Under their scrutiny, Key watched on September 13 as the barrage of Fort McHenry began eight miles away.


"It seemed as though mother earth had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone," Key wrote later. But when darkness arrived, Key saw only red erupting in the night sky. Given the scale of the attack, he was certain the British would win. The hours passed slowly, but in the clearing smoke of "the dawn's early light" on September 14, he saw the American flag—not the British Union Jack—flying over the fort, announcing an American victory.


Key put his thoughts on paper while still on board the ship, setting his words to the tune of a popular English song, 'To Anacreon in Heaven'. Written around 1775 by John Stafford Smith, the song honored the ancient Greek poet Anacreon, a lover of wine. It was originally performed at a London gentleman’s music club called the Anacreontic Society. The Anacreontic Song, as it was known, had a track record of popularity in the United States by 1814. In one famous case, defenders of the embattled second president, John Adams, used the tune for a song called “Adams and Liberty.” Key himself had even used the tune before, as accompaniment for verses he wrote in 1805 commemorating American naval victories in the Barbary War.


His brother-in-law, commander of a militia at Fort McHenry, read Key's work and had it distributed under the name 'Defence of Fort McHenry'. The Baltimore Patriot newspaper soon printed it, and within weeks, Key's poem, now called 'The Star-Spangled Banner', appeared in print across the country, immortalizing his words—and forever naming the flag it celebrated.


The over-sized American flag he saw (shown in the photo below) was sewn by Mary Pickersgill. In anticipation of the British attack, she was given $405.90 to create the 30 by 42 feet flag. Pickersgill, a thirty-seven-year-old widow, had made ships’ colors and signal flags before and often filled orders for military and merchant ships. In making this particular flag, she was assisted by her thirteen-year-old daughter Caroline, her nieces Eliza Young (also thirteen) and Margaret Young (fifteen-years-old) along with Grace Wisher, a thirteen-year-old indentured servant. It took them seven weeks to make this flag along with a smaller flag. 


The Star-Spangled Banner was recognized and first used by the Navy in 1889, and by President Wilson in 1916. It was declared the national anthem of the United States by a congressional resolution on March 3, 1931, and subsequently signed by President Hoover. 

"Star Spangled Banner"

Verse 1


Oh, 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 waveO'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?


Verse 2


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 on the stream:'Tis the star-spangled banner! O long may it waveO'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Verse 3


And where is that band who so vauntingly sworeThat the havoc of war and the battle's confusionA home and a country should leave us no more?Their blood has wiped out their foul footstep's pollution.No refuge could save the hireling and slaveFrom the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth waveO'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Verse 4


Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall standBetween their loved homes and the war's desolation!Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued landPraise 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 waveO'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!