Star Spangled Banner

by Francis Scott Key

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 watch'd, 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, shall 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 fight 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 lov'd 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 preserv'd 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.

The Original Star Spangled Banner from Fort McHenry
(note the 15 stars and 15 stripes)

A brief History

During the War of 1812, on September 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key visited the British fleet in Chesapeake Bay to secure the release of Dr. William Beanes, who had been captured after the burning of Washington DC. The release was secured, but Key was detained on ship overnight during the shelling of Fort McHenry. In the morning, he was so delighted to see the American flag still flying over the fort that he began a poem to commemorate the occasion. Originally entitled "Defence of Fort M'Henry," it was renamed "The Star Spangled Banner" and sung to the tune "To Anacreon in Heaven" written by John Stafford Smith in October 1814. "The Star Spangled Banner" was officially declared to be the national anthem of the United States of America by Congress in 1931 (U.S.C. Title 36 Chapter 10 §170).

About the War of 1812:
The United States declared war on Britian starting the War of 1812. The war was caused by Britian's attempts to regulate American trade and for attacking American ships on the high seas (Actually, this was just a diplomatic excuse to justify further expansion beliving the war would yield British held Canada to American control). The British entered Chesapeake Bay on August 19th, 1814, and by the evening of the 24th of August, they had invaded and captured Washington. They set fire to the Capitol and the White House. President James Madison and his Cabinet fled for their lives. Having done their work, the British troops returned to their ships in and around the Chesapeake Bay. At 7 a.m. on the morning of September 13, 1814, the British bombardment of Fort McHenry began. The bombardment continued for 25 hours, the British firing 1,500 bombshells that weighed as much as 220 pounds each and were equipped with lighted fuses that would supposedly cause the shell to explode when it reached its target. But they weren't very dependable and often blew up in mid air ("bombs bursting in air"). From special small boats the British fired Congreve rockets that traced arcs of red flame across the sky. That evening the barrage stopped, but at about 1 a.m. on the 14th, the British fleet resumed the attack. The British finally ended the attack judging Baltimore as being too costly a prize and retreated. The war finally came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814.

About the Star Spangled Banner:
After the War of 1812 was declared, preperations began for the defense of the city of Baltimore. Fort McHenry, commanded by Maj. George Armistead, was the cities primary fortification. Armistead ordered a flag so big that "the British would have no trouble seeing it from a distance." Two officers were sent to the Baltimore home of Mary Young Pickersgill, a "maker of colours," and commisioned a flag measuring 42.75 feet long by 30 feet high at a cost of $405.90. Mary and her thirteen year old daughter Caroline, used 400 yards of the best quality wool bunting available. They cut 15 stars that are two feet from point to point, eight red and seven white stripes, each two feet wide. Laying out the material on the malthouse floor of Claggett's Brewery, a neighborhood establishment, the flag was sewn together. By August it was finished. There are two unique characteristics in the flag's design: An early plan for the flag was to add a new star and a new stripe for each new state, so when Vermont (1791) and Kentucky (1792) joined the union, two stripes were added (all subsequent national flags returned to the 13 stripes design thanks to a proposal by Navy Captain Samuel Chester Reid that was adopted by Congress on April 4, 1818. Official star arrangement was to be determined by the President). Secondly, the stars have a slight tilt to them. The Star-Spangled Banner survived the war and is now in the care of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

About Fort McHenry:
The late 18th centry star-shaped Fort McHenry was designed by a Frenchman named Jean Foncin and was named for the Secretary of War under George Washington, James McHenry. During the Civil War, Fort McHenry served as a Union Prison holding over 7,000 Confederate soldiers. Fort McHenry was decomissioned July 20, 1912. In 1939, the fort received the unique designation of a national monument and the nation's only historic shrine.

Greg's Tribute to the American Independence Day
Copyright © Greg Brother 1998-2001. All rights reserved.