Birth of an Anthem

Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key (August 1, 1779 – January 11, 1843) Portrait by Joseph Wood Circa 1825

Francis Scott Key
(August 1, 1779 – January 11, 1843)
Portrait by Joseph Wood
Circa 1825

An American lawyer, author, and amateur poet from Georgetown and Washington D.C., Francis Scott Key penned the lyrics to the United States’ national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

During the War of 1812, Key, accompanied by British Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel John Stuart Skinner, dined aboard the British ship HMS Tonnant as guests of three British officers: Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane, Rear Admiral George Cockburn, and Major General Robert Ross.  Skinner and Key, there to negotiate release of American prisoners, would learn the strength and position of British units and their plan to attack.  Prevented from returning to their own sloop, Key was forced to watch bombarding of the American forces at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore on the nights of September 13–14, 1814.

At dawn, able to see an American flag still waving, Key informed the prisoners below deck.  Inspired, he would compose a poem of his experience, “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” which was quickly published on September 21, 1814.  Adapted to music, it became known as the “The Star Spangled Banner.”  More than a century later, the song was adopted as the American national anthem, first by Executive Order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and later by Congressional resolution in 1931, signed by President Herbert Hoover.

Plaque commemorating the death of Francis Scott Keyplaced by the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) in Baltimore, Maryland

Plaque commemorating the death of Francis Scott Key
by the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) in Baltimore, Maryland

 Fort McHenry

Bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British September 13, 1814

Bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British
September 13, 1814

“A VIEW of the BOMBARDMENT of Fort McHenry near Baltimore by the British fleet, taken from the Observatory under Command of British Admirals Cochrane & Cockburn on the morning of the 13th of September.  Lasting 24 hours, 1500 to 1800 shells were thrown in the Night while the British, attempting to land by forcing passage up the ferry branch, were repulsed with great loss.”

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The flag that flew over Fort McHenry during its bombardment in 1814 would remain in possession of the family of Major Armistead, Commander of the fort, until its donation to the Smithsonian in 1912.

Flag flown over Fort McHenry during 1814 Bombardment by the British. September 13-14, 1814

Flag flown over Fort McHenry during Bombardment by the British on September 13-14, 1814

Replica of the Fort McHenry Flag, Flown in the 1814 Bombardment by the British, currently flying over Fort McHenry

Replica of the Fort McHenry flag,
flown in the British Bombardment of 1814, remains flying over the fort

In a beautiful rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” over 1,000 high-school choir students sing the U.S. national anthem during their annual Kentucky conference. Filmed in 2015, they gather on balconies in the lobby of their high-rise hotel as an appreciative audience listens enthralled. The students repeat their touching performance every year.

God Bless America

4th of July fireworks Washington D.C.

4th of July fireworks Washington D.C.

Land of the Free and Home of the Brave

Statue of Liberty Liberty Island New York City, New York

Statue of Liberty
Liberty Island
New York City, New York


The Birth of a Nation

240 Years

1776 – 2016

About Karen Evans

Advocate For Honoring Military Service
This entry was posted in American History, Veterans and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Birth of an Anthem

  1. Thank you, Karen for posting what ALL American children should learn–the history of our anthem and be Proud to sing! And BTW ~ GOD BLESS AMERICA! ~ JGT (aka D. F. Howard)

  2. GP Cox says:

    Fantastic, Karen. Hope you’re enjoying the 240th USA Birthday!!

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