Monday, September 13, 2010
"AND THE ROCKETS' RED GLARE..." FRANCIS SCOTT KEY AND HIS POEM
On this day (Sep 13) 1814, a lawyer named Francis Scott Key wrote a poem entitled ‘In Defense of Fort McHenry’. During the War of 1812, one of Key’s friends had been taken prisoner by the British and was being held aboard a ship in Maryland. Key traveled to Baltimore, located the ship and began negotiations for the release of Dr. William Beanes. While on board, the British began an attack by sea of Fort McHenry, and refused to allow Key or Beanes to leave. As a result, Key had to witness Fort McHenry being bombarded repeatedy from a British ship approximately 8 miles away.
All day and all night, the assault continued until, unable to destroy the fort, the British finally gave up. Greatly moved by the sight of a lone American flag still flying above the battered fort at daybreak, Key immortalized his feelings of pride and love for his country in a poem. The poem was published in newspapers and became enormously popular with the public. Later, the words were set to music composer John Stafford Smith’s song, “To Anacreon in Heaven”. Soon, the public began referring to the stirring, patriotic song as “The Star Spangled Banner”.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson announced it should be played at all official events. THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER was officially pronounced by Congress to be the national anthem for the United States on 03 March 1931, 116 years after it was first written.
Today, the original flag during the battle at Fort McHenry in 1814 can be seen at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.