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Birth of the national anthem
The Star Spangled Banner

The Star-spangled banner, the National Anthem of the United States of America is a poem inspired by the Battle of Baltimore, fought on September 12-14, 1814.

During the British campaign against Washington, D.C., an elderly and respected physician, Dr. William Beanes was arrested for unfriendly acts toward the British soldiers which resulted in his arrest. Francis Scott Key, a prominent lawyer and friend of Dr. Beanes was sent by President James Madison to obtain his release.

Following negotiations, the British agreed to release Beanes. However, since the British were going to attack Baltimore, Maryland next, they would allow no one to go ashore. The British landed soldiers on September 12 and engaged in a brisk land battle, however, they were not able to capture Baltimore. As part of a two pronged attack, the British now sent their naval fleet to attack and destroy the port city.

The main defense of Baltimore harbor was Fort McHenry. For 25 hours the British fleet fired rockets and bombs at the fort. The fort's defenders bravely withstood the bombardment and did not surrender. The British realized they could not take Baltimore without paying for it with heavy casualties. Since they were not willing to pay this price, they departed from Baltimore.

During the bombardment, Key was down river and while watching was inspired to write a poem that tells the story of the battle. Thus it was the valiant defense of Fort McHenry by American forces during the British attack on September 13, 1814 that inspired the 35-year old, poet-lawyer Francis Scott Key to write the poem which was to become our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." When he reached Baltimore he finished the poem. The poem was written to match the meter of the English song, "To Anacreon in Heaven.". The song slowly grew in popularity and was well known and used by both sides during the Civil war. In later years it was very popular with the military and it was used as an "unofficial" national anthem. During World War I, the song became so widely accepted that a drive resulted in the Congress making it the National Anthem in 1931.


The Star Spangled Banner

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 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, now conceals, now 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 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 should leave us no more?
Their blood has wiped out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, 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.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

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