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Monday, September 16, 2013

U.S. NATIONAL ANTHEM | Sep. 14–"Star Spangled Banner" Written by Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key, sunrise,
Baltimore, Sep. 13, 1814.
Today in 1814 Francis Scott Key, an attorney and poet, wrote the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner," after the British attack on Fort McHenry, at the mouth of Baltimore Harbor.

British troops three weeks before captured Washington and set fire to the Capitol, the Treasury, and the President's house. The President, James Madison, fled the city. Americans feared the British might invade other big cities.

Key served in the Georgetown Light Field Artillery and when the British took prisoner his friend Dr. William Beanes, Key went to Baltimore to help negotiate Beanes's release. British ships were located along Chesapeake Bay. Key and Colonel John Skinner obtained Beanes's freedom.

On Sep. 13, the three at sea watched the day-long assault. The British used their new rockets, adapted from Chinese technology. Francis Scott Key watched at night, with little hope that the American fort would withstand the attack. But just after sunrise, he saw it, still flying–the American flag, sewn by Mary Young Pickersgill at the request of fort commander Major Armistead. It was one of the largest flags then in existence – 42’x30’.

Francis Scott Key started writing a poem about the experience. The British ceased their attack and left the area. Key continue composing at an inn the next day. The work was called "The Defence of Fort McHenry" and was printed in handbills and newspapers, including the Baltimore Patriot. The poem was later set to the tune of a drinking song by John Stafford Smith, "To Anacreon in Heaven," and came to be called "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The battle at Baltimore was the turning point of the war and also in the extent of veneration of the flag. Before the war, the American flag was of little sentimental significance for most Americans–it was just the way to identify military units. After publication of "The Star-Spangled Banner," even non-military people began treating the flag as something sacred. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered "The Star-Spangled Banner" played at official events. On March 3, 1931, President Herbert Hoover and Congress declared it the U.S. national anthem.