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The Star-Spangled Banner

Francis Scott Key

Everybody in the United States has heard the song about the star-spangled banner. Nearly everybody has sung it. It was written by Francis Scott Key. Key was a young lawyer. In the War of 1812 he fought with the American army. The Brit­ish landed soldiers in Maryland. At Bladens­burg they fought and beat the Americans. Key was in this battle on the American side.

After the battle the British army took Wash­ington, and burned the public buildings. Key had a friend who was taken prisoner by the British. He was on one of the British ships. Key went to the ships with a flag of truce. A flag of truce is a white flag. It is carried in war when one side sends a message to the other.

When Key got to the British ships, they were sail­ing toBaltimore. They were going to try to take Baltimore. The British commander would not let Key go back. He was afraid that he would let the Americans know where the ships were going.

Key was kept a kind of prisoner while the ships attacked Baltimore. The ships tried to take the city by firing at it from the water. The British army tried to take the city on the land side. The ships did their worst firing at night. They tried to take the little fort near the city. He was afraid that the men in it would give up.

Fort McHenry

Key could see the battle. He watched the little fort. He was afraid that the fort would be broken down by the cannon balls. When these burst, they made a light. By this light Key could see that the little fort was still standing. He could see the flag still waving over it. He tells this in his song in these words : —

“And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

After many hours of fighting the British became discouraged. They found that they could not take the city. The ships al­most ceased to fire. Key did not know whether the fort had been knocked down or not. He could not see whether the flag was still flying or not. He thought that the Americans might have given up. He felt what he wrote in the song:

“Oh! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave? O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?”

When the break of day came, Key looked toward the fort. He could see the fort. It was still standing. It grew lighter. There was a flag flying over it. Key was full of joy. He took an old letter from his pocket. The back of this letter had no writing on it. Here he wrote the song about the star-spangled banner. The British commander now let Key go ashore.

When he got to Bal­timore, he wrote out his song. He gave it to a friend. This friend took it to a printing office. But the printers had all turned soldiers. They had all gone to defend the city. There was one boy left in the office. He knew how to print He took the verses and printed them on a broad sheet of paper.

The printed song was soon in the hands of the soldiers around Baltimore. It was sung in the streets. It was sung in the theaters. It traveled all over the country. Everybody learned to sing:

” 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 in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

SOURCE:  Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans                                                      By Samuel Eggleston                                                                                                           American Book Co  1893                                                                                                       Digitized by Google                                                                                                                 Available for free download from Google Books

Tomorrow, Daniel Webster and his Brother   Rita Bay

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The Star-Spangled Banner

Francis Scott Key

Happy Fourth of July!!  Meet Francis Scott Key, a young lawyer from Maryland. In 1814 towards the end of the War of 1812, Key who was a lawyer and an amateur poet was negotiating a prisoner exchange with the British.  He was aboard the HMS Tonnant on the night of September 13 and 14 when the British fleet bombarded Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

Through the rockets red glare and the bombs bursting in air, Key was able to see that the American flag at Fort McHenry was still waving and reported it to the American prisoners below deck.  The experience inspired Key to write and publish the poem “The Defence of Fort McHenry”, which was published on September 20, 1814. It was placed to music and has become known as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Fort McHenry

The first and last of the four stanzas are provided below.  The fourth stanza (seldom read and never sung) epitomizes the concepts of American exceptionality, reliance on God and appreciation for God-given liberties which, though profound beliefs of American citizens for more than two centuries, have been questioned by some today.

The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d 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 rocket’s 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?

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, the flag that inspired Key, is one of the most treasured artifacts in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington,D.C.

To read more about Key and the Star Spangled Banner:  http://francisscottkey.com/


Tomorrow, The First Official Flag         Rita Bay

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