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Writing of the Star Spangled Banner

The Star-Spangled Banner


The Star-Spangled Banner is a revered symbol of American resilience and patriotism, serving as the national anthem of the United States. Its roots are entwined with the War of 1812, a conflict between the United States and Great Britain. During this war, the British aimed to capture Baltimore and its vital port. In September 1814, they turned their attention to Fort McHenry, a strategic stronghold that guarded Baltimore's harbor. The fort was commanded by Major George Armistead, who commissioned the creation of an enormous American flag to fly over the fort—a flag that would become the centerpiece of this iconic anthem.


Francis Scott Key, a prominent lawyer and amateur poet, played a pivotal role in the creation of “The Star-Spangled Banner." As a resident of Washington, D.C., he had negotiated the release of Dr. William Beanes, a prisoner held by the British. However, as the British began their assault on Fort McHenry, Key found himself detained aboard a British ship, watching the intense battle unfold. On the morning of September 14, 1814, after a night of relentless bombardment, Key saw the American flag still flying above Fort McHenry. This sight of the resilient flag against the dawn's light inspired him to pen the verses of "Defence of Fort M'Henry," the poem that would later be set to music and become the anthem we know today.


Fort McHenry itself has a storied history. Situated at the entrance to Baltimore's harbor, it played a vital role in the defense of the city during the War of 1812. The fort's formidable defensive capabilities were showcased during the British assault, as its tenacious resistance deterred the British from advancing further. This crucial victory bolstered American morale and marked a turning point in the war.


The original Star-Spangled Banner flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the battle was an impressive garrison flag measuring 30 feet by 42 feet. This flag, commissioned by Major Armistead, featured 15 stars and 15 stripes, representing the 15 states in the Union at the time. After the battle, it remained in the possession of the Armistead family for several generations. In 1907, Armistead's grandson, Eben Appleton, donated the flag to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.


Today, the flag is meticulously preserved and displayed at the National Museum of American History. Housed in a controlled environment to protect it from light and humidity, the flag is a poignant testament to American history and resilience. Visitors from around the world can view this enduring symbol of the nation's spirit and determination.


For those interested in further research on “The Star-Spangled Banner," a plethora of resources are available. Books such as "The Star-Spangled Banner: The Making of an American Icon" by Lonn Taylor and "What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life" by Marc Leepson provide in-depth explorations of the anthem's history and the people behind it. The National Museum of American History's website offers extensive information about the flag's preservation and display. The Library of Congress also houses valuable primary sources related to the War of 1812 and the anthem's creation, providing rich material for deeper study.


Additional Resources:



Smithsonian Institute


The Star-Spangled Banner


Star-Spangled Banner


The Lyrics



National Park Service


The Star-Spangled Banner


Fort McHenry

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