Sep 13, 2010

The Star-Spangled Banner

(LoC) As the evening of September 13, 1814, approached, Francis Scott Key was detained in Baltimore harbor on board a British vessel. A young lawyer, he had come to negotiate the release of an American physician from British forces—they were released to their ship. Throughout the night and into the early hours of the next morning, Key watched as the British bombed nearby Fort McHenry with military rockets. As dawn broke, he was amazed to find the Stars and Stripes, tattered but intact, still flying above the fort.
British forces had disembarked on September 12 at the mouth of the Patapsco River to begin an assault on the city of Baltimore. The following day, British Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane commenced a naval bombardment of the fort, the last remaining barrier to the city. The siege of Baltimore, which came close on the heels of the British occupation of Washington, D.C., was a turning point in the War of 1812.
Turned back on land and at sea, the British abandoned their attempt to capture Baltimore on September 14. Four months later, they signed the Treaty of Ghent, which brought an end to the war.
Key's experience during the bombardment of Fort McHenry inspired him to pen the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner." He adapted his lyrics to the tune of a popular drinking song, "To Anacreon in Heaven," and the song soon became the de facto national anthem of the United States of America, although Congress did not officially recognize it as such until 1931. Continued