The Star Spangled Banner Story

When we think of the United States, we immediately think of the Star Spangled Banner, the country’s national anthem. Who has not heard of the Star Spangled Banner? Even non-Americans are familiar with its tune. But how did the story of the Star Spangled Banner begin? How did it get to be the national anthem?

The Star Spangled Banner story began during the War of 1812 when America and England were at war. The British invaded and captured Washington and were planning to bombard Baltimore which was partly protected by Fort McHenry.

In September 1814, two Americans, lawyer and poet Francis Scott Key and Colonel John Skinner were sent to negotiate the release of Dr. William Beanes who was captured during the British invasion of Washington. However, in the process of the negotiation, Key and Skinner had learned about the planned attack on Baltimore and Fort McHenry. Because of this, all three men were detained on a British ship.

The major attack happened on the dawn of September 13, 1814 with heavy artillery raining and producing red streaks across the sky straight into the night. The three men watched the battle from the deck of the ship. According to the Star Spangled Banner history, Key could see the huge American flag waving from the distance.

The bombardment continued way into the night when it suddenly stopped. Key had no idea if Baltimore had fallen or if the British forces had lost. Key could not see anything in the dark. As dawn came and the sun began to rise, Francis Scott Key saw the huge flag still waving proudly over Fort McHenry.

It was because of this event that Francis Scott Key penned what are now the Star Spangled Banner song lyrics. The poem was published and distributed all over the country. It was then set into music using a popular tune – To Anacreon in Heaven, which ironically was an English drinking song. As people started singing the song, it became known as the Star Spangled Banner. In March 3, 1931, an act of congress made the Star Spangled Banner the national anthem of the United States of America. And that is how the Star Spangled Banner came to be.

Oh, 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, thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ 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 thro’ 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, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
‘T is 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 wash’d out their foul footsteps’ 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.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation;
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us as a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause 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!

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