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The Star- Spangled Banner
Francis Scott Key (1779- 1843)
say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ 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?
On the shore, dimly seen through 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 in the stream:
’Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh 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
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed 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 loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved 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!
Fort McHenry is located in
Baltimore, Maryland state of USA. These military fortifications were constructed in 1789
under supervision of French immigrant Jean Foncin and cover an area of 43 acres (0.17 km²).
It was named after Hames McHenry (November 16, 1753 – May 3,
1816) who was a Scottish- Irish immigrant and a surgeon-
soldier. He eventually rose to Secretary of War under first
American president George Washington. Military fortifications
stood at the Locust Point peninsula that guarded the entrance to
the Baltimore Harbor. Bastions were encircled by a dry moat that
run around the fort perimeter.
The fort became infamous during one of the battles of War of
1812. First explosions fell at Fort McHenry at 6:00am on 13th of
September. Fort had an arsenal of 18, 24, and 38 pound (8 kg, 11
kg, and 17 kg) bombs. However their guns could cover the
entrance to the harbor, but couldn't reach the British ships at
a maximum range of only 1.5 miles or 2.4 km. The British naval
artillery on the other hand was armed with rockets with a range
of 1.75 miles or 2.8 km and naval guns that reached maximum
range at 2 miles or 3 km. The British fleet could easily bomb
the fortress, but it couldn't come any closer to the Baltimore
Harbor. Otherwise they risked loosing ships, sailors and 5000
soldiers aboard the ships. They decided to attack the citadel
and force Americans to leave it.
Bombardment continued for whole 25 hours without stopping.
Firing at a safe distance British expected commandant of Fort
McHenry to abandon his defenses. However long range also made
artillery barrage highly inaccurate. Defenders lost four men,
one woman who was cut in two by a cannon ball and had 24
soldiers wounded. Fortunately for the Americans one of the bombs
managed to hit a powder magazine and break through its thick
ceiling, but it was extinguished so it didn't explode. British
had only one wounded sailor. Eventually on September 14th the
British ran out of ammunition and were forced to retreat without
this time an American lawyer Francis Scott Key and American
Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel John Stuart Skinner were invited
as guests to the British war ship of HMS Tonnant to Vice Admiral
Alexander Cochrane, Rear Admiral George Cockburn and Major
General Robert Ross. They were supposed to discuss the release
of Dr. William Beanes, a resident of Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
Both men were forced to stay aboard the ship until the attack
wasn't over. Here Francis Scott Key had a front seat to the
whole attack on the American fortress. The violent beating of
the military fortifications lasted all day. In the morning
American Star Spangled Banner still flew over defences marking
the inability of the English to break through the defenses of
the Republic. He later wrote a poem and it eventually became an
American anthem with the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven"
(usually attributed to John Stafford Smith).
The Fort McHenry continued its service. During the Civil War it
acquired new Rodman guns and became the training post for the US
army. In addition fort served as a prison for Confederate
soldiers and Confederate sympathizers or anyone who was accused
of sympathy to Confederacy. During wars enemy list might be
quiet broad and usually increases. Among people accused of
conspiring against the Union were Baltimore Mayor George William
Brown, Francis Key Howard (grandson of Francis Scott Key, yes,
the irony) and many others. And the famous flag was shipped to
England (again, the irony).
During World War I Fort McHenry had several dozens of new
buildings added to house hospitals for the wounded soldiers that
came home from Europe. Most of these were destroyed after the
war when Fort became a National Park in 1925 and later turned
into a National Monument and Historic Shrine in 1939. This
Shrine served briefly as a base for the Coast Guard that hunted
German U- boats that occasionally patrolled Eastern shores of
the United States at the time sinking ships and wrecking havoc
on military and civilian vessels. After the war Fort McHenry was
completely restored to the original appearance of War of 1812. A
copy of a flag that flew that day in 1814 is still flying over
this historic fort.
The Original Star Spangled Banner
is the original banner that flew over Fort McHenry and inspired
the poem that later became the anthem of the United States of
America. It was made by
maker Mary Young Pickersgill between July and August of 1813 in
Baltimore, Maryland. She was paid $405.90 for her job. It was
commissioned by Lt. Col. George Armistead, the commander of the
fort. It was originally measured 30 feet by 42 feet. The main
Great Garrison Flag as it was known was big enough for passing
ships to see the ownership of the military citadel. A smaller
and less impressive Storm Flag was kept for difficult weather
conditions. Over time it lost several feet during its long and
colourful history and now measures 30 feet by 34 feet. The flag
also lost one of its stars that was cut out and recently sold
for $38,837 at auction in Dallas, TX on November 30th, 2011.
Unlike modern American flag that has 50 starts and 13 stripes,
the star spangled banner had 15 stars (minus one missing) and 15
stripes. The commander of the fort Lt. Col. Armistead preserved
the flag as a memento of the famous battle. He died in 1818 and
this flag is said to cover his coffin. His daughter Georgiana
Armistead kept it and gave it to her son Even Appleton in 1824.
A letter "V" or incomplete letter "A" appeared on a flag
somewhere in the late 19th century. It was either meant to
signify "victory" or "Armstead". We will never know who and why
did this. At the outbreak of the Civil War the was actually
shipped out of the country for safekeeping. And the safest place
for this piece of American history was in Great Britain (irony).
It was loaned to Smithsonian Institution in 1907 and later
transferred to the National Museum of American History in 1964.