Today marks the 200th anniversary of the penning of the verses that would eventually become our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The War of 1812 had reached a defining moment at the Battle of Baltimore in September, 1814. This pivotal battle marked a turning point in the United States’ 2 1/2 year long war with Britain. America was making a stand and vigorously pushing back at the British forces. In the Inner Harbor stood Fort McHenry, part of America’s line of coastal defense, and, despite a withering barrage of fire from the British, the U.S. soldiers stationed there refused to surrender.
Shortly before this attack had begun, a young attorney, and writer of poems, named Francis Scott Key had gone out onto Baltimore’s harbor to negotiate the release of American hostages being held on British ships. The British agreed to release the hostages, but Key was made to wait out the bombing of Fort McHenry before he was allowed to return to the shore. Anxiously he watched the events of war play out before him. Through the night the fighting was so fierce that Key could not be sure of the outcome, having lost sight of the flag that would tell him what side held the fort. But at dawn, two centuries ago today, the sun rose and the smoke from the bombs cleared to reveal to Key the battles results. Key saw the stars and stripes of our flag standing high in the breeze above the battered fort. He took an envelope from his pocket and then and there, on Sept. 14, 1814, he wrote what would become the immortalized verses of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
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?
Today we recognize the 200 year anniversary of our national anthem and the continuing record it provides of our nation’s endurance. Despite attacks and repeated tests, and bearing the scars of those attempts, America still endures.