An Anthem for the Ages
Over the upcoming 4th of July weekend, many of us will attend fireworks and parades featuring patriotic music, including the Star-Spangled Banner, our national anthem. You most likely know all the words, and are used to hearing it before your favorite sporting event, but do you know the origin of the song?
In June of 1812, America declared war on Great Britain after a series of disagreements on trade. U.S. forces struggled to match the British, who in August 1814 raided Washington, D.C. and torched the White House and other government buildings.
Attempting to negotiate the release of an imprisoned doctor, Frances Scott Key, an attorney, sailed out into Chesapeake Bay to meet with the British fleet in September 1814. Detained overnight, he and the doctor watched, horrified, as 1,800 rockets and bombs rained over Fort McHenry. The British had moved on to Baltimore. Although defeat seemed imminent, when dawn finally broke after the long night, Key saw a sight we all know well: the American flag, standing tall, still fighting.
Awestruck, Key scribbled down a poem originally titled, “The Defence of Fort M’Henry”. These words would become “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and later that same month his writing found its way into a Baltimore newspaper. The song, ironically set to the melody of a British tune, later became popular with the armed forces, and was formally adopted as the American national anthem in 1931.