A Salute to Our National Anthem

A historic event, the battle at Fort McHenry, inspires our most patriotic song.


+ enlarge image The endurance of the American flag during a bombardment inspired the National Anthem.

Francis Scott Key, a respected lawyer, lived in Georgetown from about 1804 to 1833. During the war of 1812, Key learned that his friend, Dr. William Beanes, was held prisoner on a British warship. Key and another friend boarded the ship, armed with letters of praise written by British patients under Beanes' care. Although the British agreed to release the doctor, they held all three captive until after the battle ended to prevent the Americans from revealing plans of attack to the patriots on shore.

At Fort McHenry, the commander asked for a flag so big that "the British would have no trouble seeing it from a distance." On September 13, 1814, the British began bombarding Baltimore. The Americans watched the battle and waited for the sign that would end their anxiety. When daylight came, the flag was still there! An amateur poet, Key was inspired to write "The Star-Spangled Banner." On March 3, 1931, it was adopted as our national anthem.

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