Culture History

Everything You Should Know About American National Anthem

140911- F- DT527-187Photo by Secretary of Defense

The National Anthem of the United States of America is the Star-Spangled Banner, a poem inspired by the Battle of Baltimore. This battle was fought during the War of 1812, on September 13th. A respected physician, Dr. William Beanes was arrested for his unfriendly acts toward the British soldiers, during the British campaign against Washington, D.C. President James Madison sent Francis Scott Key to obtain the release of Dr.Beanes, who was a 35-year-old American lawyer and a friend of his client.

The British agreed to release Beanes after the negotiations. But, since they were planning to attack Baltimore, and later Maryland, the British would allow no one to go ashore. On September 12, the British landed soldiers and attacked Baltimore. However, they were not able to capture it. The British sent their naval fleet to destroy the port city, after two unsuccessful attacks. Fort McHenry was the main defense of Baltimore harbor. The British fleet fired bombs and rockets at the fort for 25 hours repeatedly.

The defenders of the fort withstood the attack and they didn’t surrender. After unsuccessful attack, the British realized that they couldn’t take Baltimore without paying for it. Later, they departed from Baltimore, since they were not willing to pay the price. Francis Scott Key was down river during the bombardment, and while watching the battle he was inspired to write a poem which tells the story about it. He finished the poem when he reached Baltimore.

Soon the song was well known since it grew in popularity by both sides during the Civil war. Later it was used as unofficial national anthem and it was very popular with the military. The song became widely accepted that the Congress made it the National Anthem in 1931, during World War I. A part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of American History, displays in its main lobby the Star-Spangled Banner, which is 42 feet long and 30 wide.

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Each stripe is two feet wide and each star is two feet from point to point. Many Americans long assumed that this flag flew during the battle, because of its deteriorated condition. However, according to both American and British sources, historians have found that during the battle at Baltimore there was a late summer storm which would have prevented the 1260 square foot woolen flag from being flown. Therefore, the large flag was raised the next morning when the British were leaving from Baltimore.

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The flag still exists, nearly two centuries later, though fragile and worn by the years. The manuscript that Key wrote was not on an envelope, since envelope had not yet been invented. The original manuscript is displayed at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. Fort McHenry is a part of the National Park Service and it still proudly stands. This fort is the only site to have both a historic shrine and national monument designation. The Star-Spangled Banner is symbol of American history which ranks with the Charters of Freedom and the Statue of Liberty.

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