O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
The lengthy title of John Bower’s famous print [below] depicting the 1814 British bombardment at Fort McHenry both describes the scene portrayed and provides a tidy summary of the sustained barrage:
“A view of the bombardment of Fort McHenry, near Baltimore, by the British fleet, taken from the observatory under the command of Admirals Cochrane & Cockburn on the morning of the 13th of Sepr. 1814 which lasted 24 hours, & thrown from 1500 to 1800 shells in the night attempted to land by forcing a passage up the ferry branch but were repulsed with great loss.”
Two hundred years ago, Francis Scott Key was onboard a ship some distance removed from the prolonged British salvo. After sighting the American flag flying over the fort on the dawn of the 14th, he was inspired to pen his famous lines, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The pairing of Key’s poem’s first stanza with a melody borrowed from a popular (in an ironic twist) English tune has, over time, been adopted as the United States national anthem.
If you find yourself filled with patriotic fervor and moved to sing, please go ahead. Who knows, if you are in a public space, others nearby may join in.
- Explore the Smithsonian’s site dedicated to the Star-Spangled Banner, the huge flag that inspired the national anthem, which is held in the vast collections of the National Museum of American History.
- See an image list, War of 1812: Selected Images from the Collections of the Library of Congress, for a variety of visual items created during the war and its immediate aftermath.
- A Library of Congress Web Guide to the War of 1812 compiles links to digital materials related to America’s second war of independence available throughout the Library of Congress Web site including manuscripts, broadsides, pictures, and government documents.
- Military Records: War of 1812 provides an overview of the numerous resources held by the National Archives.