The 200th anniversary of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is today, September 14.
Francis Scott Key was inspired to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the War of 1812. He wrote the famous poem after witnessing the Battle of Fort McHenry, during which British warships launched more than 1,500 cannonballs at the fort in an attempt to overtake it. Despite their efforts, Fort McHenry remained intact—and, though tattered, the flag flew overhead after the battle.
You can learn all about the poem—and the flag that inspired it—in a free ebook from Patriot Wood.
George Armistead, Fort McHenry’s commander, wanted a flag “so large that the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance.” This flag became known as the Great Garrison Flag. Measuring 30 x 42 feet, it was the largest battle flag ever flown at the time. Soldiers within Fort McHenry raised this oversized flag as part of their morning reveille on September 12, 1814.
Later that day, British forces attacked Baltimore. They turned their focus to Fort McHenry on September 13, when roughly 19 British warships began bombarding the fort in an attempt to penetrate the harbor. The steady barrage of cannonballs continued for 25 hours before it became clear that the harbor and fort would remain in American hands.
At dawn on September 14, the bombardment stopped. The flag was still flying above Fort McHenry: though battered, it was a brilliant symbol of the American’s defense.
Francis Scott Key witnessed the Battle of Fort McHenry from a British truce ship about four miles away. It inspired his poem, “Defense of Fort McHenry”—an early version of the song we now know as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Learn more about the Battle of Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key, The Star-Spangled Banner, and American history with The History of the Star-Spangled Banner—a free ebook from Patriot Wood.