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The Star Spangled Banner


One September night in 1814, a young lawyer and ameteur poet named Francis Scott Key made his way to a British war ship in the bay outside Fort McHenry. The British had just burned Washington and had their eye on Baltimore.

It was 2 years into the War of 1812. Mr. Key had just received word that his friend, Dr. William Beanes, had been captured by the British. President Madison gave permission for Francis to board the ship and arrange for the Doctor's release. The British general consented, but required Francis, the Doctor, and fellow agent John Skinner remain in the custody of the British until morning.

The three Americans were returned to their ship, surrounded by British ships firing on Fort McHenry. All through the night, they watched, helpless, as their country was bombarded by constant cannon fire. Their one hope: to see the American flag still flying over the fort.

There were times during that long night that they could not see the giant banner waving through the smoke and the fog. However, when the rockets produced enough light, they spied the stars and stripes still proudly waving.

Francis Scott Key jotted down his thoughts and emotions during all this on the back of an envelope as he waited for dawn and his release back to Baltimore.

When day began to break, the Americans looked through the clearing smoke to discover that the Stars and Stripes were still there! Fort McHenry still stood. The British withdrew in defeat. Finally, the tides had turned in the War of 1812.

Francis, exhausted from the long ordeal, went hurriedly back to his room, to finish jotting down the thoughts racing through his mind. He put the thoughts together into a poem. After a bit of sleep, he passed it on to a friend of his, who had it printed up and handed out all over Baltimore.

That poem was set to music and today we know it as The Star Spangled Banner.

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

When you know the whole story behind this song, it just gives it so much more meaning. I get chills and tears every single time this song is sung. I hope you do, too.
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