Some Quick Facts:
- The "Star Spangled Banner" was written during the War of 1812. British ships launched attack on Fort McHenry at the harbor of Baltimore, MD on September 13, 1814
- They shots rockets and cannons for 25 hours!
- The battle ended at dawn on September 14, 1814.
- Francis Scott Key, a Baltimore lawyer was being held on a British ship during the attack. He was so inspired by the sight of the flag being raised at dawn (the star spangled banner, he called it), he wrote the poem which would become our national anthem on the back of a letter he had in his pocket.
- The "rockets red glare/the bombs bursting in air" gave Francis Scott Key hope through the night "that the flag was still there"--meaning, that the American military had not surrendered.
- Key only wrote the lyrics to the national anthem. He set those to a popular song of the day called "Anacreon in Heaven." The music was actually by a British man named John Stafford Smith and was first published in 1779. (Look below for a link to hear the original version!)
- The "Star Spangled Banner" is actually 4 verses long, but only the first verse is really ever performed.
- It became our National Anthem by congressional resolution in 1931.
- Pieces of the original flag that flew over Fort McKinley during the battle are still on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.
Here are a few links if you are interested:
- The original song that Key set his poem to, "Anacreon in Heaven" This version includes a harpsichord!
- The Army Field Band performing the National Anthem at a concert in 2010.
- A great video produced by the Smithsonian reenacting the battle from Francis Scott Key's vantage point. (It's only 3 1/2 minutes long!)
- A very detailed article by the Smithsonian Institute about the War of 1812 and the "Star Spangled Banner."