Thursday, September 13, 2012
On the night of September 13, 1814, lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key was detained overnight aboard a British truce ship during the bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, in the War of 1812, while arranging the release of a friend who was held prisoner. When he saw “by the dawn’s early light” that the U.S. flag was still flying, he knew the Fort had not surrendered. Moved by the sight, Key began writing “The Defence of Fort McHenry” on the back of a letter (he had an English drinking tune in mind). The completed poem was published later in 1814 as “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Set to music, it became our national anthem in 1931. Pictured: the original flag (15 stars, 15 stripes), made in Baltimore by Mary Pickersgill in 1813.