Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day USA! The Star-Spangled Banner is 200 years old this year.

The Original Star-Spangled Banner From Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland

The Star-Spangled Banner, the flag and the poem that inspired the National Anthem of the United States by the same name, is 200 years old this year.

The Star-Spangled Banner can be seen at The American Museum of National History in Washington D.C.
What is the background of the Star-Spangled Banner?

The Battle of Baltimore

The U.S.A. and the Great Britain. went to war a second time (after the American Revolution) in June, 1812. In September, 1814, the British Navy sailed up the Chesapeake Bay and tried to capture the important city of Baltimore, Maryland. They needed to defeat the American forces occupying Fort McHenry (which can be visited today) outside the city -- and launched a huge cannon bombardment on the night of September 13. However, they failed to defeat the American forces and withdrew their ships.

One Interesting Fact - The War of 1812 would end in a draw in December, 1814 when the Treaty of Ghent was signed in what is now Belgium. However, word of the war's end would not reach the American and British armies in time - which would go on to fight the Battle of New Orleans in January, 1815.  The battle ended in a decisive U.S. victory, but was a complete waste of effort and lives for both sides. 


September 13, 1814- The British Navy Loses the Battle of  Baltimore

Francis Scott Key Writes the Star-Spangled Banner

Francis Scott Key, a Baltimore author and lawyer was aboard a British warship watching the battle that night (he was part of a prisoner exchange program). He heard the horrific battle and was not sure if Fort McHenry would hold out against the British bombardment.  He woke up the next morning, and saw the U.S. Flag -- the original Star-Spangled Banner - which can be visited today in Washington, D.C. -  still flying.  He was hugely inspired and would go on to write the poem, The Defense of Fort McHenry, the following week.  He intended the poem to be sung to a popular British tune, John Stafford Smith's "To Anacreon in Heaven, which resulted in the song "The Star Spangled Banner".  The song would go on to become the national anthem of the U.S.A..

To find out more:
http://amhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/

Francis Scott Key Witnesses the Battle and Sees the Star-Spangled Banner Flying the Next Morning

The first stanza of the Star-Spangled Banner talks about the Battle of Baltimore:

O 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 through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?


Fort McHenry in Baltimore Maryland Can Be Visited Today

The Star-Spangled Banner is notoriously difficult to sing.  Another song by the great songwriter Irving Berlin, and popularized in the 1930's and 1940's by Kate Smith,  God Bless America,  is much easier to sing.  is equally as popular in the United States. and came close to being declared the national anthem in World War 2.

The late Whitney Houston is widely remembered for singing this song so well, here she is singing the National Anthem of the United States of America.

So happy 238th Birthday U.S.A.!  And happy 200th Birithday for the Star-Spangled Banner.


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