50 States in 50 Days: Maryland – Birthplace of the U.S. National Anthem

Posted by: Samuel Gabel, Public Affairs Section Assistant

Читати українською

A Short History of The Star Spangled Banner

Baltimore Skyline at Night
(Maryland Office of Tourism, Film and the Arts)

Due to a complicated series of events, the United States and Great Britain found themselves once again at war in the years 1812 to 1814. The war is called by some the “Second War for Independence,” but is more commonly known as the War of 1812. The British forces wanted to capture the major American city of Baltimore, Maryland. However, to do so, they would first need to get past Fort McHenry, which guarded Baltimore’s harbor. The commander of the fort, Major George Armistead, was determined to defend his position against the invaders. To signify that determination, he had a massive United States flag, measuring 30 feet by 42 feet (9 meters by 12.6 meters), hoisted above the fort. On September 13, 1814, the British began their attempt to bombard the fort into submission. The bombardment lasted some 25 hours.

The Star Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Prior to the Bombardment, Francis Scott Key, a Maryland native and lawyer, had sailed out to the British fleet as part of a delegation to negotiate the release of some American prisoners. However, they were detained by the British, and could do little but watch as the British fired more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition at the little fort. The bombardment lasted well into the night. Key waited anxiously for the dawn’s early light to see if the American flag was still flying, or if Armistead had hoisted the white flag of surrender. To his relief and joy, as the morning broke, he could see the massive star spangled banner still waving proudly over the fort. Inspired by this sight, Key took out some paper and jotted down the first verse of a poem entitled “The Star Spangled Banner.” The poem was later set to music, and went on to become a popular patriotic song. It was officially adopted as the national anthem in 1931.

Fort McHenry can still be visited today. Visitors can enjoy museum exhibits about the fort and the “Star Spangled Banner,” tours, and weekend living history exhibitions including, marching drills, musket, and artillery demonstrations performed by re-enactors in period uniform.

Fishing in Ocean City, Maryland
Photo by Carousel Resort Hotel & Condominiums

The actual flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in 1813 and inspired the national anthem is now on permanent display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The Star Spangled Banner Flag, also known as the Great Garrison Flag, can be seen in a two-story display chamber that allows it to lie at a 10 degree angle in dim light, helping to preserve the 199 year old flag for future generations.

Deep Creek Lake Area
Photo by Bob Carney

Some trivia:

What significance does Key have in the U.S.-Ukraine relationship? The bridge across the Potomac River connecting the Georgetown district of Washington, DC, to Roslyn, Virginia, is named in honor of Francis Scott Key, as is the small park on the DC side. Next to that park stands the Ukrainian Embassy to the United States of America.

5 thoughts on “50 States in 50 Days: Maryland – Birthplace of the U.S. National Anthem

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