Happy Birthday to the Only National Anthem of the Republic

I don’t know if they actually teach American history in schools anymore.

I am sure there are cultural studies and social studies that talk about the diversity of the world. But I remember that most of the “history” we learned as children in the sixties was about the founding of this nation and the struggles the country went through in its early days. Looking back now, I am not sure if I completely understood the significance of the events of the War of 1812.

The United States were still in their infancy and the country had little in the way of a Navy or Army. The ability of the British to march right into the capital of Washington DC on September 3, 1814 and burn the building to the ground must have been a stunning shock to the fledgling country.

Francis Scott Key and John Stuart Skinner set sail from Baltimore aboard the ship HMS Minden, a cartel ship flying a flag of truce on a mission approved by President James Madison. Their objective was to secure an exchange of prisoners, one of whom was William Beanes, the elderly and popular town physician of Upper Marlboro and a friend of Key who had been captured in his home. Beanes was accused of aiding the arrest of British soldiers. Key and Skinner boarded the British flagship HMS Tonnant on September 7 and spoke with Major General Robert Ross and Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane over dinner while the two officers discussed war plans. At first, Ross and Cochrane refused to release Beanes but relented after Key and Skinner showed them letters written by wounded British prisoners praising Beanes and other Americans for their kind treatment.

Because Key and Skinner had heard details of the plans for the attack on Baltimore, they were held captive until after the battle, first aboard HMS Surprise and later back on HMS Minden. After the bombardment, certain British gunboats attempted to slip past the fort and effect a landing in a cove to the west of it, but they were turned away by fire from nearby Fort Covington, the city’s last line of defense.

During the rainy night, Key had witnessed the bombardment and observed that the fort’s smaller “storm flag” continued to fly, but once the shell and Congreve rocket barrage had stopped, he would not know how the battle had turned out until dawn. On the morning of September 14, the storm flag had been lowered and the larger flag had been raised.

During the bombardment, HMS Terror and HMS Meteor provided some of the “bombs bursting in air”.

Key was inspired by the U.S. victory and the sight of the large U.S. flag flying triumphantly above the fort. This flag, with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, had been made by Mary Young Pickersgill together with other workers in her home on Baltimore’s Pratt Street. The flag later came to be known as the Star-Spangled Banner and is today on display in the National Museum of American History, a treasure of the Smithsonian Institution. It was restored in 1914 by Amelia Fowler, and again in 1998 as part of an ongoing conservation program.

Aboard the ship the next day, Key wrote a poem on the back of a letter he had kept in his pocket. At twilight on September 16, he and Skinner were released in Baltimore. He completed the poem at the Indian Queen Hotel, where he was staying, and titled it “Defence of Fort M’Henry”. It was first published nationally in The Analectic Magazine.

The 15-star, 15-stripe “Star-Spangled Banner” that inspired the poem

By 1892, the poem had been set to music and was adopted by many Army units as an official song to be played at evening colors. In 1898, the US Navy officially adopted “The Star Spangled Banner”.

In 1930, the Veterans of Foreign Wars started a petition to officially recognize the song as the National Anthem.

Five million people signed the petition and it was presented to Congress on January 31, 1930.

On March 3, 1931, the Senate passed the bill which had already been passed by the House. On March 4, 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed the bill officially adopting the Star Spangled Banner as the national anthem of the United States of America. For over ninety years, that song has represented freedom and the Republic. To many of us, it is a pure example of patriotic poetry that describes the struggle for freedom.

Under attack again

Ninety years later, that most beautiful and stirring of all songs is under attack. Leftists and revisionists have added our anthem to a list of items that they want to cancel. Completely ignoring the origins of the song, they are trying to portray the writer as a racist and cast the anthem into the waste bin of history.  Alternative anthems have sprung up to further divide the United States. While many of those songs are quite nice for their own purposes, they do nothing to add unity to our struggling Republic. For me, those songs become more of the bitter cacophony that is shredding our once proud nation.

There is only one National Anthem.

It has been played to celebrate the Republic and all she stands for through World Wars and every major conflict in the last hundred years. She is the representation that despite the attacks, the flag was still there. I hope and I pray that enough of us will stand together to defend the anthem, the flag, and the Republic both represent. If we lose America to the forces of hate, there will be no other place in the world that people can turn to for real freedom.

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Happy Birthday to our only National Anthem

Mister Mac


6 thoughts on “Happy Birthday to the Only National Anthem of the Republic

  1. Thanks for another timely, interesting article Mr. Mac. Recently I watched a TV article about Frances Scott Key and learned a lot I never knew from both. It reminded me of my visit to Fort McHenry on July 23rd 2018 with a group of Seabees having our Last Reunion in Baltimore, MD. I was fortunate to be one of several that was selected to help raise the flag over the Fort, something I will always remember and am thankful for the opportunity to have done so.

    On a hunch, I’m guessing that you are the 3rd kid from the let on the front row in the school picture.

    Take care my friend.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s