Tuesday, August 4, 2009

History Lesson

Forwarded by Dave Fitzharris. Thanks, Dave.

It's the birthday of the man who wrote: "The rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there" — Francis Scott Key, born in Frederick, Maryland (1779). In 1814, when he wrote the words that became our national anthem, Francis Scott Key was a 35-year-old lawyer. When Congress had voted in 1812 on whether to go to war with Great Britain, he had spoken out against the war and argued for diplomacy.

It was a hard time for the new United States. The British had set fire to much of Washington, D.C., and President Madison had to flee to safety. Now the British were attempting to destroy Baltimore. Key learned that a friend of his had been detained aboard a British ship, and he offered to help negotiate the man's release. By the time he had convinced the British to release his friend, they were planning their bombardment of Fort McHenry, at the entrance to the Baltimore Harbor, and Key was forced to remain aboard an enemy ship and watch the city be attacked.

The British used rockets, which were a new military weapon adapted from Chinese technology. Key was horrified as he watched these rockets fall on Fort McHenry. He later wrote, "It seemed as though Mother Earth had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone." He watched all night, and it seemed impossible that the fort could survive the attack.

But just after sunrise he saw the American flag still flying over the fort. In fact, Key might never have even seen the flag if the fort commander, Major Armistead, hadn't insisted on flying one of the largest American flags then in existence: 30 feet long and 42 feet high.

"The Star-Spangled Banner" actually contains four verses, although we rarely sing the last three. They are:

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wiped out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

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Seeking the truth until I find it.