“The Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States. It was written by Francis Scott Key after a critical battle in the War of 1812. Key, a lawyer and amateur poet, had been sent to Baltimore, Maryland, to secure the release of Dr. William Beanes, an American taken prisoner by the British.

Boarding a British ship for the negotiations, Key was treated with respect by the British of­ficers who agreed to release Dr. Beanes. Although the mission was completed, the British were about to attack Fort McHenry, the American fort guarding Baltimore, and so they did not allow the Americans to return to shore. For twenty-five hours, British gunboats shelled Fort McHenry. The Americans withstood the attack, and on the morning of September 14, 1814, Key peered through clearing smoke to see an enormous American flag waving proudly above the fort. Key was so inspired by this sight of the American flag that he began a poem to commemorate the occasion. He wrote the poem to be sung to the popular British song, “To Anacreon in Heaven.” The significance and popularity of the song spread across the United States. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that the song be played at military and naval occasions.

In 1931, “The Star-Spangled Banner” became the official national anthem of the United States.

The Star-Spangled Banner

Oh, 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, thro’ 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.

Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

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