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1814 One Hundred And Seventy-five Years Ago

April 2023
1min read

As British and American infantry clashed outside the city of Baltimore, a British fleet trained its guns on Fort McHenry on the afternoon of September 13. For the rest of the day and throughout the night the British fired mortars, rockets, and shells at the out-gunned fort, and then they sent a landing party ashore to finish off the battered Americans.

A Washington, D.C., lawyer named Francis Scott Key watched the battle from where he was being held on the deck of a small British vessel in the harbor. (Key had been sent by the American government to arrange the release of a prominent Maryland doctor whom the British had captured during their retreat from Washington.) As dawn broke, Key anxiously sought a sign of victory for either side. Elated that the tattered American flag was still flying over the fort, Key composed a poem about the American victory that morning; “The Defense of Fort M’Henry” would appear in the September 21 edition of the Baltimore American and Commercial Daily . With music adapted from the tune of a British drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven,” it came to be known as “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Congress adopted the song as the American national anthem in 1931.

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