200 Years

Thanks to the Smithsonian!200 years ago last summer the 30 ft x 42 ft garrison flag for Fort McHenry was sewn by Mary Pickersgill. 200 years ago this September 14th, as the British fleet retired from its failed attack on the Fort and Baltimore, it was hoisted in place of the garisson’s much smaller storm flag which had been shredded by 25 hours of British bombardment. During that battle Francis Scott Key conceived what became the lyrics of our national anthem. With the enemy deep in the territory of the United States and the outcome* of the war far from certain, he penned a set of questions as relevant today as they were then. Read for yourself, there is more to the story they tell than we hear before a sporting event.

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 thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s 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?

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, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh 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 washed out their foul footsteps’ 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 home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

*The War of 1812 ended three months later, 24 December with the Treaty of Ghent.

2 responses to “200 Years

  1. Thank you for posting, Chris. Key’s words from 200+ years ago remind us what a horrendous struggle it was.

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