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Key writes ‘The Star Spangled Banner’

This week in history: Key writes “The Star-Spangled Banner”


The Greenville Standard


On September 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key was onboard the British vessel “HMS Tonnant” trying to secure the release of a friend from British imprisonment.

That night, Key watched the British attack Fort McHenry during an assault that would become known as the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812.

After the overnight bombardment, Key saw the American flag still flying proudly over the fort the next morning. Had the fort been captured, the British flag would have replaced the American one. Instead, the Americans had held the fort during the battle.

Inspired by what he saw, Key penned a poem in honor of the occasion. The poem was titled “Defence of Fort M’Henry.”

Very quickly, the poem gained popularity, and soon, it was set to the tune of “To Anacreon in Heaven” as a song. The musical arrangement for “To Anacreon” was quite popular at the time; it had even been used for popular drinking songs of the day.

Later, the poem’s title was changed to become what is now known as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The song did not officially become the National Anthem for the United States of America for more than 100 years.

In 1931, then President of the United States Herbert Hoover had a Congressional resolution passed that made it so.

Today, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played at a multitude of sporting events before play begins. It is also sang before many other events as well.

Key most likely had no idea that his emotional response to a battle would become America’s most recognized song.


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