Our National Anthem
Many Americans are familiar with the first verse of the poem The Defense of Fort McHenry but not by that name. Over the years since it was written, The Defense of Fort McHenry has become a part of American culture. The Star-Spangled Banner, as it is now known, is sung at sporting events and gatherings across the country but usually not sung in its entirety. Unknown too many Americans is there are actually four verses to our national anthem. “The Star-Spangled Banner” became a well known and loved patriotic song but it would take 117 years before it would become our national anthem. In the 1890’s, the military began using the song for ceremonial purposes. Then in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued an executive order designating it to be used as the national anthem when appropriate. Finally in March 1931, Congress officially named The Star-Spangled Banner as the National Anthem of the United States. Francis Scott Key’s use of setting, structure, and literary techniques in “The Defence of Fort McHenry”, captures the spirit of America and helped it become our national anthem.
Francis Scott Key penned The Defense of Fort McHenry on September 14, 1814 after the Battle of Baltimore. The United States had declared war on the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1812 because of Britain’s interference in America’s international trade, the Royal Navy’s continued boarding of American ship and impressment of their sailors, and America’s desire to expand its territory (History.com staff). The war did not have nationwide support. Western and Southern states supported the war, while New England condemned the war as they relied on trade with Europe and felt the United States was not ready for war. Several states would only allow their militias to be used for defensive purpose within their own boarders. Over the course of the war, the United States experience some successes in the Atlantic and on Lake Erie against the British Navy and also capture and burned the Canadian city of York. The United States also suffered many defeats including the capture of Detroit without a shot fired. Then in 1814, Great Britain finally defeated Napoleon in Europe and turn it complete attention to the United States. On August 24, 1814, British troops captured and set our nation’s capital ablaze. Britain then headed to the vital seaport city of Baltimore.
In September 1814, Francis Scott Key was asked to negotiate the release of Dr. William Beanes from the British. Francis Scott Key along with Colonel John Skinner boarded a British ship under a flag of truce with the approval of the President James Madison. They were able to successfully convince the British to release the doctor but not before the Battle of Baltimore was imminent. The British felt by taking Baltimore though a coordinated land/sea attack they could strike a blow against the increasingly demoralized American people (Gelb). Protecting Baltimore harbor was Fort McHenry. The...