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The Star Spangled Banner

The British withdrew from the Washington the evening of August 25, retracing their steps to Bladensburg, where they left most of their wounded. They arrived back in Upper Marlborough at dusk on August 26. By August 30, the British had retraced their steps to Benedict and were back on board their ships.


Francis Scott Key 
Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of Ft McHenry while onboard a ship and was moved to write a poem that later became our national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)
As the British returned through Upper Marlborough, a few deserters began plundering nearby farms. Dr. William Beanes and several other Upper Marlborough residents seized six or seven of the deserters and confined them at the jail in Queen Anne. When one of the prisoners escaped and informed Major General Ross of the arrests, a contingent of British marines returned to Upper Marlborough and arrested Dr. Beanes and others, and held them in exchange for the release of the British prisoners. The Americans were subsequently released except Dr. Beanes, who was considered the instigator of the incident. In violation of the existing rules of war, he was placed in confinement aboard "HMS Tonnant."

Francis Scott Key, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, was urged to seek Beanes' release. Key and the U.S. Agent for Exchange of Prisoners, John Stuart Skinner, set sail on a truce ship to meet the British fleet, and boarded "HMS Tonnant" under a flag of truce. They showed Major General Ross testimonials from wounded British soldiers from the Battle of Bladensburg attesting to American kindness and the proper medical treatment they had received. General Ross, who had ordered the arrest of Beanes, agreed to release him after the planned attack on Baltimore.


View of Bombardment of Ft. McHenry 
A view of the bombardment of Ft. McHenry by the British fleet (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)
Beanes and Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry from onboard the truce vessel. Key was so moved by the scene of the battle that he composed a poem that eventually became the National Anthem. Key chose the tune, "To Anacreon in Heaven" by John Stafford Smith, because it was a popular American and British melody and he had previously adapted it to another poem.  Handbills of his poem were quickly printed and copies distributed to every man who was at Fort McHenry during the bombardment. Key's poem was first printed on September 20, 1814, in the Baltimore "Patriot and Advertiser" under the title "The Defense of Fort McHenry." By the end of the year, the poem and the tune were printed across the country as a reminder of the American victory. In 1931, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation that made "The Star-Spangled Banner" the official National Anthem.


The Star Spangled Banner


Star Spangled Banner
First printed as “The Defense of Ft McHenry”, the poem written by Key became our official national anthem by act of Congress in 1931. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)
O 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, through 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. O 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! O 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.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand Between their loved homes and the war‘s desolation! Blest with vict‘ry and peace, may the Heaven-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!