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The Star-Spangled Banner

“The Star-Spangled Banner”

“The Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States.  The words to the song come from a poem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812.

In 1931, the Congress and President Herbert Hoover made it the official national anthem.

There are actually four verses to the song, but when the anthem is played and sung, it is usually only the first verse that is performed.

FSKFrancis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) was born in Maryland and grew up to become a lawyer in Washington, D.C.  Key liked to write poetry in his spare time and some of his poems have been used as lyrics to church hymns.

His most famous poem, “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, was written during the War of 1812’s Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland.  The poem was published later in 1814 and was set to a popular tune so it could be sung.

After his death, many monuments across the country were established to celebrate him and his poem.

Oh Say Can You Sing?

At the February 1-3 Get A Clue! concerts and the February 4 Tubby the Tuba concert, our first piece will be “The Star-Spangled Banner”.  The audience will be asked to stand and we hope you will join us in singing the first verse with the orchestra accompanying you.

Lyrics from “Defence of Fort M’Henry”

Lyrics: the words of a song
Defence poem

Original “Defence of Fort M’Henry” poem from the Library of Congress

The lyrics to “The Star Spangled Banner” come from a poem written by Francis Scott Key.  On September 3, 1814, Key and John Stuart Skinner boarded a ship in Baltimore and set sail hoping to rescue one of their friends who had been taken prisoner by the British.

On September 7, Key and Skinner met with British captains and overheard their plans for a battle against the Americans.  Because they’d heard these plans, Key and Skinner had to stay with the British during the battle so they wouldn’t tell the battle plan to the Americans.

During the night, Key saw Fort McHenry’s flag flying, but it became so smoky and cloudy from the cannons and guns, that he would not know if the flag had been taken down.  If the flag had been taken down, it meant that the British had captured the fort and won the battle; if it was still there, then it meant the Americans had prevailed.

On the morning of September 14, Francis Scott Key saw that the large American flag with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes was flying over the fort, signaling an American victory!  He was so inspired that he wrote a poem on the back of a letter he had in his pocket.

Read Defence of Fort M'Henry

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d 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 wash’d out their foul footstep’s 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 lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d 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.


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