American History 1785 - 1849

United States History The Star Spangled Banner

Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key was a young American lawyer. He was on a mission to ask for the release of an American who was held prisoner, Dr. William Beanes. Key went to the British fleet on the Potomac River. Key spoke to the British admiral and showed him letters from British prisoners telling how well they were being treated. If the doctor would be set free Key said he would make sure the good treatment continued. The admiral agreed, but said that Dr. Beanes must stay on board the Surpriseuntil after the attack on Baltimore.

Fort McHenry

It was from the deck of the Surprise that Key and the doctor watched the firing on Fort McHenry. The firing went on all night. Just before morning the firing stopped. Key thought the fort had fallen to the British. At first light he saw the American flag which he called 'the star-spangled banner" still flying over the fort.

Key wrote a poem on the back of a letter that he had in his pocket. He continued to write as he was rowed ashore by the British. He rewrote part of it in his room that night.

Key's poem was printed in a handbill. Later it was set to the music of an old English song. In 1931 The Star Spangled Banner was officially adopted as the national anthem of the United States. In recent years many people have suggested changing the national anthem to America.


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