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The Story behind the National Anthem
WHO News Radio 1040 ^ | Unknown Author on Jan Mickelson Radio show

Posted on 07/04/2003 4:40:31 PM PDT by PeterPrinciple

The Story behind the National Anthem By an unknown speaker As heard on Jan Mickelson’s show on WHO Radio

There was a lawyer once. His name was Francis Scott Key. He penned a song that I'm sure you're aware of. You've seen it; it's in most hymnals throughout our churches. It's called the National Anthem. It is our song as an American.

We go, however, to a ballgame; we stand in our church services and we sing the words to that song and they float over our minds and our lips and we don't even realize what we're singing. Most of us have memorized it as a child. But we've never really thought about what it means.

Let me tell you a story.

Francis Scott Key was a lawyer in Baltimore. The colonies were engaged in vicious conflict with the mother country, Britain. Because of this conflict (and the protractiveness of it), they had accumulated prisoners on both sides. The American colonies had prisoners and the British had prisoners. And the American Government initiated a move. They went to the British and said let us negotiate for the release of these prisoners. They said, “We want to send a man out to discuss this with you.” They were holding the American prisoners in boats about a thousand yards offshore. And they said, “We want to send a man by the name of Francis Scott Key. He will come out and negotiate to see if we can make a mutual exchange.”

On the appointed day, in a rowboat, he went out to this boat and he negotiated with the British Officials. And they reached a conclusion that men could be exchanged on a one-for-one basis.

Francis Scott Key, Jubilant with the fact that he'd been successful, went down below in the boats and what he'd found was a cargo hold full of humanity. Men.

And he said, "Men, I've got news for you tonight, you're free!" He said, "Tonight I have negotiated successfully your return to the colonies." He said, "You'll be taken out of this boat, out of this filth, out of your chains.”

As he went back up on board to arrange for their passage to the shore, the admiral came and he said, “We have a slight problem.” He said, “We will still honor our commitment to release these men, but it'll be merely academic after tonight. It won't matter.”

Francis Scott Key said, "What do you mean?"

He said, "Well Mr. Key, tonight, we have laid an ultimatum upon the colonies. Your people will either capitulate and lay down the colors of that flag that you think so much of, or -- you see that fort right over there -- Fort Henry?" He said, "We're going to remove it from the face of the earth."

[Key] said, "How are you going to do that?"

[The admiral] said, "If you will, scan the horizon of the sea."

As [Key] looked, he could see hundreds of little dots.

And [The admiral] said, “That's the entire British war fleet.” He said, “All of the gun power; all of the armament is being called upon to demolish that fort. [The fleet] will be here within striking distance in a matter of about two and a half hours.” He said, “The war is over; these men would be free anyway.”

[Key] said, "You can't shell that fort!" He said, “That's a large fort.” He said, “It's full of women and children.” He said, “It's predominantly not a military fort.”

[The Admiral] said, "Don't worry about it. They said we've left them a 'way out'"

[Key] said, "What's that?"

[The Admiral] said, "Do you see that flag way up there on the rampart?" He said, "We have told them that if they will lower that flag, the shelling will stop immediately...and we'll know that they've surrendered...and you'll now be under British rule.”

Francis Scott Key went down below and told the men what was about to happen. And they said, "How many ships?", and he said, "Hundreds."

The ships got closer. Francis Scott Key went back up on top and he said, "Men, I'll shout down to you what's going on as we watch."

As twilight began to fall…and as the hays hung over the oceans as it does at sunset, suddenly the British war fleet unleashed.


He said, "The sounds were deafening." He said, "There were so many guns, there were no reliefs." He said, "It was absolutely impossible to talk or hear." He said, "Suddenly, the sky, although dark, was suddenly lit."

And he says from down below, all he could hear, the men, the prisoners saying was, "Tell us where the flag is. What have they done with the flag? Is the flag still flying over the rampart? Tell us!"

One hour. Two hours. Three hours into the shelling. Every time the bomb would explode and it would be close to the flag, they could see the flag in the illuminated red glare of that bomb, and Francis Scott Key would report down to the men below, "It's still up! It's not down!”

The admiral came, and he said, "Your people are insane." He said, "What's the matter with them?" He said, "Don't they understand this is an impossible situation?"

Francis Scott Key said he remembered what George Washington had said. He said, "The thing that sets the American Christian apart from all other people in the world is he will die on his feet before he'll live on his knees.”

The Admiral said, “We have now instructed all of the guns to focus on the rampart to take that flag down.” He said, “We don't understand something. Our reconnaissance tells us that that flag has been hit directly...again...and again...and again, and yet it's still flying. We don't understand that.” “But”, he said; “now we're about to bring every gun, for the next three hours, to bear on that point.”

Francis Scott Key said the barrage was unmerciful. All that he could hear...was the men down below...praying. The prayer: "God keep that flag flying...where we last saw it."

Sunrise came. [Key] said there was a heavy mist hanging over the land, but the rampart was tall enough...there stood the flag...completely shreds. The flagpole itself was at a crazy angle. But the flag was still at the top. Francis Scott Key (went aboard and) immediately went into Fort Henry to see what had happened. And what he'd found had happened was that that flagpole and that flag had suffered repetitious direct hits...and when it had fallen...that men, fathers...who knew what it meant for that flag to be on the ground...although knowing that all of the British guns were trained on it, walked over and held it up...humanly...until they died. Their bodies were removed and others took their place. Francis Scott Key said what held that flagpole in place at that unusual angle...were patriots' bodies.

He penned the song.

“Oh say, can you the dawn's early light...what so proudly we the twilight's last gleaming...for the rocket's red glare...the bombs bursting in air...gave proof through the night...that the flag was still there! Oh say, does that star spangled banner yet (fly and) wave...for the land of the free...and the home of the brave.”

The debt was demanded. The was paid.

(Actual lyrics)

Oh, 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, thro' the perilous fight, O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming? And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof thro' 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 thro' 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 on the stream: 'T is the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: 4thofjuly; history; independenceday; music; nationalanthem; starspangledbanner
Go to this site, scroll down to Star Spangled Banner and listen to the audio

1 posted on 07/04/2003 4:40:31 PM PDT by PeterPrinciple
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To: PeterPrinciple
And what of that foe, that 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 power could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.
And the Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh, thus shall it be e'er, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
Blessed with vict'ry and peace, let the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the power that made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, if our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is Our Trust."
And the Star Spangled Banner forever shall wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

... some say you're either a Commie or a Bircher if you know all four verses. I'm neither, I just really like the song!

Glorious Fourth, everybody!

2 posted on 07/04/2003 4:46:57 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (. . . there is nothing new under the sun.)
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To: PeterPrinciple
This is a nice story, but rather false, and obviously so. The actual story is quite grand enough; there is no need to make stuff up.
3 posted on 07/04/2003 4:56:51 PM PDT by blanknoone
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To: blanknoone
Francis Scott Key's words commemorate precise details of a specific event during the War of 1812. The actual star-spangled banner was 30' by 42'--the largest battle flag ever flown. It had been commissioned by Major George Armistead, the commander of Fort McHenry at the entrance to Baltimore Harbor, who wanted a flag large enough to be seen by the British at a distance. Flag-maker Mary Young Pickersgill, assisted by her 13-year-old daughter Caroline, assembled the flag with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, laying out yards of woolen bunting at night by candlelight on the spacious floor of a brewery.

British forces had burned Washington in August of 1814, and captured a beloved elderly physician named William Beanes. Francis Scott Key, a successful Washington lawyer, had permission from President James Madison to try to negotiate Beanes' release. Negotiations took place over dinner--while the British officers also planned their attack on Baltimore. Beanes was freed, but he and Key were not permitted to return to Baltimore until after the battle whose plans they had overheard. They spent the night on their own sloop under a flag of truce, listening and watching for signs of the battle's outcome.

The British fired 1500 bombshells at Fort McHenry, including specialized Congreve rockets that left red tails of flame ("the rockets' red glare") and bombs with burning fuses that were supposed to explode when they reached their target but often blew up in midair instead ("the bombs bursting in air").

Watching from eight miles downstream, Key was able to see the huge battle flag hoisted at dawn to replace the storm flag that had flown through the rainy night. An amateur poet and hymn-writer (his hymns include Before the Lord We Bow and Lord With Glowing Heart I'd Praise Thee), he began a commemorative poem, which he called The Defence of Fort M'Henry, on the back of an old letter.

Finishing the four stanzas of the poem in a Baltimore hotel, he gave it to his brother-in-law to take to a printer who produced handbills of it. Two Baltimore newspapers, the Patriot and the American, published The Defence of Fort M'Henry anonymously on September 20, noting that the words fit the tune To Anacreon in Heaven. Soon it appeared in other newspapers around the country, with its new title, The Star-Spangled Banner . Ferdinand Durang, a Baltimore actor, sang the song publicly at Captain McCauley's tavern that October. Carr's Music Store of Baltimore was able to offer The Star-Spangled Banner in their 1814 catalog.

4 posted on 07/04/2003 5:26:22 PM PDT by frithguild
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To: PeterPrinciple
you see that fort right over there -- Fort Henry?"

The story was fascinating, but the mention of Fort Henry caused me to question the validity of the story. The Fort that the British were to demolish that night was Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland.

5 posted on 07/04/2003 5:36:47 PM PDT by MosesKnows
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To: PeterPrinciple
I don't know if the story is true or not; don't really care, either. What I DO care about is how The National Anthem is sung! Makes me furious to hear it sung "soul" style, like a luuuuv song (you know, the slow, sexy stuff), or any OTHER way that's "interpretative". Just give me a good Marine band to play/sing it and everyone else sit down and SHUT UP!
6 posted on 07/04/2003 5:59:24 PM PDT by Maria S
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To: PeterPrinciple
7 posted on 07/04/2003 7:20:28 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: AnAmericanMother
8 posted on 07/04/2003 7:34:10 PM PDT by GOPJ
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To: Maria S
Yeah I hate that crap too.
9 posted on 07/04/2003 10:12:37 PM PDT by noutopia
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To: Maria S
Yes. Singers who call attention to themselves by drowning the National Anthem in endless gratuitous melismata induce projectile vomiting on my part.

I will say, though, that there's one "interpretation" that always moved me to tears. Channel 4 in OKC, at the time WKY-TV, some years back played a version of the Anthem at sign off with images of the history of our country displayed as the song was played. They went through it twice, and on the second verse, they altered the usual chord progression--as the altered chords played, images were displayed of Teapot Dome, Watergate, and the like, returning to triumphant images and the normal chords for the close.

Let's see if I can remember the changes, which occurred in the section between the "rockets' red glare" and "that our flag was still there"...I'll use first verse lyrics and presume the key of Bb.

And the rockets' red glare
        Bb           Gm7
The bombs bursting in air
          Cm          AbM7
Gave proof through the night
     Gm                Dm  F
That our flag was still there
         Bb   Gm  C7    F

10 posted on 07/04/2003 10:33:06 PM PDT by jejones
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