Updated: Aug 5, 2019
The Star Spangled Banner was gigantic flag measuring 30-feet by 42-feet. It was ordered by Major George Armistead, commander of Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812. Armistead wanted a flag so large, the British would be able to see it from afar. It was delivered on August 19, 1813.
In September of 1814, Francis Scott Key, a young American lawyer, boarded a British flagship to persuade the British to release a friend they had recently captured. While he was there, on September 13, he watched the barrage of gunfire and rockets the British released on Fort McHenry. The bombardment lasted 25 hours and Key was convinced it was an American defeat.
But as the smoke cleared and the sun rose, he looked and saw the giant flag, the Star Spangled Banner, flying high over the Fort. It was declaring an American victory!
It was a fateful moment in the annals of American history, forever memorialized in Key's song. [Image: Star Spangled Banner, NMAH, Smithsonian Institution Archives].
Listen to Renald Werrenrath sing it here: (click play)
The Star Spangled Banner
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 rockets' 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 Heav'n 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!