The Story Behind Our National Anthem

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The significance of the Star Spangled Banner in our country’s history cannot be over emphasized. The War of 1812 was against Great Britain and in 1815 it ended in a draw. But there was a time in 1814 after Britain whipped Napoleon and sent many of those seasoned troops to America, that the war looked BLEAK for America.

The Red Coats planned a 3-pronged assault: 1- north - down Lake Champlain toward New York and control New England; 2- south - up the Mississippi, take New Orleans and paralyze the west; and 3- central - head for the mid-Atlantic states and then attack Baltimore, the greatest port south of New York.

British troops arrived for the “central” attack and quickly conquered Washington, D. C. President Madison had to run. The next stop was to conquer Baltimore. On September 12, 1814 the Red Coat Navy arrived to do the job.

Before the battle started Francis Scott Key, a young lawyer, boarded one of the British ships to negotiate the release of William Beanes, an American doctor who had been arrested by the British on trumped-up charges. They agreed to release Beanes, but since Key and Beanes had seen too much concerning the British battle preparations, they were to be held until after Baltimore had been taken.

On September 13th, for 25 hours the British Navy bombarded Fort McHenry with 1,500 shells, weighing 220 lbs each. As the sun disappeared behind the horizon, Key and Beanes saw that the American Flag was still flying. But as night passed their hope was replaced with painful concern. How could anything withstand this overwhelming assault?

As morning neared they each kept asking the other, “Can you see the flag yet?” Finally one of them said, “Yes, our flag is still there.” Fort McHenry had held and the central attack was beaten back. It was a true turning point in the war.

After his release Francis Scott Key wrote a 4 stanza poem entitled, “The Defense Of Fort McHenry”. That poem is our National Anthem.

Here are all 4 verses. Please take a minute to sing them to yourself. Travel back in time and ask God to let your mind see and your heart feel the excitement and joy of that first glimpse of Old Glory in the early morning hours of that September morn in 1814.

Verse 1

Oh! 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 thro’ the night that our flag was still there.

Oh! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Verse 2

On the shore, dimly seen thro’ the mist 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

‘Tis the star-spangled banner. Oh! long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Verse 3

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 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.

Verse 4

Oh! 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 Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, for our cause is just,

And this be our motto--”In God is our trust.”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Mike Sublett is a pastor at Hi-Land Christian Church, 1615 N. Banks St., Pampa, Texas 79065. Email him at pawdad@nts-online.net.

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