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Last week marked the 200th anniversary of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Here are five things to know about America's national anthem and its birthplace:
WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH BALTIMORE?
Pretty much everything. The War of 1812 lasted 2 and a half years. It was in large part defined by the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814. That's when U.S. commander George Armistead refused to surrender and British troops retreated. American troops then raised the American flag.
Shortly before the attack, the U.S. sent Francis Scott Key to see if he could negotiate the release of American hostages. They were held aboard British naval ships. The British agreed to release the hostages. But Key had to wait until after the bombing of Fort McHenry to return to shore. When the smoke cleared, Key saw the stars and stripes of the U.S. flag. Right there, on Sept. 14, 1814, he wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner." It was soon put to music.
FRANCIS SCOTT OUT-OF-KEY
"The Star-Spangled Banner" is one of the nation's best-known songs. But Key never had written a song. There's a good reason, according to historian Marc Leepson. "He was an amateur poet, but not just any poet he was a bad amateur poet," Leepson said. "And he never wrote a song in his life. Why? His family described him as 'unmusical.' But that probably means tone deaf. There's a good chance the author of our country's most famous song was tone deaf."
SHAKESPEAREAN ROOTS, LASTING LEGACY
The phrase "Star-Spangled" was made famous by Key. But historian Marc Ferris said first references were made much earlier. The great poet William Shakespeare twice used the phrase. But Key did coin one phrase. Ferris said. "In God We Trust" was inspired by a line in "The Star-Spangled Banner's" fourth verse.
Key owned slaves. His descendants were supporters of the Confederacy. But during the Civil War, 46 years after the War of 1812 was won and 18 years after Key died, Northern soldiers adopted "The Star-Spangled Banner" as their unofficial national anthem.
Key's family never liked the anthem.
A PARTICULARLY PATRIOTIC ANNIVERSARY
This year's anniversary coincides with the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Fort McHenry will host a ceremony that includes raising the national Sept. 11 flag. In 2012, threads from the original flag that soared above Fort McHenry in 1814 were sewn onto a patch. Now it's attached to the national Sept. 11 flag.