Do you know the Star-Spangled Banner? Francis Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner while watching the bombardment of an American fort from the deck of a British ship. But his family claimed he was unmusical (AP photos)
Do you know the Star-Spangled Banner?
Lexile

Assign to Google Classroom

Last week marked the 200th anniversary of "The Star-Spangled Banner." It was written in Baltimore, Maryland. The city pulled out all the stops. There were fireworks, historical reenactments and live performances.

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 was in large part defined by the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814. This battle marked a turning point in the United States' war with England. America turned away the British forces despite the heavy bombardment of Fort McHenry. After U.S. commander George Armistead refused to surrender, British troops retreated. That's when American troops raised the American flag.

Shortly before the attack began, the U.S. sent a young attorney (and amateur poet) named Francis Scott Key to negotiate the release of American hostages. They were held aboard British naval ships. The British agreed to release the hostages. But Key and the others 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 garrison flag. Right there, on Sept. 14, 1814, he wrote the verses of "The Star-Spangled Banner." It was soon put to music. The tune was borrowed from a British anthem.

FRANCIS SCOTT OUT-OF-KEY

"The Star-Spangled Banner" is one of the nation's best-known songs. It's belted out with more frequency and greater gusto than any other in American history except, maybe, "Happy Birthday." 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 through Key's text. But historian Marc Ferris said first references in literature were made much earlier. William Shakespeare twice used the turn of phrase. It was included in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" ("by spangled star-light sheen") and again in "The Taming of the Shrew" ("what stars do spangle heaven with such beauty").

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.

HOW EMBARRASSING

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 members denounced the "Star-Spangled Banner."

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. It's a patchwork stitched onto the flag that flew above the the site of the World Trade Center attacks. In June 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.

Critical thinking challenge: Francis Scott Key coined a phrase that appears on U.S. currency but does it appear on a coin?

Filed Under:  
Assigned 340 times


COMMENTS (52)
  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    9/15/2014 - 09:54 p.m.

    I read about this in a Student News Daily Article. In one of the questions, you had to write the lyrics to the Star-Spangled Banner. It is amazing because 200 years already passed, Francis Scott Key persuaded the British to release American hostages, and when the general refused to surrender, the British suddenly left Fort McHenry. I wonder why the British left suddenly. I think this is because they do not want to be embarrassed by another defeat.
    Critical Thinking Challenge: Francis Scott Key coined a phrase that appears on U.S. currency but does it appear on a coin?
    Answer: I think so because just like a dollar, there is an eagle on the back and on the back of quarters, there is an eagle that looks like the same eagle.

  • ma2000dragonball
    9/16/2014 - 01:07 p.m.

    I think it is not not placed on currency because so they have a lot more space for other desigs that the usa hase. I think they did this because the coin is more recognizable then the dollar bill, so the star spangled banner is one of the mostn recognizable songs in america

  • Zachary658
    9/17/2014 - 11:52 a.m.

    I think that every one should know the stare spangled banner. But dose every body know it because people mess up in the song.

  • km1999bieber
    9/17/2014 - 01:05 p.m.

    The words "in god we trust" are printed on currency but they are not put on any coins. probably because of the size of the coins and the space on them.

  • 22103
    9/17/2014 - 01:34 p.m.

    A few days ago America celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of the star spangled banner. The celebration took place in very place that it was written, Baltimore. A good thing about this is that the nation is able to celebrate this song four hundred years after it was written, without it ever being replaced. I dont know of anything that is bad about this. It's also very interesting that a bad amature poet managed to write the anthem that represents this nation in one night during a battle.

  • lizette427
    9/17/2014 - 01:41 p.m.

    I think it is really cool that they wrote the Star Spangle Banner at the same time when a war was going on.It is also pretty neat that in the song it was describing the war and what was happening.

  • KiraWvA-4
    9/18/2014 - 09:31 p.m.

    Francis Scott Key's famous song celebrated its 200th anniversary this year. It was written on September 14, 1814, shortly after the Battle of Baltimore. This battle was a turning point in the Revolutionary War, as it began to become clear that the Americans were close to victory. Key was an attorney, sent to negotiate the release of some American hostages. As he watched the smoke clear from the battle, he thought up the four stanza poem, which was soon set to the tune of a British anthem-even though he was frowned upon as an amateur poet and completely tone deaf. Baltimore, Massachusetts has thrown a huge celebration to mark the day, which also marks the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I liked this article because it was chock full of trivia and things I have never learned about the national anthem.

  • BrooklynW-Moo
    9/19/2014 - 10:35 a.m.

    Francis Scott Key coined a phrase that appears on U.S. currency but does it appear on a coin? Well... the term, "In God We Trust," Is written on most to all U.S. currency. It is on coins along with the word liberty.

  • brownz37166
    9/19/2014 - 03:36 p.m.

    Yes, i know the star spangled banner. We was taught this song when we first started school as little kids. Everyone in America should know this song.

  • justinf-Koc
    9/21/2014 - 12:59 p.m.

    "The Star-Spangled Banner" is one of the nation's best-known songs. Also, I love to learn about history. This is one of the best historical wars I have ever learned about. "The Star-Spangled Banner" is the best song besides the pledge of alligence. The bravery at that fort will never be forgotten.

Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Leave a comment