The Flag Still Flies

The flag that flew above Ft McHenry on Sept. 14, 1812 - the flag that Francis Scott Key saw that inspire the song that has become our National Anthem

The flag that flew above Ft McHenry on Sept. 14, 1812 – the flag that Francis Scott Key saw that inspire the song that has become our National Anthem

It was a desperate time for our young country as only 36 years after gaining our independence, we were once again at war with the British.  For two more years we battled  with our enemy from overseas, only this time, the fledgling country of the United States saw very few victories.  Yet, under the leadership of President James Madison, the citizens of the United States refused to give up and still proudly waved their red, white, and blue flag.

By September of 1814, with the smoke still rising from the ashes of  the defeated Washington in plain view, the nation’s third largest city, Baltimore, stood ready for battle as the great British armada, 50 ships strong, lay off their coast.  The only thing that stood between the British and the annihilation of Baltimore (and quite likely followed by the total destruction of our young country) was Fort McHenry, commanded by Major General George Armistead and his 1,000 fighting men.

While the British armada stood poised to attack and an army that had destroyed the city of Washington marched towards Baltimore, a young lawyer, by the name of Francis Scott Key, sailed under the flag of truce  to meet with the British to negotiate the release of his friend, Dr. William Beanes.  However, after the negotiations had completed, because  Key had seen the plans for the massive attack on Fort McHenry, the British commander would not let them leave.  They would have to stay on their ship and watch helplessly as the British lay siege to Fort McHenry and then Baltimore.

In the early hours of September 13, 1814, the massive attack on Fort McHenry began.  Over the course of the next 25 hours, canons and rockets were fired on Fort McHenry.   During the twilight of that evening, Key and his shipmates took what they feared to be one last glimpse of their country’s flag flying over the fort.  Surely, they feared,  by the time the early lights of dawn would peak through the clouds, there would be no flag.

The British bombardment pounded Ft McHenry all night.  Bomb after bomb, rocket after rocket, lit the sky in its fiery explosion.   In the natural realm of things, there was no hope for an American victory.  But Francis Scott Key, continued to pace the deck of his ship, praying for God’s protection over the city of Baltimore and the United States of America.  As he prayed, he continued to peer in faith into the night sky towards Ft McHenry.  Throughout the night, he would watch and pray and then utter words of gratefulness each time the night sky lit up in a red glare from the rockets and bombs around the fort and he saw the American flag still proudly waving in the midst of certain defeat.  As fearful as those hours were, the very weapons that were being used in an attempt to destroy Ft. McHenry also gave Key hope because the light of those rockets and bombs bursting in the air gave him proof through the night that the flag was still there.  There was still hope.

Finally, after 25 hours of constant attacks that humanly speaking no one could have survived, at 7:30 in the morning, on September 14, 1814, the air grew silent.  The bombs had stopped.  The fighting was over.  Francis Scott Key must have fallen on his knees in weeping and sorrow as he saw the British Armada moving away in what he knew had to be victory for them.  The sun had not yet risen and all Key could see was smoke and debris from the incredible onslaught that British had displayed.

As the first beam of lights began to become visible, hoping beyond hope, Key peered through a small telescope towards Baltimore.  In his mind, he knew that it was impossible that he would still see his country’s flag flying over the fort, but in his heart, he still believed that the cause that his country was fighting for was a just cause and that God would honor it.  But even in his faith, he was not prepared for the sight that greeted his eyes that morning.  The flag that he had seen glimpses of all night was no longer there, but in its place, a massive 30’ x 42’ flag proudly displaying the stars and stripes flew in its place.

In a moment of sheer joy and overwhelming emotion, Key pointed towards the shore and announced to the people on his ship, “Tis the star-spangled banner, O long may it wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

A few days later, Francis Scott Key, the lawyer from Georgetown, penned the words to this poem that he entitled “The Battle of Fort McHenry.”

The greatest, most inspiring performance o the National Anthem I have ever witnessed

The greatest, most inspiring performance o the National Anthem I have ever witnessed

click on the image to hear Whitney Houston’s rendition of the National Anthem

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 thru 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 through 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?

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! Oh 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!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory 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!

 

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