Star Spangled Banner




Presented By:  Vi MacDonald

Our National Anthem



“The Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States of America.  The lyrics came from “Defense of Fort McHenry”, a poem written in 1814 by a 35 year-old lawyer and poet, Francis Scott Key, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships in Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812.


September 3, 1814, after the burning of the White House in Washington and a raid on Alexandria, Francis Scott Key and John Skinner sailed from Baltimore on the ship HMS Minder, flying a flag of truce.  They were on a mission approved by President James Madison to exchange prisoners.  September 7 Key and Skinner boarded the British flagship HMS Tonnant.  They dined with Major General Ross and Vice Admiral Cochran.  They overheard the two officers discussing war plans for the attack on Baltimore.  Because they heard these plans they were held captive until after the battle.

During the rainy night, Key witnessed the bombardment and the fort’s smaller “storm flag” continued to fly, but until the shell and rocket barrage stopped he would not know how the battle ended.  By dawn the storm flag had been lowered and the larger flag had been raised.


Francis Scott Key was inspired by the American victory and the sight of the large American flag flying majestically above the fort.  This flag with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes came to be known as the Star Spangle Banner Flag and is on display at the Smithsonian Institute.

The song was originally called “Defense of Fort McHenry”.  The Star-Spangled Banner was recognized for official use by the Navy in 1889 and by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, and was made the National Anthem of the United States, by law signed on March 3, 1931, by President Herbert Hoover.


The Star-Spangled Banner accompanies most major American functions, and at most sporting events.  It is considered a great honor to be asked to sing our National Anthem at various events.

 Military law requires all vehicles on the installation to stop when the song is played and all individuals outside to stand at attention and face the direction of the music and either salute, in uniform, or place the right hand over the heart.  Recently a law enacted in 2008 permits military veterans to salute out of uniform, except veterans who are Marines.


One especially unusual performance of the song took place on September 12, 2001, after the United States September 11th attacks.  Queen Elizabeth II broke with tradition and allowed the band of the Coldstream Guards to perform the National Anthem at Buckingham Palace, London at the ceremonial changing of the Guard, as a gesture of support for Britain’s ally.


Our National Anthem has been translated into German, Spanish, Latin, French, Samoan, Irish, Hebrew, Yiddish and Navajo and Cherokee.


The Complete National Anthem “Star Spangled Banner”

As written in 1814 by Frances Scott Key


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 home 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!





The Star Spangled Banner 

Remnants of the Original Flag that Inspired—Francis Scott Key to write our National Anthem



Treasured and Preserved

At the Smithsonian Institute

Washington, D.C.