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History of the Star Spangled Banner

James Madison


History of the Star Spangled Banner:
James Madison was the 4th American President who served in office from March 4, 1809 to March 4, 1817. One of the events during his presidency was the composition of a poem called the Star Spangled Banner which was destined to find a place in American History as the National Anthem of the United States.

Definition and Summary of the History of the Star Spangled Banner
Summary and definition:
The Star Spangled Banner History was a poem written Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) during the War of 1812 (aka the 'Second War for Independence') which was an armed conflict between the United States of America and Great Britain.

Star Spangled Banner History for kids
Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the poem he called the 'Star Spangled Banner' when he was detained by the British and had watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore on the night of September 13-14, 1814.

The Star Spangled Banner History for kids: The History and Cause of the War of 1812
The War of 1812 was yet another conflict with the British, famously called the 'Second War for Independence' that lasted for 2 years 8 months. The cause of the War of 1812 were the actions of the British towards the United States during the Napoleonic Wars against France (
18031815). The British had disturbed US commerce by stationing British warships off principal ports, had refused to permit trade between the US and Europe and had Impressed (kidnapped)  American seamen.

Facts about the Star Spangled Banner History for kids
Interesting History Facts about the Star Spangled Banner History are as follows. The Star Spangled Banner History is told in a series of facts providing a simple method of relating the events that led to Francis Scott Lee writing the poem he called the 'Star Spangled Banner'. The facts answer the questions of why the flag that was to become known as the Star Spangled Banner was made, who made the flag, the size and weight of the flag and who made the flag. Also refer to the
Meaning and Lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner.

During the War of 1812 in addition to the British operations on the Canadian frontier, the British tried to capture New Orleans and the cities on Chesapeake Bay.

On August 24, 1814 the British had entered Washington where they burned the Capitol, the White House, and several other public buildings.

The Burning of Washington DC stirred the highly patriotic feelings of outraged Americans including Francis Scott Key and these dramatic events were no doubt in his mind when he wrote the Star Spangled Banner

Francis Scott Key was a lawyer who owned a law practice in Georgetown, a suburb of Washington, D.C.

Francis Scott Key had appeared many times before the Supreme Court, and had been appointed the United States District Attorney.

On August 24, 1814, Dr. William Beanes, a prominent US physician was taken prisoner by the British

Lawyer Francis Scott Key was asked to help to get Dr. Beanes released.

Baltimore, located in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, was a key British target during the War of 1812.

The British were in the Chesapeake Bay, and Francis Scott Key left for Baltimore where he met with Colonel John Skinner, a government agent who arranged for prisoner exchanges.

On September 5, Francis Scott Key and Colonel Skinner boarded a small American flag-of-truce ship to meet the British naval officers on the British flagship, HMS Tonnant.

The negotiations were cordial and the British agreed to release Dr. Beanes but Francis Scott Key and Colonel Skinner were not permitted to return to Baltimore until after the intended bombardment of Fort McHenry, which was located in the outer harbor of Baltimore.

The Americans were transferred from HMS Tonnant back on to the American flag-of-truce ship to wait behind the British naval fleet.

Important George Armistead (1780 1818) was the commander of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812.

When Important Armistead arrived at Fort McHenry, to prepare for the eventual attack by the British fleet, he ordered the hoisting of "a flag so large that the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance".

Important Armistead commissioned a local Baltimore flag maker called Mary Pickersgill (1776-1857) to make two flags, "one American ensign, 30 X 42 feet, first quality bunting" and another flag 17 by 25 feet."

The job was too large for one person to complete so Mary Pickersgill enlisted the help of seamstresses including her mother, Rebecca Young, her daughter, Caroline, her 2 nieces, Eliza Young and Margaret Young and a free African American apprentice seamstress called Grace Wisher

The large flag weighed about 50 pounds (23 kg) and measured 42 x 30 and contained over 400 yards (366 meters) of cloth, and included 15 stripes and 15 stars, one for each of the 15 states of the union.

The stripes and the blue canton were of made of English wool and the stars were made of cotton.

Each of the stars on the flag measured 24 inches (60 cm) across and each stripe was two feet (60 cm) wide.

The flag took six weeks to make and was delivered to Important Armistead on October 27, 1813

A receipt for $405.90 was given to Mary Pickersgill for the large flag. Another receipt for $168.54 was provided for the smaller storm flag

The enormous American flag was raised over Fort Henry in clement weather and could be seen from a distance of several miles

On September 13, 1814 the British fleet attempted to sail around Fort McHenry en route to Baltimore.

The Battle of Baltimore commenced and American troops fired the cannons of Fort Henry hoping to halt the British advance

The British cannons returned the fire and pounded Fort Henry until 7:30 on the second morning of the engagement on September 14, 1814. The British fired 1,800 shells at Fort McHenry during the 24 hour conflict, of which about 400 landed inside the defensive perimeter

Fire was exchanged at the Battle of Baltimore for a total of 25 hours. Given the force of the British navy, Francis Scott Key was half expecting a British victory. The British guns were much bigger than the Americans and they were able to attack without getting hit back. From his position, behind the British fleet, he had not idea of the outcome of the Battle of Baltimore...

Francis Scott Key looked towards Fort Henry in the early morning light of September 14, 1814 and saw not the Union Jack flying over the fort, but the American flag flying proudly in the wind. The enormous US flag announced the American victory at the Battle of Baltimore

The British, unable to destroy Fort Henry, had made the decision to leave

Francis Scott Key returned to Fort Henry and was inspired to write the poem "The Star Spangled Banner"

The patriotic words of his poem "The Defence of Fort McHenry" which would become known as "The Star Spangled Banner" were read by his brother-in-law, Judge Joseph H. Nicholson, a commander of a militia at Fort McHenry who immediately arranged for the poem to be distributed as a handbill

The Baltimore Patriot newspaper soon printed the poem, and within weeks, Francis Scott Key's poem, now called "The Star-Spangled Banner," appeared in print across the country.

Francis Scott Key later explained that the Star Spangled Banner poem "...was the first time that someone had put down in words their feelings about their country and the flag"

The War of 1812 resulted in a stalemate but the Battle of Baltimore were immortalized in the words of the "The Star-Spangled Banner" and forever gave this special name to the flag it celebrated.

"The Star-Spangled Banner" poem was put to the music of a British drinking song called "To Anacreon in Heaven."

On October 17, 1814 it was announced that after a play at the Baltimore Theatre that "Mr. Hardinge will sing a much admired new song, written by a gentleman of Maryland, in commemoration of the gallant defence of Fort McHenry, called The Star Spangled Banner."

On March 3, 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed an act into law that made "The Star Spangled Banner" the national anthem of the United States of America.

1845: The patriotic fervor of Americans led to the belief in the Manifest Destiny of the United States

US American History
1801-1828: Evolution Era

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