To the editor:
Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, I was pleased with the attention the Daily Journal has drawn to Francis Scott Key, Fort McHenry, and the Star-Spangled Banner (“Celebrate Flag Day by singing national anthem,” June 12).
By encouraging the singing of the anthem on Flag Day, June 14, the National Museum of American History’s “Raise It Up! Anthem for America” event has taken on an important activity that has as much to do with reaching the high points in history as it does the high notes of the anthem.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” speaks of struggle, commitment and determination by those who defended not just a city but also our nation at the Battle of Baltimore. It was a critical military victory, which is still commemorated annually through the observance of Defender’s Day, Sept. 14, in Baltimore.
As the story goes, at first light on Sept.13, 1814, British war ships began firing bombs, rockets and cannonballs at Fort McHenry. Above the star-shaped fort flew our nation’s flag, its 15 “broad stripes and bright stars,” waving proud in defiance.
As lightning flashed and rain fell, the British bombarded the fort, firing 1,500 to 1,800 rounds. For some 25 hours, the 1,000 patriot-defenders fired back with their cannons. On the morning of Sept. 14, realizing their attack had failed, the British sailed down river. The Battle of Baltimore was over.
It has been said that the War of 1812 “forged our national character and demonstrated that Americans would unite not only to win liberty but to keep it.” As we strain on the anthem’s high notes and struggle for the low ones, we ought to be mindful of our patriots’ great struggles for freedom, yesterday and today.
The courage Key witnessed that night inspired him to write the words we sing today as our national anthem. It is that courage, that character, which makes us unique. It is what has given us the bounty that is America and truly made us the land of the free and the home of the brave.