Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland
September 13–14, 1814
During the War of 1812, on the night of September 13–14, 1814, Fort McHenry successfully defended Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British navy, which shelled the fort from Chesapeake Bay.
The heavy bombardment, by 19 British warships, lasted 25 hours, under heavy rain.
Because of the obstinate, aggressive, accurate return fire from Fort McHenry, the British navy was not able to enter Baltimore Harbor, and the British attack failed.
On the morning of September 14, the tattered “Star Spangled Banner” was still flying over the ramparts of Fort McHenry.
Everyone could see that Fort McHenry was still strong and defiant. The British had to turn back from their plan to take Baltimore.
During the night bombardment by the British navy, a 17 by 25 foot American flag had flown over Fort McHenry.
In the early morning of September 14, 1814, the flag was replaced by an even larger 30 by 42 foot flag, signaling that “our flag was still there.”
In spite of the heavy naval bombardment of the night before, the soldiers and gunners of Fort McHenry announced their defiance of the British navy.
With the breaking of dawn, Francis Scott Key, a lawyer from Frederick, Maryland, saw that the flag was still flying over the fort. He was inspired to write the poem he called “Defence of Fort M’Henry.”
His poem was later set to music, and became known as “The Star Spangled Banner.” More than 100 years later, the song was adopted as the national anthem of the United States of America.
By executive order in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson adopted the “The Star Spangled Banner” as the national anthem of the United States.
Fifteen years later, in 1931, a resolution was passed by Congress, and signed by President Herbert Hoover . . . the “Star Spangled Banner” was reaffirmed as the official national anthem of the United States of America.
The original “Star Spangled Banner” is displayed in the National Museum of American History, at the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C.
The original “Star Spangled Banner” has fifteen horizontal red and white stripes, and fifteen white stars in the blue field.
The Flag Act of 1794, passed by Congress, established the practice of adding a star (and a also stripe) as standard procedure when a new state was added to the Union.
The two additional stars and stripes on the original “Star Spangled Banner” represent the entrance of Vermont, on March 4, 1791, and Kentucky, on June 1, 1792, into the Union.
Fort McHenry was built in 1798 in what is today the Locust Point area of Baltimore, Maryland.
The fort was used continuously by the U.S. armed forces through the First World War, and later by the Coast Guard in the Second World War.
Fort McHenry was designated as a national park in 1925, and was named a “National Monument and Historic Shrine” in 1939.
Soldiers and gunners of Fort McHenry . . . thank you!
Because of you, a lawyer from Maryland wrote a poem, that became the national anthem of the United States of America.