On Sept. 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key peered through clearing smoke to see an enormous flag flying proudly after a 25-hour British bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry. Key was inspired to write a poem, which was later set to music. Even before "The Star-Spangled Banner" became our national anthem, it helped transform the garrison flag with the same name into a major national symbol of patriotism and identity. The flag has had a colorful history, from its origins in a government contract through its sojourn with several generations of a Baltimore family to its eventual donation to the Smithsonian Institution.


U.S. National Anthem "The Star Spangled Banner"

Composed by John Stafford Smith - lyrics Francis Scott Key


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 thru 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 of of their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave'
From the terror of flight and 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.


The following stanza was written by George Spowers around 1824 in an attempt to redress the balance of the anti-British sentiment in Key's third verse. However, it was also considered to drag the National Anthem into unnecessary politics, and is rarely sung.


But hush'd be that strain! They our Foes are no longer;
Lo Britain the right hand of Friendship extends,
And Albion's fair Isle we behold with affection
The land of our Fathers - the land of our Friends!
Long, long may we flourish,
Columbia and Britain,
In amity still may your children be found,
And the Star-Spangled Banner and Red Cross together
Wave free and triumphant the wide world around!

Probably the best known additional stanza was written by Oliver-Wendell Holmes during the Civil War, and was intended to decry treasonable acts against the US flag.


When our land is illumined with liberty's smile,
If a foe from within strikes a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that tries to defile
The flag of the stars, and the page of her story!
By the millions unchained,
Who their birthright have gained
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave,
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.







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This page was updated: Saturday, 27-Jun-2009 21:33:44 CDT

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