While the Land of the Free is the home of the brave (video)

While the Land of the Free is the home of the brave (video)

The Star Spangled Banner was adopted as our National Anthem in 1931. The lyrics come from a poem titled “Defence of Fort McHenry”, written in 1814 by a 35-year-old lawyer, Francis Scott Key.

You’re familiar with the song — at least with the first verse. Key penned four stanzas, and a fifth was written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. in 1861. However, many may not be familiar with how our Anthem came to be, and why a lawyer wrote it.

After the Burning of Washington and the Raid on Alexandria, Key was sent to negotiate for the release of prisoners held captive on British boats just offshore. He successfully did so by arranging a one-for-one swap with Major General Robert Ross and Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane. However, that was the night the British had decided to end the War by making an example of one particular fort: Fort McHenry.

Key objected, explaining that Fort McHenry was predominantly NOT a military fort, and contained many women and children. Undaunted, the British countered that they’d offered the Colonists a way out: surrender and subject themselves to British rule. To signify this, they were to simply lower the flag, and the British would cease their barrage.

That evening, hundreds of British ships opened fire on Fort McHenry. The sun set, but by the red glare of the exploding munitions, all could see that flag was still there. Hour after hour passed.

The British changed their attack to target the flag flying defiantly over the rampart. If the Colonists weren’t willing to lower the flag, the British would take it down by force.

In the morning’s first light, a tattered flag still waved — though the pole stood at an awkward angle. Later it was discovered why the pole was leaning. Through the night the British had knocked the flag down — repeatedly. Men rushed to it, standing it back up and holding the pole in place with their hands so our flag could continue to fly. As the attack continued, they held the flag up — until they died. Their bodies were reverently removed, and others took their place holding our flag aloft, until no more remained to remove the fallen and replace them. Key later said that what held that flag pole at that strange angle were the bodies of fallen Patriots.

Based on his experience that night, Key penned the poem that later became our National Anthem.


  
Oh say can you see through by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming
Whose bright stars and broad stripes, through the clouds of the fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bomb 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 & 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 & the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war & the battle’s confusion
A home & a Country should leave us no more ?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling & 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 & the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freeman shall stand
Between their lov’d home & the war’s desolation
Blest with vict’ry & peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made & preserv’d us as 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 & the home of the brave.

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.