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Who Is That Man, Anyway?
Subject: Francis Scott Key
( M & 36th )
Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) was a DC attorney, living in Georgetown at the time of the War of 1812. He was an active member of the parish of St. John's Episcopal Church and sang in the choir there. During the War of 1812, his friend William Beanes was captured and imprisoned by the British. Key was sent by the U.S. government to Ft. McHenry, Maryland, to negotiate for Beanes's release. The British agreed to release Beanes but required both men to stay aboard their ship, being towed by a British warship, to prevent them from giving away information of the planned British invasion.
As the battle commenced, Key noticed a huge flag being flown over the fort. The fighting continued for 24 hours throughout the night of September 13 and into the night of September 14. In the dark, Key was unable to determine the outcome of the shelling. At dawn, he was relieved to find the flag still flying above the fort, indicating an American victory.
Key was inspired to write a poem he called "The Defense Of Fort McHenry" which was set to the music of a popular song "To Anacreon In Heaven". The song was adopted by the Union Army during the Civil War and, renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner", became the official anthem of the United States in 1931. The flag that flew over Fort McHenry is now the property of the Smithsonian Institution and is being restored at the Museum of American History.
Photos and text copyright © 2001 Jean K. Rosales and Michael R. Jobe, All Rights Reserved
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