Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key  achieved immortality by penning the Star Spangled Banner.    Key watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry on September 13-14, 1814 aboard the HMS Tonnant, held by the British after his successful mission to negotiate a prisoner release.  Key was moved by the successful defense of Fort McHenry and wrote a poem entitled The Defense of Fort McHenry which soon became immortal as the song The Star Spangled Banner.

Although it may seem an odd combination, Key was extremely religious while also being one of the ablest attorneys of his day.  He was Vice President of the American Bible Society from 1817 until his death in 1843.    Among many notable cases, he defended Sam Houston when he was accused of assaulting a Congressman and prosecuted an unsuccessful assassin of President Jackson.  He served as the District Attorney for the District of Columbia for many years.  In a cruel historical irony, a grandson of Key’s, Francis Key Howard, a pro-Southern newspaper editor in Baltimore, was imprisoned in Fort McHenry by the Union during the Civil War.

In regard to the Star Spangled Banner, it is often assailed by critics as unsingable, too war-like and on other grounds.  I love it and I am proud that it is our National Anthem. 

The Onion has a spoof about undiscovered verses of the Star Spangled Banner that may be viewed here .  Strong content advisory.  My sense of humor is quirky enough that I enjoyed the spoof, but I think most people would be greatly offended by it.  You have been warned!

O! 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 through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs 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 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, O! 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 their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and 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 and the home of the brave.

O! 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


Published in: on November 17, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
Tags: ,


  1. Thank you again for another great entry. As a military man, these stanzas are near and dear to me. Thank you for publishing the history behind it as well.

  2. Thank you hemlock. A great rendition of the national anthem can almost bring me to tears.

  3. I like America the Beautiful better. For one thing it is not strictly military(and it is rather embarrassing to sing about a fairly routine and undramatic military event by contemporary European standards). I do not say this from an chic anti-military standpoint, but because I think America is not Sparta or Prussia and that a country must glorify it’s non-warlike accomplishments as well.

    America the Beautiful has a beautiful tune. Check. It glorifies America’s beautiful country. Check. It glorifies Americas diligence and work ethic indirectly(alabaster cities and amber waves of grain), and her pioneer spirit(pilgrim feet whose stern impassioned stress), her political skill and aspiration towards justice(Thy liberty in law). It acknowledges that a true patriot accepts his country’s frailty without losing love on one hand or blinding himself on the other(God mend thine every flaw).

    And America the Beautiful does give due credit to Americas soldiers(heroes proved in liberating strife). However by putting it in the context of other things about America it manages to glorify the thing fought for more then the fighting which is a proper attitude.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: