Front Matter Leif, the Lucky Spaniards Conquer Mexico Conquest of Peru The Fountain of Youth De Soto and the Mississippi Sir Walter Raleigh The Lost Colony Adventures of John Smith More about John Smith Pilgrims and Puritans Miles Standish Building a Canoe Roger Williams Old Silver Leg William Penn The Charter Oak Bloody Marsh Saving of Hadley Sir William Phips Hannah Dustin Israel Putnam A Young Surveyor Young Washington Indians and Major Putnam How Detroit was Saved Acadia Blackbeard the Pirate Daniel Boone Sunday in the Colonies The Salem Witches Traveling by Stage-coach King George and the Colonies Patrick Henry Paul Revere Green Mountain Boys Father of his Country Nathan Hale Elizabeth Zane Capturing the Hessians Lafayette Comes to America Lydia Darrah Captain Molly Pitcher The Swamp Fox Outwitting a Tory Supporting the Colors Nancy Hart Mad Anthony Execution of Major Andre How Schuyler was Saved An Indian Trick Winning the Northwest Benjamin Franklin Nolichucky Jack Eli Whitney Thomas Jefferson Burning of the Philadelphia Lewis and Clark Colter's Race for Life Pike Explores Arkansas Valley How Pumpkins Saved a Family Old Ironsides Tecumseh Star Spangled Banner Traveling by Canal Lafayette Returns Osceola, Seminole Chief Journey by Railroad Old Hickory Daniel Webster Henry Clay Plantation Christmas John C. Calhoun Heroes of the Alamo Freedom for Texas Electric Telegraph Gold in California Crossing Continent The Pony Express Boy Who Saved Village Rescue of Jerry Abraham Lincoln Robert E. Lee Stonewall Jackson Stealing a Locomotive Sam Davis Escape from Prison Running the Blockade Heart of the South Surrender of Lee Laying the Atlantic Cable The Telephone Thomas A. Edison Clara Barton Hobson and the Merrimac Dewey at Manila Bay Conquering Yellow Fever Sinking of Lusitania Private Treptow Frank Luke, Aviator Sergeant York

America First - Lawton Evans

The Star-Spangled Banner

During the War of 1812, the British fleet blockaded our ports and sailed up our rivers to attack our cities and forts. Thus, they entered the Chesapeake Bay, and landed troops outside Washington City.

A battle was fought near there, but the British were not stopped from pursuing their way to the capital. The city was in great danger and the people hastened to gather their possessions and made their escape. There were only eight thousand inhabitants in Washington at that time. It was a small town, as compared with its great size and splendor, to-day.

A messenger rode in haste to bid the people flee. He came to the White House, where Dolly Madison, the wife of President James Madison, was waiting for her husband. He called out to her, "Mr. Madison says go, or the house will be burned over your head. The British are on the way to the capital. There is no time to lose. Escape as quickly as you can."

Dolly Madison did not go at once, but set about gathering the Cabinet papers, and the Declaration of Independence, which she made a servant pack in a trunk. Then she ordered a large portrait of Washington to be cut out of its frame, and rolled up so she could take that too. Having done these things, she escaped with her treasures, just as the British were entering the city.

The soldiers marched into the deserted town, and burned the Treasury Building, the Public Library, and the White House. A notorious officer, named Cockburn, followed by a mob of soldiers, entered the new Capitol, climbed into the Speaker's chair, and called out: "Shall this harbor of Yankee Democracy be burned?"

The mob of half-drunken soldiers called out, "Aye," and proceeded to apply the torch to the building.

Dolly Madison found refuge with her friends in the country. When she and the President returned to Washington, they had to live in a rented house. About three weeks after the burning of the city, the British began to attack Fort McHenry, which was built to protect the harbor of Baltimore. One evening, the British sent two bomb vessels, and a number of barges, filled with soldiers, to pass the fort and assail it in the rear.

But the noise of their oars was heard in the darkness, and an order was given to open fire on them. A deadly discharge was poured out from Fort McHenry upon the creeping craft, with the result that nearly all of them were sent to the bottom.

The English suffered so much from this repulse that they abandoned the attack and sailed away.

During the bombardment, Francis Scott Key, a young lawyer, was sent, under a flag of truce, to convey a message to the British fleet. His purpose was to secure the release of several prisoners.

After delivering his message, Key and his party were on the point of departure, when an officer said,

"Mr. Key, I have orders to detain you and your party until the bombardment is over. You will, therefore, remain here."

Key did not like to be held, but there was no help for it. So he and his associates were kept in a little vessel moored to the side of an English ship, under guard of a body of soldiers. Here, on the deck, they witnessed the bombardment of the fort.

All night long the shells were fired. Key watched each one as it fell upon the fort, and listened for each explosion. Suddenly, before the morning dawned, the firing ceased.

"Has the fort surrendered, or have the British abandoned the attack?" was the anxious thought in the minds of the weary watchers.

There was no way to find out until day came. "If the flag is still flying, then the fort has not surrendered," said Key to his companions. Anxiously they paced the deck.

As day dawned, they turned their glasses toward the fort, and, to their great joy, they saw the flag was still there. Key was overcome with emotion. Drawing a letter from his pocket, he wrote on the back of it the opening lines of our national song, "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Later in the day, a small boat took him back to Baltimore. On his way he completed the poem. That very night, he corrected it, and wrote it out as we now have it. The next day, he showed the poem to a friend of his, who was so pleased that he had it printed in a Baltimore paper.

When the words appeared, they were eagerly memorized by an actor, named Charles Durang, who stood on a chair and, for the first time, sang them to a crowd. Then, everybody joined in. Soon the piece was being sung all over the country. It is our great national song, and whenever it is played or sung, we rise reverently and uncover our heads, proud of our great flag and of the deeds of valor it has encouraged.