The History of the Star-Spangled Banner for Kids: Francis Scott Key and Fort McHenry – FreeSchool


You’re watching FreeSchool! The Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem
of the United States of America. This familiar song has a long and interesting history, dating
back more than two hundred years to September of 1814. The new United States of America,
barely more than twenty years old, was at war once more with Great Britain in a war called
simply ‘The War of 1812.’ War had been raging for more than a year and a half when a young
American lawyer named Francis Scott Key was sent to a British ship, the HMS Minden, to
negotiate the release of some American prisoners. The negotiations took a long time, and because
Key had heard the British planning an attack on Baltimore, Maryland, they wouldn’t let
him go until after the battle. On September 13th, 1814, the British attacked Fort McHenry
as Francis Scott Key watched anxiously from a ship a few miles away. The battle was so fierce that Key was worried
that the British would win. As the sun set, the sky turned red, giving a last glimpse
of the American flag as the battle continued into the darkness. The fight raged on all
through the rainy night, but once the “rocket’s red glare” and “bombs bursting in air” stopped,
Francis Scott Key could no longer see which flag was flying above the fort. It wasn’t
until morning, as the early light of dawn revealed the aftermath, that he could see
that the American flag still flew, meaning that they had not been defeated. Key was so inspired that the next day he wrote
a poem on the back of a letter he had in his pocket, and on September 16th he was released
in Baltimore, where he completed his poem. It was originally titled “Defence of Fort
M’Henry” and was printed in newspapers from Georgia to New Hampshire. The poem was set to music, and various versions
became popular, but it wasn’t until 1889 that the song was first adopted for official use
by the Navy. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that the Star-Spangled Banner should
be played at military occasions, and President Herbert Hoover signed the bill that officially
adopted it as the national anthem on March 4, 1931. Although the song has four verses, most Americans
today are only familiar with the first verse of the Star-Spangled Banner, which is sung
everywhere from baseball games to firework displays and fourth of July celebrations. I hope you enjoyed learning about The Star
Spangled Banner. Goodbye till next time!

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