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Nazareth Academy Grade School Celebrates The 200th Anniversary of the “Star Spangled Banner”. at our 14th Annual Grandparents’ and Older Friends’ Day.
The 200th Anniversary of the “Star Spangled Banner”
at our 14th Annual
Grandparents’ and Older Friends’ Day
According to popular legend, the first American flag was made by Betsy Ross, a Philadelphia seamstress who was acquainted with George Washington, leader of the Continental Army, and other influential Philadelphians.
In May 1776, General Washington and two representatives from the Continental Congress visited Ross at her upholstery shop and showed her a rough design of the flag.
The first unofficial national flag, called the Grand Union Flag or the Continental Colours, was raised at the behest of General Washington near his headquarters outside Boston, Mass., on Jan. 1, 1776. The flag had 13 alternating red and white horizontal stripes and the British Union Flag in the canton.
Another early flag had a rattlesnake and the motto “Don't Tread on Me.”
The first official national flag, also known as the Stars and Stripes, was approved by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. The banner contained 13 stars, representing the original 13 colonies.
After Vermont and Kentucky were admitted to the Union in 1791 and 1792, two more stars and two more stripes were added in 1795.
In 1812, Mary Pickersgill, one of the best flag makers in Baltimore, received a rush order from Major George Armistead.
Newly installed as commander of Fort McHenry, the Major wanted an enormous 42 by 30 foot banner to be flown over the fort guarding the entrance to Baltimore's waterfront.
When Mary needed a larger floor space for the project, she used the malt house of a local brewery. It took about seven weeks to complete the huge red, white and blue flag.
There was some urgency to Armistead's request. The United States had declared war in June 1812 with Britain and Ireland to settle disputes on the northern and western borders.
The “Star Spangled Banner” poem was inspired by the events of the Battle of Baltimore, one of the key moments in the War of 1812 that took place at Fort McHenry.
The fort was named after early American statesman James McHenry, a Scottish-Irish immigrant, surgeon and soldier. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress from Maryland, a signer of the United States Constitution, and United States Secretary of War from 1796–1800, serving under Presidents George Washington and John Adams.
Fort McHenry was built between 1798 and 1800. The new fort's purpose was to improve the defenses of the increasingly important Port of Baltimore from future enemy attacks.
It was constructed in the form of a five-pointed star surrounded by a dry moat, which would serve as a defense from a land attack. Each point of the structure could provide a crossfire of cannon and small arms fire.
Following their successful campaign against the Americans in Washington DC, British forces under Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane and Major General Robert Ross advanced up the Chesapeake Bay to attack Baltimore, Maryland.
A vital port city, Baltimore was believed by the British to be the base of many of the American privateers that were attacking British ships. To take the city, the British planned a two-prong attack with one ship landing at North Point and advancing overland, while the latter attacked Fort McHenry and the harbor defenses by water.
On September 12, 1814, the day before the planned attack, American attorney Francis Scott Key and John Stuart Skinner set sail from Baltimore aboard the ship HMS Minden, flying a flag of truce on a mission approved by President James Madison.
Their mission was to secure the exchange of prisoners. Francis Scott Key and Skinner boarded the British flagship HMS Tonnant and spoke with Major General Ross and Vice Admiral Cochrane.
During their meeting, Key and Skinner overheard the British officers discussing plans for the attack on Baltimore.
Because the Americans knew when the attack was planned, they were held captive until after the battle.
There were 1,000 American soldiers at Fort McHenry, who were led by Major General Samuel Smith and Major George Armistead. Twenty canon guns were positioned facing the harbor to defend the fort from the British attack. The British fleet consisted of 19 ships and 5,000 soldiers.Fortunately, the British ships were hampered by shallow waters which hampered the heaviest ships from coming close to shore.
The 1,200 British soldiers on the ground were stunned to face 12,000 American soldiers defending the city of Baltimore.
During the rainy night, Francis Scott Key had witnessed the bombardment and observed that the fort’s flag continued to fly, but once the shell and rocket barrage had stopped, he would not know how the battle had turned out until dawn.
When the sun finally rose on the morning of September 14, 1812, both Key and Skinner were amazed to see that the larger red, white and blue flag had been raised.
The Americans had forced the British to retreat and the city of Baltimore was secure!
Moved to write during the fort's heroic defense, Francis Scott Key composed the words to the tune old drinking song entitled To Anacreon in Heaven.
Initially published after the battle as the Defense of Fort McHenry, it eventually became known as the Star Spangled Banner.
The song gained popularity throughout the 19th century and bands played it during public events, such as July 4th celebrations. On July 27, 1889, Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy signed a General Order, making "The Star Spangled Banner" the official tune to be played at the raising of the flag.
Evidence shows that the "Star Spangled Banner" was performed as early as 1897 at opening day baseball ceremonies in Philadelphia!! In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that "The Star Spangled Banner" be played at military and other appropriate occasions. The tradition of performing the national anthem before every baseball game began in World War II.
On November 3, 1929, Robert Ripley drew a panel in his syndicated cartoon, Ripley's Believe it or Not!, saying "Believe It or Not, America has no national anthem".
In 1931, John Philip Sousa published his opinion in favor, stating that "it is the spirit of the music that inspires" as much as it is Key's "soul-stirring" words.
By a law signed on March 3, 1931 by President Herbert Hoover, "The Star Spangled Banner" was adopted as the national anthem of the United States of America.
but only the first eight lines are traditionally sung as our Anthem.
O! say can you see by the dawn's early lightWhat 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.Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet waveO'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
The flag that flew over Fort McHenry was kept by the family Major Armistead for years, who occasionally gave away pieces of the flag as souvenirs and gifts. Cutting, deterioration and continued use reduced several feet of fabric from the flag's fly end, and it measured 30 by 34 feet.
The fifteenth star was also given as a gift, but its recipient and current whereabouts are unknown.
The flag was given to the Smithsonian in 1912, and has undergone multiple restoration efforts that included removing of a linen backing and addition of the missing white star.
Today it is permanently housed in the National Museum of American History, one of the Smithsonian Institution museums on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
In addition to the original flag on display, the Smithsonian features pieces from the flag that had been snipped off over the years as patriotic mementos.
Fort McHenry was made a national park in 1925; on August 11, 1939, it was re-designated a "National Monument and Historic Shrine," the only such doubly designated place in the United States.
The fort was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. It has become national tradition that when a new flag is designed it first flies over Fort McHenry. The first official 49- and 50-star American flags were flown over the fort and are still located on the premises
Since 1939, the American flag has been the symbol of freedom, hope and peace. The photo of soldiers struggling to put up the flag on Iwo Jima island in 1945 still inspires us all. The flag also stood as a constant reminder of freedom during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
After landing on the moon in 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong installed our flag on the moon’s surface.
The flag was ever-present during the 1980 Olympic games when the Americans defeated the Russian Ice Hockey Team and was also proudly placed on top of Mount Everest.
In times of grief and loss, the flag has been a symbol of hope, as it was on September 11, 2001.
Our Star Spangled Banner stands for the five fundamental rights of American citizens: The Freedom of Speech, The Freedom of Press, The Freedom of Religion, The Freedom of Petition and the Freedom of Assembly. Most importantly, the flag a constant reminder of ancestors, grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom and constitutional rights. God bless all those who continue to serve in the military!
Just two weeks ago, on September 14, 2014, a replica of the original Star-Spangled Banner was hoisted during the Dawn’s Early Light Ceremony at Fort McHenry in Baltimore. The ceremony commemorated the date and time 200 years ago that Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the words that would become the National Anthem.
Long before our Nation’s flag flew to the moon, waved over the White House or was folded into tight triangles at Arlington National Cemetery; before it sparked fiery political debates, reached the North Pole or the summit of Mount Everest; before it became a lapel fixture, testified to the Marines' possession of Iwo Jima, or fluttered over front porches, fire trucks and construction cranes; before it inspired a national anthem or recruiting posters for two world wars, the American ensign was just a flag.
"There was nothing special about it," says Scott S. Sheads, a historian at Baltimore's Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, speaking of a time when a new nation was struggling for survival and groping toward a collective identity. That all changed in 1813, when one enormous flag, pieced together on the floor of a Baltimore brewery, was first hoisted over Fort McHenry.