Friday, July 04, 2008

Spangled Banner

Independence Day, 2008.

Take a minute to get a look at and a little more info on the document that started it all.


A Brief History

The United States went to war with Great Britain in 1812 over freedom of the seas. Two years later, the English sent a three-pronged attack at the States, with the central thrust aimed at taking over the port at Baltimore, which would have split the country in two, since we were still mostly clustered on the East Coast. When they reached Baltimore, they found 1,000 men inside Fort McHenry, with guns trained on the harbor. To control the town, the British had to control the fort. Thus, a pitched battle began.

On one of the British ships was William Beane, an aged physician, who had been taken prisoner from an earlier skirmish. His friend, Francis Scott Key, had come to negotiate his release - which the ship's captain was amenable to - but the discussions would have to wait until after the battle. Thus it was that Key and Beane had front row seats to the British attack on Fort McHenry.

As dawn approached, the cannon fire grew eerily silent and both men assumed the battle was over. They strained to see which flag was flying above the fort. After it was all over, Key wrote a four stanza poem, describing the events of that night, and called it "The Defence of Fort M'Henry." Later someone realized you could put the words to a tune called "To Anacreon in Heaven." The song had a difficult melody with an uncomfortably large vocal range, but it became popular as the song we now call "The Star Spangled Banner."

In 1931 Congress declared it the official anthem of the United States. But while we frequently sing the first stanza, most people are blissfully unaware that there are, in fact, four verses that tell the complete story of that turning point military action.

Presumably, the song begins with the old doctor speaking to Kay:

Oh 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 thro' the night that our flag was still there.
Oh! Say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Ramparts are the protective walls and other elevations that surround a fort. This first stanza asks a question. The second supplies the answer.

On the shore, dimly seen thro' the mist 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 on the stream
'Tis the star-spangled banner, oh! Long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The "towering steep" is, again, the ramparts. The bombardment has failed, and all the British can do is sail away. In the third verse, Key allows himself to gloat a little and during World War II, when the British were our staunchest allies, this third verse was never sung.

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 footstep's 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

The fourth stanza, a pious hope for the future, should be sung slightly slower and with deeper feeling.

Oh! Thus be it e'er, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation

Then conquer we must, for our cause is just,
And this be our motto - "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave

[from an old Purewater Gazette article; abridged and edited by Mark Raymond]


Thanks for all the helpful, fun, and informative replies to our GKR of '08. We'll be dismantling part of what's there this weekend, in anticipation of the project start-up on July 14. Have a safe and fun weekend full of fireworks, family, friends, and frolic. I'll see you on Monday.



WEB SITE of the WEEK: Time Magazine has listed their "50 Best Websites" for 2008 at,28757,1809858,00.html. Looking at the URL, I'm a little late in posting this one, but better late than never, as the old proverb goes.


Mark's Musings is sent each weekday via email and is a Habeas-certified spam free mailer. Subscribe, view past issues in the Archives, look at a few photos or help defray publishing costs at my web site. To contact Mark, click here. To make your wife happy, remodel the kitchen. You can forward or reprint "Mark's Musings" freely but please keep the credits attached. Please. Pretty please? Don't make me beg. Original material and commentary © 2008 by Mark Raymond. I update this blog with a copy of this post daily, and extra thoughts, the occasional video, and other things that go bump in the night on the weekends. Look for the label that says "Weekend" and you can bring them all up with one click. My personal mission statement is John 3:30. Frankly, I could be doing better at fulfilling that mission.


WORDS for YOUR WEEKEND: "You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism." (Erma Bombeck)

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