The Star Spangled Banner usually refers to the American flag which was flown at the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812. It also refers to the famous poem of the same name by Francis Scott Key.
This poem, which Key wrote in 1814, became a famous patriotic song and was finally adopted as the National Anthem of the United States of America in 1931.
After the American Revolutionary War, the American states became free of British rule. But in 1812, a new war broke out between the British and American forces. This was called the War of 1812 and during this war, Britain tried to regain some American territories.
In September, 1814, a part of the British forces attacked Fort McHenry at Baltimore. The fort was the last line of the city’s defences and despite being bombarded by several British ships, the American soldiers in the fort continued to fight back and forced the British to withdraw. The Battle of Baltimore was a victory for American forces
During the battle, a small American flag had been flying at the top of the fort. Once the battle was won, a much larger American flag was raised.
Made by Mary Young Pickersgill, this flag was comprised of 15 stars and 15 stripes. It was later called the ‘Star Spangled Banner’. This flag inspired Francis Scott Key to write his famous poem.
When the Battle of Baltimore was taking place, Francis Scott Key was a captive on one of the British ships. He had come to negotiate for the release of an American prisoner. And although the British commanders agreed to his demands, they held him captive until the battle was over because he had heard their battle plans.
As a captive on the ship, Key witnessed the bombardment of the American-held fort and saw how the Americans successfully stopped the advance of the British forces. In that moment, he also saw the Star – Spangled Banner flying from the fort top. This inspired him to write a poem on the back of a letter he had in his pocket.
Key was released by the British on September 16. He stayed in Baltimore and completed the poem. The poem was issued as a broadside by a printer in Baltimore on September 17.
Three days later, two newspapers printed the poem. It soon became a popular song all over USA and many other newspapers published it under the title ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.
As the popularity of Key’s poem increased, it was used as a national song. It remained highly popular throughout the 19th century and was performed by many bands.
By the end of the century, it was a tradition among different parts of the U.S. army and navy to play the song at different occasions. In March, 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed the bill which officially adopted the Star-Spangled Banner as the national anthem of USA.