Each June 14th Americans celebrate Flag Day and commemorate the official adoption of the star-and-stripe-spangled banner on that date in 1777. This year the holiday is taking on an added layer of significance because 2014 marks the 200th anniversary of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In the fall of 1814, Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore’s harbor by the British navy. When dawn broke, Key was so moved to see the flag of the United States still flying over the fort that he immediately penned a poem on the back of an envelope. Within weeks his poem, “The Defense of Fort McHenry,” was circulating in eastern cities by way of broad sheets and newspapers.
The poem was eventually put to music and the name was revised, in part to reflect that it had taken on a broader significance, no longer just a remembrance of the War of 1812. It was not until 1931, however, that Key’s words were adopted as America’s official national anthem.
While most Americans know Key’s first verse by heart, many may be surprised to learn that three additional verses were written in the days following the bombardment. Below, you will find the entire text of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The Star-Spangled Banner
O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming, Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there, O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore dimly seen through the mists 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 in the stream, ’Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
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 wash’d 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.
O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation! Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
The Latah County Historical Society is proud to participate in the Smithsonian Institute’s 2014 Flag Day celebration, collectively known as “Raise It Up.” Under the direction of the National Museum of American History, groups across the country are coming together this Saturday, June 14th to commemorate the creation of our beloved anthem and to join in on a record-breaking chorus of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” To find out more about this event and about the history of the song, flag, and more, visit the event site here.
Join us at Friendship Square in downtown Moscow at 11:40 am on Saturday, June 14th to be part of “Raise It Up!”