The Battle of Baltimore was one of the most consequential and momentous battles in the War of 1812, a war fought between the U.S. and the Great Britain from 1812 to 1815. On September 12, 1814, the British launched land assaults at North Point and sea invasions at Fort McHenry, attempting to capture the Port of Baltimore.
American militia staved off the attacks of 5,000 British troops on land at North Point, so British forces turned full attention to Fort McHenry. On September 13, nineteen British ships aimed all their fire power on the fort, and pelted it and the 1,000 American soldiers holding it with rockets, mortar shells, and 1,500 – 1,800 cannonballs for 25 hours straight. They then arranged a land attack on the fort, sending a party ashore.
Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old American lawyer and budding poet, was located on a British truce vessel that night, where he worked to negotiate and secure the release of a physician who was captured by the British. From his position, he could see the glow of exploding cannon shells as the greatest Navy in the world at that time rained its fury on a fort protecting Baltimore. Rain obscured his view of the city during the night, but as bombs burst and rockets exploded, he saw something familiar: a 30-foot American flag, adorned with 15 stars and 15 stripes, flying high above the fort.
American troops opened fire on British forces as they landed on the shore, and the artillery from the warships failed their mission – Fort McHenry stood firm. The British retreated, marking the turning point of the war.
As the smoke cleared and dawn broke on the morning of September 14, Francis Scott Key began to pen the words to “The Defense of Fort McHenry” on an envelope. His poem was set to music, and became known as “The Star Spangled Banner,” and became our national anthem in 1931.
Today, we stand just as our anthem’s writer did – watching helplessly, waiting breathlessly, and wondering if our flag will stand. Our rights and freedoms are once again threatened, and the smoke of crumbling values obscures our view of the glory of this great country. We strain to see through the mist and struggle to catch a glimpse of God’s grace that made many into one and preserved a nation for over 200 years.
Yet our national anthem itself provides answers – glimmers of hope in a dark world. The Star Spangled Banner has four verses, each one ending as the first: O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave. The final verse of Key’s inspiring song drapes the previous three in admonition for principle characteristics that secure future peace and victory.
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved 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!
Happy Independence Day, friends. God bless your celebration, and God bless the United States of America!