The Star Spangled Banner


While you were sleeping, Baltimore was shelled by a foreign navy, Washington DC was invaded and the White House burnt down, and America tried to take over Canada. Well, maybe you weren’t around for those things, but I guarantee you were sleeping through their bicentennials.

The War of 1812 gets precious little respect these days. You’d think momentous events like American cities in flames would merit a little commemoration, but compared with the 1776 bicentennial the handful of scant mentions I saw in the headlines about 1812 were scarcely a blip. In fact, Even on this historically oriented blog you’ll only find one commemorative mention here. 

But we can still redress the omission. Technically, this is still a War of 1812 bicentennial year. The Battle of New Orleans was fought and won (by our side) in January 1815, several days after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which had officially ended the war. I’ve recently learned that several of my ancestors fought under Andrew Jackson’s army at that battle and hence we honor them and other ancestors and relatives* who fought in the war in its earlier phases here today. Why today? On this day (September 16, 1814) Francis Scott Key (to whom I am also related) wrote the lyrics to “The Star Spangled Banner” as he watched Fort McHenry being shelled. I first got that story in 3rd or 4th grade — I sure hope you did, as well! If you didn’t, here, refresh your memory. You sing it enough at ball games; find out what it’s about. Its origin story is here. 

*For example, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, Hero of the Battle of Lake Erie, who I’m related to on my mother’s side


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