A Focus on the Flag for the Fourth of July

Many of us already have our American flag on display outside our homes and businesses. In fact, a good number of the population proudly displays the flag all year round. Those who attend the free Independence Concert on Celebration Plaza in Sulphur Springs on Saturday July 1 will have a chance to take home an American flag kit. As Americans, we take pride in saluting the flag and in singing the anthem inspired by the beloved banner. Possibly the most beloved flag story of our history involves the garrison banner that Francis Scott Key beheld flying above Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor in September 1814.  Local attorney Tommy Allison, who is also a USMC Veteran, brought us the story of this flag and the importance of the fort and harbor during his Veteran’s Voices program on KSST on Monday June 26, 2017.

Star-Spangled Banner and the War of 1812

The original Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the song that would become our national anthem, is among the most treasured artifacts in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Made in Baltimore, Maryland, in July-August 1813 by flagmaker Mary Pickersgill, it was commissioned by Major George Armistead, commander of Fort McHenry. It’s original size was 30 feet by 42 feet, and it’s current size is 30 feet by 34 feet. It boasts fifteen stars and fifteen stripes (one star has been cut out) and was raised over Fort McHenry on the morning of September 14, 1814, to signal American victory over the British in the Battle of Baltimore. The sight inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner”. The flag was preserved by the Armistead family as a memento of the battle. It was first loaned to the Smithsonian Institution in 1907, then converted to permanent gift in 1912. It was on exhibit at the National Museum of American History since 1964, with a major, multi-year conservation effort launched in 1998. There are plans for a new permanent exhibition gallery now underway.

 

FORT McHENRY: AN AMERICAN FORT

Revolutionary War 1776-1783

Fort McHenry’s history began in 1776 when the citizens of Baltimore Town feared an attack by British ships. An earthen star fort known as Fort Whetstone was quickly constructed. The fort, like Baltimore, was never attacked during our first conflict with England.

The Formative Years, 1794-1811 In 1793, France declared a war on England that became known as the Napoleonic Wars. In 1794, Congress authorized the construction of a series of coastal forts to protect our maritime frontier. Construction began on Fort McHenry in 1798 and, by 1803, the masonry walls we view today were completed. The fort was named for James McHenry, our second Secretary of War. In 1809, the U.S. Army’s first light artillery unit was organized here.

The War of 1812 On June 18, 1812, the United States declared war on England, in part to “preserve Free Trade & Sailor’s Rights.” In August 1814, British forces marched on Washington, defeated U.S. forces, and burned the Capitol. Then, on September 13-14, the British attacked Fort McHenry. The failure of the bombardment and sight of the American flag inspired Francis Scott Key to compose “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

During the decades of Fort McHenry’s service, it was used as a military prison during the Civil War, as an enormous Army hospital during World War One, and as a Coast Guard base during World War Two. It is now the Fort McHenry National Park and Historic Shrine, enriching Baltimore and Washington D.C. area visitors as a center for recreation, tourism, education and living history.

 

The Star-Spangled Banner

Francis Scott Key, a young poet-lawyer, witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry while under British guard on an American truce ship in the Patapsco River. Seeing his country’s flag still flying over the Fort the next morning, he was moved to pen these immortal lines:

O 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’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 mornings’ first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on 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 washed out their foul footsteps 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 loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-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!

 

Author: Enola Gay

Has enjoyed working for KSST since 1989. Hosts the Good Morning Show with Enola Gay on weekday mornings from 6-9am, so 'start your day with Enola Gay'! Guest interviews during the Morning Show can also be seen in playback on Cable Channel 18 TV. Along with local country music fan Benny Potter, co-produces 1230 West, a Country and Western Swing radio show which airs weekly on Saturdays from 7-8am and repeats on Thursdays from 7-8pm. Also writes "At the Corral Gate", a column appearing weekly in The Millennium Shopper and in the Lifestyles section of ksstradio.com.

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