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1917: The Star Spangled Banner

 

Thomas Alva Edison, among his many other achievements, was the first entertainment mogul in the United States which was only fair since he invented the motion picture camera.  His favorite singer was soprano Anna Case, who appeared on Edison records frequently, and who in 1917 gave the rendition of The Star Spangled Banner above.  Born in 1888, she would live until 1984.  An ardent patriot, in 1917 she lent her talents to selling Liberty war bonds and volunteered to sing the national anthem to troops waiting to ship out for France.

The Star-Spangled Banner

Something for the weekend.  The Star-Spangled Banner.  Two centuries ago America was going through rough times.  Engaged in a War with Great Britain, Washington DC had been burned on August 24, symbolic of a war that seemed to be turning against the United States.  With the fall of Napoleon in April of 1814, the British were now free to punish the upstart Yankees who had dared challenge Great Britain.  Now the British were preparing to seize the port of Baltimore with a force of 5,000 troops and 19 warships.

British plans began to go awry from the outset.  At the battle of North Point on September 12, 3200 Maryland militia gave a good account of themselves against 4,000 British regulars inflicting 350 casualties for slightly fewer American casulaties, and retreated in good order to the fortified line around Baltimore.  Among the British killed was the commander Major General Robert Ross, a peninsular veteran of Wellington’s army, shot down by American riflemen.

On September 13, the British, now commanded by Colonel Arthur Brooke, approached Baltimore.  Estimating that the Baltimore defenses were held by 22,000 militia and 100 cannon, Brooke was unable to launch an attack unless the British fleet could enter Baltimore Harbor to beat down the American defenses by naval bombardment. Continue Reading

9

Prisoner of Fort McHenry

 

Francis Key Howard

 

Forty-seven years after he penned the Star-Spangled Banner, and eighteen years after his death, a grandson of Francis Scott Key, Francis Key Howard, found himself a prisoner in Fort McHenry.  The editor of the Baltimore Exchange, and a Confederate sympathizer, Howard was imprisoned for his vigorous editorial protesting the suspension by the Lincoln administration of the writ of habeas corpus and the arrest of the mayor and city council of Baltimore by the Lincoln administration.  Howard would be held for fourteen months in various Union prisons until his release.

On September 14, 1861 he looked out from his prison cell in Fort McHenry at the flag waving in the breeze.  He later wrote down his reflections at that moment: Continue Reading

To Anacreon in Heaven

Francis Scott Key set The Star-Spangled Banner to the tune of the song To Anacreon in Heaven.  Anacreon was a Greek lyric poet of the Sixth Century BC, famous particularly for his drinking songs.  The  Anacreontic Society was a club of amateur gentlemen musicians in Eighteenth Century London.   Ralph Tomlinson, the club president, penned the words of what was initially known as The Anacreontic Song.  The tune was composed by another member of the club John Stafford Smith in the 1760s.  The song was published in 1778.

The song became popular in America with new lyrics, Adams and Liberty, written by Robert Treat Paine, Jr. in 1798.

Here is the text of the orignial song: Continue Reading

Major George Armistead: The Guardian of the Star-Spangled Banner

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’ 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?

Francis Scott Key, The Star-Spangled Banner

As we approach the 200th anniversary of The Star-Spangled Banner, it seems appropriate to recall the commander of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore on September 12-14, 1814.  Major George Armistead was one of five brothers who fought in the War of 1812.  He distinguished himself at the capture of Fort George from the British.

Placed in command of Fort McHenry he ordered an American flag made that would be large enough to be seen by the British at a distance if they should attack.  The 42 feet by 30 feet flag was sewn by Baltimore resident Mary Pickersgill, her daughter and seven seamstresses.  It was that flag, during the unsuccessful bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British, that inspired Francis Scott Key.  Being unable to cause the fort to surrender in spite of 2000 shells flung at it, the British were unable to sail into Baltimore Habor, and they withdrew.  The Star-Spangled Banner had triumphed. Continue Reading

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Flag Day 2014

The American democratic experiment has been successful in many ways. Millions of people around the world look to the United States as a model in their search for freedom, dignity, and prosperity. But the continuing success of American democracy depends on the degree to which each new generation, native-born and immigrant, makes its own the moral truths on which the Founding Fathers staked the future of your Republic. Their commitment to build a free society with liberty and justice for all must be constantly renewed if the United States is to fulfill the destiny to which the Founders pledged their “lives . . . fortunes . . . and sacred honor.”

Saint John Paul II, December 16, 1997

 

 

Something for the weekend.  There is only one song for Flag Day:  The Star Spangled Banner.

Here is the history behind the song:

Back when I was young and dinosaurs ruled the Earth, it was customary for the National Anthem to be played before television stations signed off for the evening.  This was always my favorite of such renditions:

Red Skelton’s immortal rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance seems called for on this day:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HGHdFmu5GU Continue Reading