As the War of 1812 waged on, the citizens of Baltimore began to prepare for a possible British attack. It seemed inevitable; the British considered Baltimore a “nest of pirates” due to the privateer clippers that were built in the city’s shipyards.
During the summer of 1813, Fort McHenry’s commanding officer Major George Armistead wanted a flag that was “so large that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance.”
There were 15 stars and stripes on the two flags (to represent the 13 original colonies and Vermont and Kentucky, the next two states to enter the union). The flags were delivered to Fort McHenry on August 19, 1813.
The Star-Spangled Banner assumed a meaning beyond local celebration. This flag represents the broad ideals and values of the nation. Today, the American flag continues to evoke a special, patriotic feeling. In times of war, when returning from overseas, during space exploration, and at sporting events or other public gatherings, the American flag continues to represent freedom, democracy, and the intangible nature of “what it means to be an American.”
By the dawn’s early light on September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key peered through a spyglass and spotted an American flag still waving over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry after a fierce night of British bombardment. In a patriotic fervor, the man called “Frank” Key by family and friends penned the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
When Key scrawled his lyrics on the back of a letter he pulled from his pocket on the morning of September 14, he did not give them any title. Within a week, Key’s verses were printed on broadsides and in Baltimore newspapers under the title “Defense of Fort M’Henry.” In November, a Baltimore music store printed the patriotic song with sheet music for the first time under the more lyrical title “The Star-Spangled Banner.”