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Songs and Oaths:
The Star-Spangled Banner

Fort McHenry in Chesapeake Bay

During the War of 1812, on September 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key visited the British fleet in Chesapeake Bay to secure the release of Dr. William Beanes, who had been captured after the burning of Washington DC. The release was completed, but Key was held by the British overnight during the shelling of Fort McHenry, one of the forts defending Baltimore. In the morning, Key peered through clearing smoke to see an enormous American flag flying proudly after a 25-hour British bombardment of Fort McHenry. He was so delighted to see the flag still flying over the fort that he began a poem to commemorate the occasion, with a note that it should be sung to the popular British melody "To Anacreon in Heaven."

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that it be played at military and naval occasions. In 1931, the Star-Spangled Banner became our national anthem.

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This audio version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" was obtained from the United States Air Force (USAF) Heritage of America Band. Visit the USAF Heritage of America Band's official Web site for more patriotic songs.

For more information, check out the following resources:

  • The United States Code, Title 36 (Patriotic and National Observances, Ceremonies, and Organizations), Chapter 3 (National Anthem, Motto, Floral Emblem, and March). The U.S. Code is the permanent book of U.S. laws.
  • The Star Spangled Banner Project from the Smithsonian Institution.