The “Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem, or national song, of the United States. The words are from a poem that was written by Francis Scott Key in 1814. He watched a night-time battle between Great Britain and America that took place in Baltimore at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.

He was very excited when the American flag was still flying in the morning and wrote a poem that began with these words:

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’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?

The flag that flew over Fort McHenry in 1814 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem is also called the “Star Spangled Banner.” The flag is old and fragile, but is now being cared for at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

See one of the original copies of the poem written by Francis Scott Key, listen to the anthem, and see images of the original flag at the Smithsonian’s Star Spangled Banner site.