From Fighting to Singing, What a Wonderful World
Have you ever sung a 186-year-old song? Sure you have. Oh, you don't believe me? Well, listen to this: the time was 1814, the place was the open seas of the Atlantic Ocean, and if you were American, you would be embroiled in a battle that was not even your own. England and France locked horns in a fight known as the War of 1812. This was a huge sea battle, complete with smoking cannons hanging out from their ships. So, what did America have to do with England and France's battle to see who had the biggest muscles?
England decided to switch gears and "force" otherwise neutral countries to choose a side, theirs or France. To prevent supplies from reaching the French, Britain stopped American Ships and made them pay lots of money to keep sailing. America, the new kid on the block that she was, did not take kindly to being bullied by the British. America had seen that too many times and already knew the outcome. Thus began America's fight.
In early September 1814 the British landed in the port of Baltimore, MD and marched all the way to Washington D.C. In Washington D.C. they overran the city and burned down several government buildings. They even burned down President Madison's House! Madison formed a militia to fight back. Many free white men were called upon to defend America once again from the Brits. From D.C. the British troops marched back to the port of Baltimore to return to their ships. Instead of firing up their oars and returning whence they came, they fired up their cannons and started fighting at Fort McHenry, Baltimore's only protection.
On September 13th and 14th the British tried to overtake the Harbor of Baltimore. U.S. General Armistead was the chief over this battle. From a dry moat in front of Ft. McHenry (used for surprise attack) men armed to the teeth went to battle.
Francis Scott Key, a young lawyer, had been sent to ask the British to release some prisoners they had taken. He happened to be on a British ship when the fighting broke out, and sat on board for the whole 25-hour battle. At the end of it, he saw a thirty-foot flag flying over the fort and wrote the words to a song that you have surely heard before. Who would have thought this little battle would produce a national anthem. Am I ringing any bells yet?
The Star-Spangled Banner is the 186-year-old song that I was talking about before. "Oh say! Can you see, by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?" Now you can go back to the lyrics of this song and get a first hand account of the scene at Fort McHenry. "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?"
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Links to Other Dispatches
Neda - A Toyota Tercel named Turkey on the trail of Lewis & Clark
Irene - There's GOLD in them there hills!