Delta Farm Press Logo

Singing the Star Spangled Banner takes range and dignity.

Brent Murphree, Content Director

March 1, 2023

2 Min Read
Line of flags.
The flag that Francis Scott Keys Viewed from the American truce ship on September 14, 1814 was a 15-star, 15-stripe flag used during that period of time.Getty Images/iStockphoto

March 3 is National Anthem Day. I had no idea until I read it at

What I did know was that the lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key. At the time he was a 35-year-old lawyer from Frederick, Md.

He was negotiating the release of a friend who had been captured by the British. The family friend, William Beanes. had been taken and held by the British following their raid on Washington, D.C.

Beanes was released to Keys, but for their own safety they remained on an American truce ship which was tethered to a British vessel while the Royal Navy bombarded Outer Baltimore Harbor for 25 hours. The vessel they were bound to was not involved in the fighting and outside of the firing range of the U.S. Army.

On the morning of Sept. 14, 1814, Keys stood on the deck of the truce ship. According to the National Constitution Center, he was about six to eight miles from Fort McHenry, which was the target of the bombardment.

Throughout the firing about 1,500 to 1,800 bomb shells and 700 rockets were fired at the fort, with minimal damage and relatively few casualties, considering the intense bombing.

Through a spyglass Keys saw that the American flag containing 15 stars and 15 stripes, was still flying over the fort. While waiting for the British to release his ship, he began a poem that would eventually become the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Within a short period of time, he had written four verses of the poem intended to be set to the music of a popular British tune written by John Stafford Smith, “To Anacreon in Heaven.”

He finished up the poem when released from the British ship. It was given the title, “Defense of Fort M’Henry,” and printed in The Analectic Magazine. It was immediately popular but was not declared the anthem until more than 100 years later.

Verses of the song became standardized in the late 1910s at the request of Woodrow Wilson, but it wasn’t until February 3, 1931, that the U.S. Senate passed the bill that made the “Star-Spangled Banner” our National Anthem. Herbert Hoover signed the bill into law the following day.

I have always loved our National Anthem – what it symbolizes, the history it embodies and its dynamic building range. The music climbs to a pitch and punches you with the last line. It’s a song to get on and ride.

Some who sing the anthem have done better than others. It takes range and needs dignity.

But there is nothing like sitting a short distance from a large group of people and listening to them sing in unison. Those who can handle the range lead the group of mixed voices to the pitch and everyone digs in for the climatic end. It sounds like freedom.

About the Author(s)

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like