On June 18, 1812, the American Congress declared war on Great Britain. For the next two years the young country was again at war with England. By August 24, 1814 British troops had marched into Washington, DC and to the horrors of the populace, had set the Capitol building and White House ablaze. America’s future seemed uncertain as the British set their sights on Baltimore, Maryland, a vital seaport. For 24 hours starting on September 13, British warship fired bombs and rockets on Fort McHenry, the fort protecting the Baltimore harbor.
By the “dawn’s early light” of September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key, who was aboard a ship several miles distant, could just make out an American flag waving above the fort. British ships were withdrawing from Baltimore, and Key realized that the United States had survived the battle and stopped the enemy advance. Moved by the sight, he wrote a song celebrating “that star-spangled banner” as a symbol of America’s triumph and endurance. Set to the tune of a popular English song, “The Star-Spangled Banner” quickly became one of the nation’s best-loved patriotic songs and officially became our National Anthem in 1931.
Our From Sea to Shining Sea program closes with Dudley Buck’s Concert Variations on that famous tune, The Star Spangled Banner. It is our hope that with our educational, historical, and musical adventure that we have piqued imaginations and created a renewed enthusiasm for the music of early America.