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This song became the national anthem of the United States in 1931. It was written by Francis Scott Key while the British forces were attacking Fort McHenry on September 13, 1814.

While daylight lasted, Key could see the American flag flying over the fort. At night he could only watch the shells "bursting in air" as the British bombarded the fort from ships at the mouth of the Potomac River. When daybreak came, the "star-spangled banner" was still flying, showing Key that the fort was still in American hands and had not fallen to the British. He took an envelope from his pocket and began to write a poem to commemorate the event. His poem was finished later in his hotel room.

Key converted this poem into a song by "borrowing" the melody from an English tune, "To Anacreon in Heaven." Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner" was popular in Baltimore, the town that was protected by Fort McHenry, but did not become well known in the rest of the country until the time of the Civil War.

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, 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 the star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

 

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