Poets looking to show their patriotic pride have been penning verses for centuries in honor of their home countries. But arguably the poet who had the greatest success in this endeavor was Francis Scott Key, the author of the poem that would later become our national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner! This weekend marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore, which inspired Key to write the now-famous words to a song every American knows. Brush up on your star-spangled history so that you can join the celebrations!
The Defense of Fort McHenry
The ongoing events of the War of 1812 led to the British invading Baltimore Harbor in the early hours of the morning on September 13, 1814. For over a day, the Americans in Fort McHenry withstood relentless bombings, holding out hope that their limited forces and resources would be able to last and help them survive. Only a change in battle strategy ceased the firing the next morning, September 14, but the British had not left the fort entirely in ruins, and, as Key later wrote, “the flag was still there,” marking that the Americans would be saved!
Francis Scott Key was a lawyer and amateur poet who witnessed the bombing of Fort McHenry and found inspiration in the sight of the American flag flying high the next morning despite the terrible onslaught of the preceding day. He found the nearest scrap of paper he could, a letter from his pocket, and began to write a poem commemorating the great event. He finished a complete draft of the poem when he returned to his Baltimore hotel; the poem, titled “The Defence of Fort M’Henry,” then went on to be circulated in newspapers all around the new nation. It was not until a month later that the words were set to music and became “The Star-Spangled Banner” that we know (and sing!) today.
Write your own Patriotic Poem!
In honor of the Star-Spangled Banner’s 200th birthday, why not try your hand at your own patriotic poem? Maybe you could find your inspiration in a historical event in our country’s past, or perhaps you are motivated by current events that you feel our country should be proud of. Either way, know that writing patriotic poetry is a long and proud tradition for Americans, so you will be in good company! Like what you end up writing? Consider submitting it to our poetry contest and show your work to the world!