The Star-Spangled Banner

(1814)

The text of "The Star-Spangled Banner," the national anthem of the United States, was written by Francis Scott Key on September 15, 1814 during the War of 1812. The music was written much earlier by Englishman John Stafford Smith.

Our national anthem is an eyewitness account of an actual event: Great Britain’s assault on Fort McHenry, in Baltimore Harbor, during the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key, a Washington lawyer, wrote the ballad on the spot, from the deck of a ship in the harbor. Within days, his verses were printed on a broadside under the title “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” The designated tune was “To Anacreon in Heaven,” an English drinking song that everyone knew, and soon the song reverberated through the military camps around the city.


--Sheila Gaffney


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