National Anthem


It was during the War of 1812, on the night of September 13, 1814, the British fleet bombarded Fort McHenry in the harbor of Chesapeake Bay at Baltimore, Maryland. Francis Scott Key, a 34-year old lawyer-poet, watched the attack from the deck of a British prisoner-exchange ship. He had gone to seek the release of a friend but they were refused permission to go ashore until after the attack had been made. As the battle ceased on the following morning, Key turned his telescope to the fort and saw that the American flag was still waving. The sight so inspired him that he pulled a letter from his pocket and began to write the poem entitled “Defence of Fort McHenry” which eventually (in 1931) was adopted as the national anthem of the United States – “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Key was returned to Baltimore and later that day took a room at a Baltimore tavern where he completed the poem. Years later, Key told a hometown audience in Frederick, Maryland: “I saw the flag of my country waving over a city—the strength and pride of my native State—a city devoted to plunder and desolation by its assailants. I witnessed the preparation for its assaults. I saw the array of its enemies as they advanced to the attack. I heard the sound of battle; the noise of the conflict fell upon my listening ear, and told me that ‘the brave and the free’ had met the invaders.”
The poem entitled “Defence of Fort McHenry” was set to the tune of the popular British drinking song “To Anacreon in Heaven,” and became a well-known American patriotic song. With a range of one and a half octaves, it is known for being notoriously difficult to sing. It was recognized for official use by the United States Navy (1889) and the White House (1916), and was made the national anthem by a Congressional resolution on 3 March 1931 (46 Stat. 1508, codified at 36 USC 301).

The National Anthem

United States Code Title 36 Chapter 3 —

National Anthem, Motto, Floral Emblem, and March

301. National anthem; Star-Spangled Banner

a. The composition consisting of the words and music known as “The Star-Spangled Banner” is designated the national anthem of the United States of America.

b. Conduct during playing — During rendition of the national anthem—

1. when the flag is displayed —

A. all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart;

B. men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and

C. individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note; and

2. when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

302. National motto

“In God we trust” is the national motto.

303. National floral emblem

The flower commonly known as the rose is the national floral emblem. (Official since October 7, 1986 with President Ronald Wilson Reagan)

304. National march

The composition by John Philip Sousa entitled “The Stars and Stripes Forever” is the national march.

Lyrics to “The Star Spangled Banner”

(The United States National Anthem, sung to the tune of “To Anacreon in Heaven”.

(Note: Although the song has four stanzas, only the first is commonly sung today.)

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 rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen thro’ the mist of the deep,

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream

’Tis the star-spangled banner. Oh! long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion

A home and a country should leave us no more?

Their blood has washed out their foul footstep’s pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation,

Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n-rescued land

Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto—“In God is our trust.”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Listen to the National Anthem