Mr. Key and the prisoner

Posted in Undogegorized by chamblee54 on July 4, 2008

I read an item at yellowdoggrannie’s place this morning. It was a link to a video about the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. YDG said it made her cry. It set off my BS detector.
I am not a history buff. I do know that the War of 1812 was not the most glorious part of American History.

In 1812, Napoleon was on a rampage, but about to screw it up. He invaded Russia on June 24, just six days after the U.S. Congress gave approval to “Mr. Madison’s War”.
According to St. Wikipedia, the declaration passed by the smallest margin of any war declaration in American History.

The War was caused by several things. The British were “impressing” sailors for duty in their Navy. Among the deserters and British subjects were some Americans.
The British were supporting the Native Americans who were fighting the white man. There was also some talk about Annexing territory in Canada, either to keep or to use as a bargaining chip with the British.

On the East side of the Atlantic, England had a change of government at this time, towards a regime that wanted peace with America. This being the early nineteenth century, word of this development did not make it to America in time to stop the War.

The War went on for a couple of years. It distracted the British from fighting Napoleon, and was a strain on the Young American republic. In the Summer of 1814, negotiations were underway to end the conflict. The British launched a few military campaigns to put pressure on the U.S.A. Washington D.C. was captured and burned. The next move was the capture of Baltimore.

This is where the video begins its tale. Where the video said hundreds of British ships, Wikipedia says 19. An attorney, Francis Scott Key, was negotiating the release of an American POW. He secured his release, but they could not leave until the bombardment of Fort McHenry was complete.
Here is an account of the story:
At Fort McHenry, some 1,000 soldiers under the command of Major George Armistead awaited the British naval bombardment…. The attack began in the evening of September 13, as the British fleet of some nineteen ships began pounding the fort with Congreve rockets (from rocket vessel HMS Erebus) and mortar shells (from bomb vessels HMS Terror, HMS Volcano, HMS Meteor, HMS Devastation, and HMS Aetna). After an initial exchange of fire, the British fleet withdrew to just beyond the range of Fort McHenry’s cannons and continued to bombard the American redoubts for the next 25 hours. Although 1,500 to 1,800 cannonballs were launched at the fort, damage was minimal.
After nightfall, Cochrane ordered a landing to be made by medium boats to the shore just west of the fort, away from the harbor opening on which the fort’s defense was concentrated….Operating in darkness and in foul weather, the diversionary attack failed. On the morning of September 14, the 30 ft (9.1 m) × 42 ft oversized American flag, which had been made a few months before by local flagmaker Mary Pickersgill and her 13 year old daughter, flew over Fort McHenry, and Cochrane and Brooke knew that victory had eluded them

Mr. Key saw the flag the next day. He wrote a poem to the tune of a British drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven”. The song was made the National Anthem in 1931, and has been (badly) sung ever since.

On September 24, the Treaty of Ghent ended the conflict. The verdict was “status quo ante bellum”. In other words, nothing was changed by the death of those men.
The word of the treaty did not reach America for a few weeks. The Battle of New Orleans was fought after the end of the War.
The video said the Flag at Fort McHenry was held up through the night by men, many of whom died. This might be true. It is also true that the negotiations were about to yield fruit. It would take a few weeks for word of the Battle of Baltimore to reach Europe, at which point the War was already over. Status Quo Ante Bellum.

5 Responses

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  1. jackie said, on July 4, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    well, fuck!….blew my little vision right out of the water…but it made such a greeeeeat story..ha…plus im such a sap.I’ll believe anything…thanks for the history lesson and bursting my bubble..ha..jackie

  2. […] following is a repost . It was originally published in a red, white, and blue font. As a service to the readers, […]

  3. […] following is a repost . It was originally published in a red, white, and blue font. As a service to the readers, […]

  4. […] following is a repost . It was originally published in a red, white, and blue font. As a service to the readers, […]

  5. Ed Darrell said, on February 6, 2018 at 2:09 am

    One quibble: Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814 — not September 24. An easy error.

    Battle of New Orleans was fought a week after the treaty was signed.

    (For technical folk, the Treaty of Ghent was not sent to the U.S. Senate for ratification until February, 1815.)

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