In 1776, what we call America today, was a collection of colonies that belonged to England. The colonials were doing all the hard work work while England and King George took all the money!
The Americans, tired of being treated like second-class citizens, wanted independence from England. They declared war on England, on King George the Third. It took seven long years of fighting, but with the help of some European Allies like France, the colonials won. King George’s troops surrendered and the colonials sent them home back to England. Or so it seemed.
You see, England was engaged in what could be called a world war of its own. Britain by itself was fighting Napoleon and France, Spain, the Netherlands, India, and Australia. So, King George ignored the Americans for a while so he could concentrate on fighting everybody else. As a result, what our Founding Fathers mistakenly celebrated as the initial victory of the war of Independence was really indifference on the part of the British.
It took King George and his military might 30 years to prevail and he did prevail – defeating Napoleon in Europe, the locals in India, and the aboriginals in Australia. When peace and prosperity finally returned to England, it was thirty years after the Americans had declared victory.
In 1812, King George decided to turn his attention back to America and pick up where he had left off in 1783. He sent his armies and his navies to overwhelm the colonials and teach them a lesson for taking what he considered were his lands. At first, the massive British military was too strong and too well prepared for the colonials.
By 1814, it looked like the King’s forces were going to knock down everything the colonials had built in America since the British had left, including the capitol in Washington DC, which they burned to the ground.
The colonials were pushed as far as they could be pushed when the British forces decided to take Baltimore – a main shipping and manufacturing center for the early United States. The British admiral ships had bigger guns and more powerful weapons than the Americans in the lone Fort McHenry, that was defending the entrance to the Inner Harbor at Baltimore.
The day before the fighting started, the Admiral had allowed a meeting with a delegation from Baltimore that wanted to do a prisoner exchange. So the British met with these American delegates while they were readying their ships to attack. Since the American negotiators were witnesses to these plans, the British decided to hold them captive as well until the fighting was over.
The fighting started on Sept 13 1814 with rockets blazing red trails at the fort and bombs bursting in air overhead. The British fired all their guns, all their rockets, and all their mortars. Their soldiers even fired their muskets. When the firing started, the fort flew its normal sized American flag. The American prisoner exchange delegates watched all the firing from the ship where they themselves were being held prisoner. They saw the American flag was shredded and tattered during the more than 24 hours of shelling that continued through the night. Nothing it seemed could survive this onslaught. As dawn started to lighten the skies, one delegate named Francis Scott Key looked out at Fort McHenry nervously, expecting to see it reduced to rubble.
But to his and everyone’s surprise the dawn’s early light revealed that not only was the fort intact and fully functioning, but that an enormous American flag was flying over the ramparts of the fort. The Americans cheered! The British had spent nearly all their ammunition to no avail. They realized that they were not going to get past the fort and take the city. So they released their prisoners, turned around, and sailed away.
It would take a few more months of fighting, but the Battle of Baltimore as this became known was the beginning of the end of King George’s ambitions in America.
Mr Key was so moved, he started writing. It came out like this:
Oh, 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 thru 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.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
And this is today the first of four stanzas of our national anthem, the song known as the star-spangled banner, that stands for America.