The Flag That Inspires

...the birth of Star Spangled Banner

The Stars and Stripes that adorns the crown of the United States of America for over 240 years. Over the ages it has been an undaunted source of inspiration for all of us. It gave us a unique identity and a sense of belongingness with this glorious land. It kept us feel proud of our nation's achievement, and also led us to champion its causes. It inspired the happenings of quite a lot of events - recognized as milestones in the history of development of the nation.

The Inspiration of US Flag

And this traditional role of the Stars and Stripes is well written in the way our national anthem was born. This is how:

Though according to the Paris peace treaty in 1783 there was cessation of arms and Britain was compelled to give recognition to the union of 13 colonies, Britain was not yet ready to give up its share of pie from the resourceful New World. On the other hand, Americans who started to operate as a union of 13 states, soon looked for expansion of their territories. The clash of interests, muffled up for a while by the peace treaty, cast their harrowing shadows over the peace process. Finally, in 1812 the second war between the British, and the Americans who were then committed to expand their territories, broke out.

The U.S. entered the war ill-prepared. And the ambitious plans to invade Canada were never realized. American warships won three notable victories in duels with British frigates in 1812, But this did not end the war. In fact, it just kept going.

Guarding the entrance to Baltimore harbor via the Patapsco River during the War of 1812, Fort McHenry faced almost certain attack by British forces. Major George Armistead, the stronghold's commander, was ready to defend the fort, but he wanted a flag that would identify his position, and one whose size would be visible to the enemy from a distance. Determined to supply such a flag, a committee of high-ranking officers called on Mary Young Pickersgill. She was a Baltimore widow who had had experience making ship flags, and explained that they wanted a United States flag that measured 30 feet by 42 feet. And, she agreed to the job.

With the help of her 13-year-old daughter, Caroline, Mrs. Pickersgill spent several weeks measuring, cutting, and sewing the 15 stars and stripes. When the time came to sew the elements of the flag together, they realized that their house was not large enough. Mrs. Pickersgill thus asked the owner of nearby Claggett's brewery for permission to assemble the flag on the building's floor during evening hours. He agreed, and the women worked by candlelight to finish it. Once completed, the flag was delivered to the committee, and Mrs. Pickersgill was paid $405.90.

In August 1813, it was presented to Major Armistead. But, as things turned out, more than a year would pass before hostile forces threatened Baltimore. The British headed for Baltimore. On the morning of September 13, 1814, British bomb ships began hurling high-trajectory shells toward Fort McHenry from positions beyond the reach of the fort's guns. The bombardment continued throughout the rainy night.

In September 1814, the US lawyer Francis Scott Key was sent to the British fleet in Chesapeake Bay to secure the release of his friend William Beanes, who had been captured after the defeat of the U.S. forces at Bladensburg, Md. He was detained aboard ship during the shelling of Ft. McHenry, one of the forts that successfully defended Baltimore. During the night of the bombardment, September 13-14, Key's anxiety was at high pitch, and in the morning when he saw the American flag still flying over the fortress, he wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner." Released that day, he rewrote the poem in a Baltimore hotel. It was printed anonymously under the title "Defence of Fort M'Henry" and on September 20 was published by the Baltimore Patriot. Set to the tune of an English drinking song, "To Anacreon in Heaven," it soon became popular throughout the nation. It was later adopted by the army and navy as the national anthem, and in 1931 it was officially adopted by Congress.

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