On that stormy day of Sept. 13, 1814, the British were determined to capture the burgeoning port of Baltimore. The relentless shelling on the strategically positioned Fort McHenry, along the Patapsco River, lasted through the night but failed to inflict serious damage. Miraculously, the one rocket shell that penetrated the fort’s magazine, storing the explosives and cannonballs, failed to explode.
At dawn’s early light, the predominantly volunteer militiamen proudly and defiantly raised a large, newly sewn stars and stripes flag. Gen. Armistead had commissioned Mary Pickersgill to sew two flags, each with 15 stars and 15 stripes. A smaller storm flag was destroyed by the shelling.
Ironically, a young lawyer, Francis Scott Key, being held hostage aboard a British vessel after completing a truce mission for prisoner exchange, witnessed the entire event.
This is where and how our national anthem was born.
(A proud American sailor honored to have served aboard the USS Francis Scott Key SSBN-657 LDS)