Congressman Ted Poe

This week the “home of the brave” turns another year older – Americans across our country will celebrate 231 years as a free and independent nation. Our freedom did not come easily, nor did it come free. So today and throughout the summer when you are at the ballpark, take your hat off and listen to the words of the song that tells the tale of freedom worth dying for.

Before Francis Scott Key penned the most famous song in our country’s history, he was well known for his talents in the courtroom. Key was born on August 1, 1779, in western Maryland on his family’s estate, Terra Rubra. He began his studies at Annapolis at the tender age of ten. After graduating high school, he began studying law and working in his uncle’s law practice. It didn’t take long for this ambitious lawyer to make a name for himself, appearing numerous times before the United States Supreme Court and earning an appointment to the United States District Attorney’s office.

When the War of 1812 broke out, Key served in the Georgetown field artillery. His military service was brief; he was not fully supportive of the war. However, his dedication and loyalty to his country out-weighed his political objections and he honored his call to duty proudly.

During the course of the war, Key’s good friend, Dr. William Beanes, was taken prisoner and he promptly went to his aid. The British were in Chesapeake Bay and the war was in full swing. Key met up with the government agent in charge of prisoner exchanges in Baltimore and set sail to meet the Royal Navy at sea. Key persuaded the British to release Beanes, but they were forced to stay aboard the ship because of the impending attack on Fort McHenry.

Ft. McHenry was the first line of defense against an attack on Baltimore. It was built during the Revolutionary War and known then as Fort Whetstone. The fort was spared action during that war, but improvements to the fort continued under the direction of an influential politician, James McHenry, and this famous battle in the War of 1812 became the inspiration for our nation’s anthem.

Key and others were held at bay while the British bombarded Ft. McHenry for more than 25 hours. Under the command of Major George Armistead, 1000 soldiers and volunteers held off the British and as Key peered through the bombs bursting light he saw that our flag was still there.

The flag flying over Ft. McHenry, was 30 by 40 feet. The commander of the Fort commissioned a flag to be made that was so large that "the British have no trouble seeing it from a distance." At the dawn’s early light our flag was still there and Key penned the words of what became the Star Spangled Banner.

The poem was first printed by Key’s brother-n-law and passed out as a handbill under the title, “Defence of Fort McHenry.” Newspapers started printing it and it the public began singing it to the tune of a popular British drinking song of the time, “Anacreaon in Heaven.” It wasn’t until 1931 that Congress declared it our national anthem.

Francis Scott Key, is the original American Idol. His song captured the hearts of adoring fans long before we heard of Kelly, Carrie or Simon Cowell. Americans sang his song with pride and to this day when it is played it reminds us of what we as Americans stand for and the sacrifices that were made for us to be the land of the free and the home of the brave.  

That’s just the way it is.