September 1814, just weeks after the British burned the U.S. Capitol, they attacked Baltimore, Maryland-the third largest city in America.
On the way they caught an elderly physician of Upper Marlboro, Dr. William Beanes.
The town feared Dr. Beanes would be hanged so they asked a young lawyer, Francis Scott Key, to sail with Colonel John Skinner under a flag of truce to the British flagship Tonnant and arrange a prisoner exchange.
Concerned their plans of attacking Baltimore would be discovered, the British placed Francis Scott Key and Colonel Skinner under armed guard aboard the H.M.S. Surprise, then on a sloop where they watched for 25 hours as 19 British ships continually bombarded the earthen Fort McHenry with rockets, mortar shells and cannon balls.
Providentially, a thunderstorm blew in and rained so hard the ground was softened, allowing most of the 1,800 cannon balls the British fired to sink in the mud instead of exploding.
On the morning of September 14, 1814, “through the dawn’s early light,” Key saw the flag still flying.
Elated, Key penned The Star-Spangled Banner.
Most people are familiar with the 1st verse, but the 4th verse had a further impact, as a phrase in it was transformed into the National Motto:
O thus be it ever when free men shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation;
Blest with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land,
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just;
And this be our motto ‘IN GOD IS OUR TRUST’!
And the Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave,
Over the land of the free and the home of the brave!
On March 22, 1814, Francis Scott Key told the Washington Society of Alexandria:
“The patriot who feels himself in the service of God, who acknowledges Him in all his ways, has the promise of Almighty direction, and will find His Word in his greatest darkness, “a lantern to his feet and a lamp unto his paths”…
He will therefore seek to establish for his country in the eyes of the world, such a character as shall make her not unworthy of the name of a Christian nation.”
The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.