Originally Published: July 4, 2017 6:03 a.m.
On Sept. 14, 1814, while detained aboard a British warship during the bombardment of Ft. McHenry, Francis Scott Key witnessed at dawn the failure of the British attempt to take Baltimore. Based on this experience, he wrote a poem that poses the question, “Oh, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave?”
Almost immediately after he penned the words, Key’s poem — originally known as “Defense of Fort M’Henry” — was published and wedded to the already-existing tune of the “Anacreontic Song.” Long before the Civil War, “The Star Spangled Banner” became the musical and lyrical embodiment of the American flag and the perseverance of the American people.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order designating “The Star-Spangled Banner” as our nation’s national anthem. The U.S. Congress confirmed Wilson’s decision in 1931.
While the first verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is widely known and sung at major sporting events and public gatherings, many Americans may be surprised to learn there are actually four verses of Key’s lyrics.
At a time when world events may be frightening or disheartening, it is my hope we will embrace what Francis Scott Key and so many of our founding fathers carried with them — a reassuring belief so eloquently captured in the forth verse of our national anthem, written 200 years ago at the dawn of a new day.
Oh, thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r 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
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Richard Haddad is Director of News & Digital Content for Western News&Info, Inc., the parent company of The Daily Courier.