Sunday, September 7, 2014

America's Story (part 16) - Our First 9/11

Wikipedia/Star Spangled Banner Flag

June 1812 - February 1815:

More than 200 years ago, the War of 1812 began.  It has been called the Second War of American Independence.  And it started for many reasons, among them:  the British restriction of American trade, the desire of American expansion, the impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars.

But a turning point came in late summer of 1814.

[reference: War of 1812 - Facts & Summary - and timeline - Timeline | War of 1812 | PBS ]

August 24 - 25, 1814:

In retaliation for American attacks in Canada, the British took the US capital and torched it.   An interesting side note is that on the next day, the weather - a tornado - inflicted more causalities on the British than the fight. So the British cut their occupation short and limped back to their ships. 

[reference: British troops set fire to the White House — This Day in History — 8/24/1814  and A Tornado Saves Washington during the War of 1812 | Historical Digression ]

Many prisoners were taken in this attack on Washington D. C.  Among them was Dr. William Beanes, a colleague of Georgetown lawyer, Francis Scott Key.

Soon it was ...

* September 11, 1814 *

This was our first 9/11 and the turning point of the war at the Battle of Plattsburgh.  The decisive victory over the British naval forces on Lake Champlain lead the British retreat into Canada.  Also it lead to the conclusion of U.S.-British peace negotiations in Belgium, which would formally end the war in 1815.

[reference:  The Battle of Plattsburgh- September 11, 1814 Victory on Lake Champlain  and Battle of Plattsburgh - Facts & Summary - ]

Meanwhile, Francis Scott Key traveled to the British fleet in the Chesapeake to negotiate a release of American prisoners of war, among them Dr. William Beanes.

September 13 and 14, 1814

But after the British victory in Washington D.C. in August, their troops advanced to the vital port city of Baltimore.  They believed it to be the base of the privateers, who preyed on their shipping.   At Fort McHenry was the garrison that was key to the city's harbor defense.

[reference: War of 1812: Battle of Fort McHenry ]

In the Battle of Fort McHenry, the British gave it all that they got as they fired on the fort to get the Americans to surrender.  There ultimatum to the Americans was if the fort lowered the flag, the shelling would stop.

The rest of the story is told here in the clip below - through the eyes of Francis Scott Key:

(for a transcrpt, check out:  The Star Spangled Banner)

And at dawn's early light, Francis Scott Key saw that  - the flag was still there!   

This Georgetown lawyer penned the lyrics of the song from this experience.  They can be found here:  Star Spangled Banner Lyrics - USA Flag Site

For the rest of the story:  The Story Behind the Star Spangled Banner | History | Smithsonian

The Star Spangled Banner was born in the crucible of the American Revolution and the War of 1812, in which we fought the British. Since then, the United States and the United Kingdom have become strong allies.

* September 11, 2001 *

Almost 200 years after the War of 1812, the US was attacked on native soil in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.

[reference:  9/11 Attacks - Facts & Summary - ]

And the British gave this tribute to us, playing the Star Spangled Banner at Buckingham Palace:

It's been 200 years since the lyrics were written.  As we move into the 21st century, the last line of our National Anthem still ends with this question:

Oh, say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

And it's a question each coming generation needs to answer.


Other posts in this series:


Photo from:  Wikipedia/Star Spangled Banner Flag

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