Extraordinary Americans, through their efforts and eloquence, have helped define this country… and make sure it lives up to its promise. We invite you to sample these documents, speeches, poems, people and moments in history that continue to inspire us.
“Then, in that hour of deliverance, my heart spoke. Does not such a country, and such defenders of their country, deserve a song?”
- Francis Scott Key
On the night of September 3, 1814, Francis Scott Key, a captive aboard the British ship H.M.S. Surprise, witnessed the attack on the American Fort McHenry. From the glowing light of bombardments, the 15 star flag was visible for most of night. Eventually the rocket attacks halted and from Key's vantage point, the outcome was in doubt.
With the first light of morning, the smoke cleared and American troops raised their battered flag. The victory moved Key, an amateur poet, to scratch out a poem on the spot.
Key's brother-in-law noticed that the words fit with a popular drinking song of the day, and the tune of the Star-Spangled Banner was set. In 1931 America officially adopted the song as our national anthem, and during the supreme trial of WWII, it became customary to sing it before sporting events.
The Star Spangled Banner is a song about nationalism, victory and unity. It represents the strong will of America during a stressful period when the country was under attack; a time when individual states came together as one to defend against invasion by the British.