"It seemed as though mother earth had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone." (Francis Scott Key)
Only weeks before the British had set fire to the White House. Now, they were relentlessly pounding Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. Francis Scott Key watched helplessly from his vessel eight miles away, guarded by the British due to his knowledge of the Battle of Baltimore.
Key wrote: "It seemed as though mother earth had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone." Given the scale of the attack, Key expected the British to win: the barrage continued for 25 hours. However, "in the dawn's early light", once the smoke cleared, he saw the American flag flying over Fort McHenry. He took out his pen and composed a poem reflecting his love for his country.
Key's brother in law read his poem and had it distributed under the name "Defence of Fort McHenry". The Baltimore Patriot soon printed it and within a short time, it was shared with other newspapers across the country. Put to music, it became known as "The Star Spangled Banner".
The tune was recognized by the United States Navy in 1889, by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and by Congress in 1931. The flag which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem now sits in the Smithsonian Institute.
The Star Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian in 1914 courtesy http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-story-behind-the-star-spangled-banner-149220970/?no-ist.