previous next

Key, Francis Scott 1780-

Author; born in Frederick county, Md., Aug. 9, 1780; was a lawyer and poet, and, removing to Washington, D. C., became district attorney. A collection of his poems was

Francis Scott Key.

published after his death, in Baltimore, Jan. 11. 1843.

The Star-Spangled banner

On the return of the British to their vessels after the capture of Washington, they carried with them Dr. Beanes, an influential and well-known physician of Upper Marlboro. His friends begged for his release, but Admiral Cockburn refused to give him up, and sent him on board the flag-ship of Admiral Cochrane. Key, then a resident of Georgetown, well known for his affability of manner, was requested to go to

Signature of Francis Scott Key.

Cochrane as a solicitor for the release of the doctor. He consented, and the President granted him permission. In company with John S. Skinner, a well-known citizen of Baltimore, he went in the cartel-ship Minden, under a flag of truce. They found the British ships at the mouth of the Potomac, preparing to attack Baltimore. Cochrane agreed to release Beanes, [248]

Fac-Simile of the original manuscript of the first stanza of “the Star-Spangled banner.”

[249] but refused to allow him or his friends to return then. They were placed on board the Surprise, where they were courteously treated. When the fleet went up Patapsco Bay, they were sent back to the Minden, with a guard of marines to prevent their landing and conveying information to their countrymen. the Minden was anchored within sight of Fort McHenry, and from her decks the three friends observed the fierce bombardment of the fort which soon ensued. It ceased before the dawn (Sept. 14, 1814). The anxious Americans did not know whether the fort had surrendered or not. They awaited the appearance of daylight with painful suspense. In the dim light of the opening morning they saw through their glasses the starspangled banner yet waving in triumph over the fort, and soon learned the fate of the land expedition against Baltimore and preparations of the discomfited British for speedy departure. When the fleet was ready to sail, Key and his friends were released, and returned to the city. It was during the excitement of the bombardment, and when pacing the deck of the Minden between midnight and dawn, that Key composed the popular song, The Star-Spangled banner, the first stanza of which expressed the feelings of thousands of eyewitnesses of the scene, and is reproduced on the preceding page from the original manuscript. The rude substance of the song was written on the back of a letter which Key happened to have in his pocket. On the night after his return to Baltimore he wrote it out in full and read it to his uncle, Judge Nicholson, one of the defenders of the fort, and asked his opinion of it. The pleased judge took it to the printing-office of Capt. Benjamin Edes, and caused it to be printed in hand-bill form. Samuel Sands set up the song in type, printed it, and distributed it among the citizens. It was first sung by Charles Durang, at a restaurant next door to the Holliday Street Theatre, Baltimore, to an assemblage of patriotic defenders of Baltimore, and after that nightly at the theatre and everywhere in public and private.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
January 11th, 1843 AD (1)
September 14th, 1814 AD (1)
August 9th, 1780 AD (1)
1780 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: