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The Star-Spangled Banner
I had no idea how dire. (Bart)
Following the defeat of Napoleon in the spring of 1814, the British adopted a more aggressive strategy, intended to compel the United States to negotiate a peace that restored the pre-war status quo. Thousands of seasoned British soldiers were deployed to British North America.
In August, the vessels in Bermuda sailed from the Royal Naval Dockyard and St. George's to join those already operating along the American Atlantic coast. After defeating a US Navy gunboat flotilla, a military force totaling 4,370 (composed of British Army, Royal Marines, and Royal Navy detachments for shore service) under Ross was landed in Virginia. After beating off an American force of 1,200 on the 23rd, on the 24th they attacked the prepared defenses of the main American force of roughly 6,400 (US Army soldiers, militiamen, US Marines, and US Navy sailors) in the Battle of Bladensburg. Despite the considerable disadvantage in numbers (standard military logic dictates that a three-to-one advantage is needed in carrying out an attack on prepared defences) and sustaining heavy casualties, the British force routed the American defenders and cleared the path into the capital (President James Madison and the entire government fled the city, and went North, to the town of Brookeville, Maryland). The Burning of Washington took place that night before the force returned to the ships.
The British also sent a fleet up the Potomac to cut off Washington's water access and threaten the prosperous ports of Alexandria, just downstream of Washington, and Georgetown, just upstream. The mere appearance of the fleet cowed American defenders into fleeing from Fort Warburton without firing a shot, and undefended Alexandria surrendered. The British spent several days looting hundreds of tons of merchandise from city merchants, then turned their attention north to Baltimore, where they hoped to strike a powerful blow against the demoralized Americans. Baltimore was a busy port and was thought by the British to harbor many of the privateers who were raiding British shipping. The British planned a combined operation, with Ross launching a land attack at North Point, and Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane laying siege to Fort McHenry, which was the point defensive installation in Baltimore Harbor.
In August 1814, British forces marched on Washington, defeated U.S. forces, and burned the Capitol. Then, on September 13-14, the British attacked Fort McHenry. The failure of the bombardment and sight of the American flag inspired Francis Scott Key to compose "The Star-Spangled Banner."
An American lawyer and amateur poet, Francis Scott Key, was on a mercy mission for the release of Dr. William Beanes, a prisoner of the British. Key showed the British letters from wounded British officers praising the care they received from Dr. Beanes. The British agreed to release Beanes, but Key and Beanes were forced to stay with the British until the attack on Baltimore was over. Key watched the proceedings from a truce ship in the Patapsco River. On the morning of the 14th, Key saw the American flag waving above Fort McHenry. Inspired, he began jotting down verses on the back of a letter he was carrying. Key's poem was originally named "Defense on Fort McHenry" was printed on pamphlets by the Baltimore American.
Key's poem was later set to the tune of a British song called "To Anacreon in Heaven", the official song of the Anacreontic Society, an 18th-century gentlemen's club of amateur musicians in London. The song eventually became known as "The Star-Spangled Banner". Congress made it the United States national anthem in 1931. Key’s poem was then set to the tune of a popular British song, "To Anacreon in Heaven,” written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men's social club in London.
Anacreon was an ancient Greek lyric poet, famous for his drinking songs and hymns, and "To Anacreon in Heaven” was intended to celebrate wine, women and song—and the men’s club itself.
"The Star-Spangled Banner" (which set Key’s poem to a revised version of the “Anacreon” tune) was recognized first used by the Navy in 1889, and by President Wilson in 1916. It was declared the national anthem of the United States by congressional resolution on March 3, 1931, and subsequently signed by President Hoover.
Tied together through the words of the Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key and the unforgettable singing voice of Whitney Houston.
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The origins of our Memorial Day Holiday
The Civil War ended in the spring of 1865 and claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history, calling for the establishment of the country’s first national cemetery.
Patriotic Americans in various towns and cities began by the late 1860s to hold springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating these graves with flowers and prayers.
In 1868 General John A. Logan called for a nationwide day of remembrance, named Decoration Day saying: “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”
Originally Decoration Day honored only those lost in the Civil War, but by World War I it evolved to commemorate American military members who died in all wars.
For decades, Memorial Day was observed May 30th, but in 1968 Congress passed the "Uniform Monday Holiday Act." This act established Memorial Day as a federal holiday celebrated the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees, which law went into effect in 1971.
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