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THE FLAG AND ITS ANTHEM
The Stars and Stripes on the European Battle Line - Flying Above the Offices of the British Government - The King of England Singing “The Star Spangled Banner". The Dramatic Story of the National Anthem — Conceived and Born in Battle — The Only Important National Anthem in the World Solely Inspired by the National Flag — The Story of the Stars and Stripes - The Grand Union Flag Derived from the British The Stars and Stripes a Second Derivation from the British Flag - Early Use of the Stars and Stripes — Carried to European Waters by Paul Jones — The Flag of Fifteen Stripes Some Artistic Anachronisms — The Present Flag, "and Long May It Wave!"
THE STARS AND STRIPES are on the firing line of the European war, and will be "in at the death” when Hohenzollern despotism and Prussian militarism and all the bestial anarchism of “Kultur” are finally rounded up and crushed by the triumphant democracy of both hemispheres. The entry of our banner into the world war was signally welcomed by our allies, particularly in its being raised to the highest place of honor above the Parliament Houses and all the government offices in London. During the great public demonstrations of “American Day” in the British capital, April 20, 1917, the King of England was heard to join heartily in the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner,” an anthem which had been written as the American war song in a war waged against England more than a century before
These stirring and epochal incidents make it fitting to recall the story of the flag and of the anthem; the one conceived and born during our first war and the other during our second war; and the two associated with peculiar
intimacy because of the fact that the anthem, alone among the important national anthems of the world, was inspired by and is indeed essentially a tribute to the flag.
KEY'S MISSION TO THE BRITISH FLEET The story of the song is briefly told. Francis Scott Key, a brilliant member of a noted family, the son of a gallant officer in the Revolution, was at that time thirtyfive years old and had already risen into eminence as a lawyer at the national capital. He was looked upon as one of the most important and influential men in his part of Maryland. Now at Upper Marlboro there was a somewhat choleric old physician, of excellent skill and abundant patriotism, Dr. William Beanes. To his house came some of the British forces which raided the shores of the Chesapeake and burned the capitol at Washington, and the officers insisted upon dining at his table and making his office their headquarters. This he was unable to prevent, and so he acquiesced, at heart grudgingly and indignantly, but outwardly with true Maryland hospitality. But after the officers had gone, there came some scurvy stragglers and camp followers, much the worse for firewater, free with insults and inclined toward loot. These Dr. Beanes properly clapped into jail for safe keeping. But when the British learned this they sent back a strong force, released the captives, and took Dr. Beanes aboard the flagship of their fleet, with the cheerful assurance that in a day or two he would infallibly be hanged at the yardarm. At this Key was besought to go to Admiral Cochrane and secure the doctor's release. It was a perilous and unpromising errand, but Key undertook it. He reached the British fleet under a flag of truce on the morning of September 6, 1814, and was well received. It did not
take him long to secure the release of Dr. Beanes. But just at that time the British were preparing for an attack upon Baltimore which they meant to make a surprise, and in order that they might not disclose what they had seen of these preparations, both Key and Beanes were required to remain aboard the flagship until after the attack had been made, and they were told that they would thus have an unsurpassed opportunity to witness the reduction of Fort McHenry and the capture of the city.
“OUR FLAG WAS STILL THERE That attack was made as per schedule on September 13th, in the evening, but it did not result as the British had expected. On the contrary, the fort, under the command of the gallant Armistead, repulsed the fleet and kept its flag flying in triumph all through the night of battle. It was while he anxiously watched this fight from the deck of the British flagship that Key conceived the song, and jotted down rough notes of it on the back of an old letter, to be completed the next day. It may be observed that the song was made quite realistic. The “rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air” were very real and numerous that night, and they gave ample proof that “ our flag was still there;" and the return of daylight confirmed that proef.
The next day the British realized that their attack had failed; and if, made as a surprise, it had been unsuccessful, there would be no hope of success in openly renewing it.
So they sent Key and Dr. Beanes ashore, and sailed away. Key went to Baltimore and showed Judge Nicholson the draft of the song, and at Nicholson's urging it was at once given to a printer and handbill copies of it were struck off and distributed about the city and in
the American army, where, sung to the English air of “To Anacreon in Heaven," it quickly gained great popularity. It was published in The Baltimore American on September 21st, with a note setting forth the circumstances of its origin but not mentioning the name of the writer.
THE GRAND UNION FLAG The evolution of the Stars and Stripes from the British flag began in 1774, at Taunton, Mass., when the patriots raised the British flag with the motto “Liberty and Union' added; union then meaning continued union with Great Britain, and liberty meaning the same liberty for the colonists as the people of England enjoyed.
Next came the memorable step of January 2, 1776, when George Washington, who six months before had assumed chief command of the united colonial armies at Cambridge, raised there a new flag of his own devising. This was the 80-called Grand Union flag, and it consisted of thirteen stripes, alternately red and white, with the union jack in canton. That is to say, it was exactly like the Stars and Stripes, with the union jack in place of the stars; or it was like the British flag, with stripes instead of the plain red field. In brief, it was half British and half American.
That Grand Union flag was carried for more than a year at the beginning of the Revolution: at Boston, at New York, Long Island, Harlem Heights, White Plains, Trenton and Princeton. Leutze's fine painting of "Washington Crossing the Delaware" shows the Stars and Stripes carried on his boat, but the Stars and Stripes did not then exist and did not come into being until months later.
THE FIRST STARS AND STRIPES
But after Trenton and Princeton it was deemed by Congress necessary that we should have another national flag, without the British feature of the union jack, and Washington, then spending the winter between Bound Brook and Morristown, N. J., was commissioned to design one, with Robert Morris and Colonel George Ross as his colleagues. Washington simply took the Grand Union flag, struck out the union jack from the canton, and substituted a circle of thirteen white stars on a blue canton, and the Stars and Stripes stood revealed. This was the second step in the evolution from the British flag.
There is no reason for doubting that the first sample flag was made by Mrs. Elizabeth Ross, widow of John Ross, at No. 239 Arch Street, Philadelphia. We may also accept the entirely plausible story that Washington drew the design with the six-pointed stars of English heraldry, and that Mrs. Ross suggested the change to fivepointed stars; for which we have much cause to be grateful to that clever woman. It is indisputable that on June 14, 1777, John Adams proposed and the Continental Congress adopted a resolution that
“The flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation."
FIRST USE OF THE FLAG
There has been some dispute as to when the flag was first publicly displayed and used, but the overwhelming weight of evidence indicates that it was at Fort Schuyler, formerly called Fort Stanwix, on the site of the present city of Rome, N. Y.
The flag was not officially promulgated until September