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An American lawyer was dispatched to negotiate for the release of several prisoners, including a civilian named Dr. William Beanes. Although the negotiation for prisoner exchange was initially successful, Francis Scott Key and the American official, Colonel Skinner, were detained because they had overheard the British plan to attack Baltimore. The British Admiral smugly declared to Key that soon there would not be a United States of America. (Which explains why the War of 1812 is sometimes called the Second Revolutionary War.)

The British stormed Washington, D.C. and destroyed the government buildings. Dolley Madison famously rescued many valuables, including a portrait of George Washington and original drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. She and President James Madison were forced to flee to safety.

The British commanders sat down and ate the supper that had been prepared for the President before they burned the White House. In addition to the devastation left by the British, a furious storm also hit DC that evening. Tornadoes added to the destruction, but the rain did at least put out the fires. American morale was at an all-time low. Many Americans had not wanted to enter the war anyway.

The British fleet of 50 warships arrived in Chesapeake Bay with the intentions of invading Baltimore, Maryland. To get to Baltimore, they must pass Ft. McHenry. The British ships were better armored than the fort, which allowed them to fire while remaining out of range. Key and Skinner were forced to watch from British ships as the British shelled the fort from the morning of September 13 until the early morning hours of September 14, 1814. Ft. McHenry returned no fire while the fort was bombarded. At one point, a gun powder depot was hit, but the shell never discharged. Throughout that night, the only light came from the shells exploding over Fort McHenry, illuminating that the American flag was still flying, but it appeared that the Americans were outnumbered and outgunned. Surely, that flag could not continue to fly for long.

As the morning began to dawn, the first light of day revealed to Key that the 42 x 30 foot American flag sewn by Mary Pickersgill still flew over Ft. McHenry. After suffering heavy casualties, the British determined that the harbor could not be breached and beat a retreat. Key quickly jotted down a poem on the back of a letter that immediately became popular and has now been memorialized by our government as our national anthem, the "Star Spangled Banner."

(From a sermon by Tommy Burrus, Upholding His Standard, 7/4/2010)

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