Our National Anthem

As we sing along with the Star-Spangled Banner, do we know why it is played during the raising of our flag?  Do we know how that song came to be our National Anthem?  Here’s some information on one of our most well-known tunes that may be new to you!

The Star- Spangled Banner was written in September of 1814 by Francis Scott Key.  In 1861, additional lyrics were written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. during the Civil War.  Twenty-six years after the original writing of the Star-Spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key then wrote “Whose bright stars and broad stripes, through the clouds of the fight” in place of “Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight”.  Despite additional lyrics and revisions to the 1814 version, we continue to sing the original, two hundred year old version and adopted it as our anthem in 1931.  Although most Americans are familiar with the first verse, the Star-Spangled Banner actually contains four verses; the last three of which are hardly used.

The music played with the lyrics was not the work of Francis Scott Key however.  Mr. Key set his lyrics to a British tune, The Anacreontic Song.  The Anacreontic Song was the official song of a gentlemen’s club in London.  This makes for an interesting choice, as the Star-Spangled Banner was penned by Mr. Key after being sent to negotiate the release of a physician from the British near Fort McHenry in 1812.  Francis Scott Key was successful in negotiating the release of the physician, but was held captive by the British until after the bombing.  During this time, at the young age of 35, Key penned his observations of the battle.   Can you imagine being aboard a British ship watching your own land being attacked?  I’d imagine no one could diminish his sense of pride as dawn broke and he looked out to see the large American flag flying victoriously!

Our Navy began recognizing this song in 1889 for official use.  By way of General Order #374, Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Tracy mandated the Star-Spangled Banner be played during the raising of the flag.  In 1916 President Wilson ordered the song to be played at military occasions.  Fifteen years later, President Hoover signed into law the Star-Spangled Banner as our national anthem.  Today we still enjoy it as the start to our sporting events, a conjuring of pride in our country and in conjunction with the raising of our flag.

United States Code, 36 U.S.C. § 301 provides specific information on demeanor while the anthem is being played and the flag is being displayed.  It is important to familiarize yourself with this as well as installation and branch specific requirements.  In particular, whether you are the service member or not, while on an installation you may be expected to exit your vehicle and stand facing the direction of the music, if the flag is not visible.  Again, you should become familiar with installation requirements on this topic due to variances of sitting at attention or exiting the vehicle.  Your local installation can provide the Reveille and Retreat times.

Star Spangled Banner“And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.‚Äù

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