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Indiana University Bloomington


Star-Spangled Banner

Flag of 1812
Flag of 1812

Surely the most famous product of the War of 1812 is the song now known as “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the United States national anthem since 1931. Attorney Francis Scott Key was involved in negotiating the release of an American doctor held prisoner by the Royal Navy when the British sought to soften up the defenses of Baltimore. Key was not on a British ship, but on the frigate U.S. President when he observed the dramatic day-long bombardment of Fort McHenry.

Key penned the lyrics of the song, but adopted an existing tune, that of the popular British song Anacreon in Heaven. Originally titled “The Defense of Fort McHenry,” the song was not even the first one that Key wrote using that tune. His song celebrating the accomplishments of Captain Stephen Decatur in the Tripolitan War used the same tune and even included the phrase “star-spangled flag.”