Cassadaga Historian explains ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ history

JAMESTOWN – Cassadaga historian John Sipos recently spoke at the Jamestown Daughters of American Revolution patriotic luncheon. He explained about events nearly 200 years ago which led to the lawyer Francis Scott Key composing a poem that became the lyrics to the “Star Spangled Banner.” The American flag flown over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 was the 15-star, 15-stripe flag, the official U.S. flag from 1794 until 1818. This flag, sewn by Mary Pickersgill, a Baltimore flag maker, was 30 feet by 42 feet

Fort McHenry was one of the major ports to Baltimore, and the British wanted to capture the fort, after having burned the White House in Washington, the president’s home and other major buildings in August 1814. In September 1814, a battle of 25 hours took place during which the British tried unsuccessfully to capture the fort. Key was on board a British ship trying to negotiate a release of prisoners. The morning after the battle “at the dawn’s early light” he saw the American Flag still flying upon the 90-foot flagpole.

Some of the original flag was used for souvenirs, so it now 34 feet long, with one star missing, which was buried with an officer. The poem by Key was put to music and sung for the first time in October 1814. The song was made the national anthem by President Hoover in 1931.