Why didn't Key ask one of his captors? Most likely, they couldn't have answered him. They were awaiting word from Robert Ross, the British general who led the troops that had disembarked at Sparrows Point, at the confluence of the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay, and were supposed to capture Baltimore. Ross's force had already captured and burned Washington. Surely they could brush aside the Maryland militia and recreate their victory in Baltimore. When Ross's courier arrived, they were stunned to learn that he was dead and that his forces had been defeated by Sam Smith.
So, does that star-spangled banner yet wave? Thanks to Sam Smith, it still does. Sadly, some say it doesn't wave quite so bravely nor over people who are quite as free. Many see it at half-staff, as in mourning for a nation diminished. Others see it flown upside-down as in distress. Bullies and tyrants around the world see its colors fading and are emboldened to loose the dogs of war. Still, it waves, however limply, like that morning two hundred years ago today when Francis Scott Key penned a poem reflecting his fears.
Maybe that's what is so compelling about America's national anthem. It resonates with the fears that many feel as we find ourselves, once again, under attack from without and within.
September 14, 2014