Sometimes, somethings are bigger than ourselves … no matter how important some people view themselves, no matter the extent of our respective individual freedoms.
36 US Code § 301 – National anthem – notes, “During a rendition of the national anthem … persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart …”
“… and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart …”
“… and when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.”
Let’s look back …
Britain’s defeat by the Continental Army of the American colonies at the 1781 Battle of Yorktown marked the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War. Less than decades after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which formalized Britain’s recognition of the United States of America, the two countries were again in conflict.
Resentment for Britain’s interference with American international trade, combined with American expansionist visions, led Congress to declare war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812. (Smithsonian)
In the summer of 1813, Mary Pickersgill, an experienced maker of ships’ colors and signal flags, was contracted to sew two flags for Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, a 30 x 42–foot garrison flag and a 17 x 25–foot storm flag for use in inclement weather.
Pickersgill and her thirteen-year-old daughter Caroline; nieces Eliza Young (thirteen) and Margaret Young (fifteen); and a thirteen-year-old African American indentured servant, Grace Wisher, spent about seven weeks making the two flags. (Smithsonian)
The flag, with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, came to be known as the Star Spangled Banner Flag and is today on display in the National Museum of American History in the Smithsonian Institution.
On a rainy September 13, 1814, British warships sent a downpour of shells and rockets onto Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, relentlessly pounding the American fort for 25 hours.
The bombardment, known as the Battle of Baltimore, came only weeks after the British had attacked Washington, DC, burning the Capitol, the Treasury and the President’s house.
A week earlier, Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old American lawyer (and amateur poet,) had boarded the flagship of the British fleet on the Chesapeake Bay in hopes of persuading the British to release a friend who had recently been arrested.
Key’s tactics were successful, but because he and his companions had gained knowledge of the impending attack on Baltimore, the British did not let them go. They allowed the Americans to return to their own vessel but continued guarding them. Under their scrutiny, Key watched on September 13 as the barrage of Fort McHenry began eight miles away.
“It seemed as though mother earth had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone.” (Key) Key put his thoughts on paper while still on board the ship; he called his poem Defence of Fort M’Henry.
The poem was later put to the tune of (John Stafford Smith’s song) The Anacreontic Song, modified somewhat, and retitled The Star Spangled Banner.
The song gained popularity throughout the nineteenth century and bands played it during public events, such as July 4th celebrations.
On July 27, 1889, Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F Tracy signed General Order #374, making “The Star-Spangled Banner” the official tune to be played at the raising of the flag. (Smithsonian)
Throughout the 19th century, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was regarded as the national anthem by most branches of the US armed forces and other groups.
But it was not until 1916, and the signing of an executive order by President Woodrow Wilson, that it was formally designated as such. In March 1931, Congress passed an act confirming Wilson’s presidential order, and on March 3, 1931 President Hoover signed it into law.
In Hawaiʻi, the issue of interest was the export of sandalwood – the War of 1812 interfered with trade in the Pacific. Exports were interrupted by the battling nations as warships were sent to protect their own commerce and destroy that of the enemy. Hawaiʻi was blockaded during the war.
In addition, several Hawaiians served with the US in the war, including Humehume (Prince Kaumualiʻi, son of King Kaumualiʻi,) Thomas Hopu and William Kanui (all three were also on the Thaddeus with the first missionary company to Hawaiʻi, in 1820.)
The Star-Spangled Banner
O say can you see,
by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d
at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars
through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d
were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare,
the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night
that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?