Had the fort been captured?

Essay by OscarLouiseUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, January 2004

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Had the fort been captured?

After watching the firefight rage for 25 hours from a British truce ship, the bombardment finally began to taper off. The question was: Had the fort been captured? As Francis Scott Key anxiously awaited the outcome of the Battle of Baltimore, he wrote words that would, more than 200 years after they were written, become our national anthem. Most everyone knows that Maryland Native Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner during the War of 1812. But where and how did this professional lawyer and amateur poet get his inspiration to develop something that would be remembered forever.

Francis Scott Key was a respected young lawyer living in Georgetown just west of where the modern day Key Bridge crosses the Potomac River. He made his home there from 1804 to around 1833 with his wife Mary and their six sons and five daughters. At the time, Georgetown was a prosperous town of 5,000 people just a few miles from the Capitol, the White House, and the Federal buildings of Washington.

As the people of Baltimore gazed from their rooftops as flames overwhelmed the capital city 40 miles away, they had no idea that a major turning point in the war was just days away from them. The British chose to attack Baltimore because it was a major entry port for labor and supplies and a center for privateering. The bombardment began on the morning of September 13, 1814 with the American flag soaring high from Fort McHenry.

Key had gone to the enemy's fleet during the war to secure the release of a Maryland doctor, who had been abducted by the British after they left Washington. The lawyer had been successful in his mission, but he could not escort the doctor home until the...