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The Star-Spangled Banner

The Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem of the United States. (See also Stars and Stripes and Flag of the United States.) The words were written in 1814 by a 35 year old poet-lawyer Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. Key had boarded a British warship to secure the release of a friend, who had been accused of harboring British deserters. The British commanders agreed to release both men, but for security reasons, they were held overnight while the British fleet attacked the fort.

The next day, Key wrote a poem, "The Defense of Fort McHenry." The poem was later set to the tune of a popular English drinking song ("To Anacreon in Heaven"), dating from around 1800, written by John Stafford Smith. The same tune was at one time the national anthem of Luxembourg.

It was adopted as the national anthem of the United States on March 3, 1931. When sung in public (before major sporting events, for example), for reasons of brevity, verses after the first are typically omitted.

America the Beautiful, My Country, Tis of Thee, and God Bless America are all often considered "unofficial" U.S. anthems.


O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming!
And the rockets' 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?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!