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on this day Fort McHenry was under
intense bombardment from British ships off the coast of Maryland. The
Royal Navy was hoping to reduce Ft McHenry as part of an overall land-sea
invasion operation against Baltimore, which the British considered to be a
"nest of pirates".
Detained by the British was an attorney named Francis Scott Key. Key, who
had been negotiating with the British for the release of a friend,
hopelessly watched the bombardment, fully understanding the stakes of the
What if Fort McHenry Would've Fallen?
The British had already captured Washington, the nation's capital, and had
burned its federal buildings to the ground. A devastating and humiliating
blow to the Americans. Now, the British were following up their burning of
Washington with an attack on Baltimore. Had they succeeded, it would've
essentially gutted the eastern coast of the United States.While it may be
overstating things to suggest that the United States would've fallen back
under British imperial control, it is certain that the loss of Baltimore
(so close to the burning of Washington) would have all but guaranteed
British victory in the War of 1812.
Had that occurred, several very unfortunate scenarios may have ensued,
including the British refusal to return captured territory (which they
eventually did under terms of the Treaty of Ghent), the possible secession
of the New England states from the Union, and more. Th future of the
United States would've been bleak.
"And Key's grandson was also familiar with Fort
- reader's comment
On the morning of September 14, Francis Scott Key
peered through the smoke and haze - and saw, with delight, what the
British saw, with great disappointment. The American flag still flew over
The Royal Navy soon abandoned its efforts to reduce Ft McHenry. What's
more, British land forces lost their lead general, Robert Ross, to a
sniper's bullet and their invasion was stalled against American forces led
by Generals Samuel Smith and John Stricker.
The British eventually withdrew their forces and decided on a more
southern strategy, an attempt to take New Orleans and gain control of the
vital Mississippi River. There, that would meet devastating defeat at the
hands of Andrew Jackson.
Key's sighting of the American flag, and the ultimate defeat of Britain's
attack on Baltimore, inspired him to write "The Defence of Fort McHenry",
a poem later put to the music "To Anacreon in Heaven", a popular men's
drinking song. America's national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner", was