By Ben Marshall
VANDALIA—Van-Far Elementary celebrated the 205th anniversary of the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” Friday, Sept. 13.
The event took place in the gymnasium and continued outside in front of the elementary school around the flag pole, where Old Glory was flying.
Inside the gymnasium, students had gathered for the beginning of the program where Cheryl Schneidler’s class performed the play, “O’er The Ramparts,” a play based on the historical events which led Francis Scott Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner,” which officially became The United States of America’s National Anthem on March 4, 1931, with a Senate bill being signed by President Herbert Hoover.
After the play, the Van-Far elementary students marched outside and gathered around the flag pole where the Van-Far High school band played “The Star Spangled Banner.” Before returning to the high school, the band also played the “Fight Song-Van-Far!”
The Van-Far Elementary students continued their celebration singing, “The Grand Ole’ Flag,” “We Are One Nation,” “This Flag We Fly,” “My Country Tis of Thee,” “America the Beautiful,” and “God Bless America.”
The lyrics of the “Star Spangled Banner” come from a poem written by a then 35-year-old lawyer named Francis Scott Key, after he witnessed the attack on Fort McHenry during the battle of Baltimore which took place in Baltimore Harbor by British ships during the War of 1812.
Key was inspired to write the poem after looking on the 15 stars and 15 stripes of the U.S. flag known as the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
What had placed Key in Baltimore were friends of a man named William Beanes, a physician during the colonial period. He was arrested by the British, more specifically being arrested by a warrant, issued by Gen. Robert Ross of the British army, who felt he was mislead by Beanes to think that the doctor was sympathetic to the British earlier in the war, when he had offered his house up as a headquarters to British officers in his hometown community, where there was no resistance to the British in that community, at that time.
Key went and gained the permission of President James Madison to seek Dr. William Beanes release. Madison gave his permission, however, he also sent John Stuart Skinner who was the U.S. Prisoner Exchange Agent for the region.
Skinner and Key boarded what was known as a “Flag of Truce” vessel and sought out to locate the British fleet.
Upon having a meeting with Gen. Robert Ross on behalf of Beanes, Ross eventually had a change of heart after reviewing letters written by previously wounded British soldiers commending Beanes for his medical services. Ross would let Beanes, Skinner, and Key return to their ship; however would not let them return to Baltimore until after the attack on Fort McHenry.
Beanes, Skinner, and Key were tied up on the ship and watched the battle in the Chesapeake Bay through the night.
A large flag was flown at Fort McHenry which could be seen by Beans, Skinner, and Key from their ship.
The effects of war with smoke and fire from canon fire and bombs bursting in air, obscured their sight of the flag through the night.
When the sun began to rise and the skies began to clear on Sept. 14, the three could see that the flag was still there and that Fort McHenry had not been taken by the British through the night.
The British had began to withdraw from the battle and Beanes, Skinner, and Key were allowed to return on their ship to Baltimore.
Upon their arrival in Baltimore on Sept. 16, Key was inspired to write a poem on the back of a letter which over time has become our National Anthem.