A Moment of Triumph
Then in that hour of deliverance and joyful triumph, my heart spoke.
—Francis Scott Key recalling the morning of September 14, 1814
By the “dawn’s early light” of September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key, who was aboard a ship several miles distant, could just make out an American flag waving above Fort McHenry. British ships were withdrawing from Baltimore, and Key realized that the United States had survived the battle and stopped the enemy advance. Moved by the sight, he wrote a song celebrating “that star-spangled banner” as a symbol of America’s triumph and endurance.Making the Flag
Collect Stars To Complete The Flag
When did Francis Scott Key write the lyrics that became the National Anthem?
- July 4, 1814
- The morning after the battle, September 14, 1814
- The night before the battle, September 13, 1814
Francis Scott Key
Portrait of Francis Scott Key, attributed to Joseph Wood, about 1825. Courtesy Walters Art Gallery.
Spyglass, early 1800s, of the type Key might have used to see the flag flying over Fort McHenry from the British ship on which he was being held.
Handwritten Draft of the Lyrics
Inspired by the sight of the American flag flying over Fort McHenry, Key scribbled the opening lyrics for his song on the back of a letter. Later he completed the four verses (PDF) on a sheet of paper, probably making more than one copy. Courtesy Maryland Historical Society.