War of 1812

It was the War of 1812 that set the stage for America to eventually emerge as a recognized nation on the world stage. The scene depicted on the monument is Francis Scott Key, forming the words that would one day become our national anthem while Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor raged before his eyes.

On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key, a Washington lawyer, was aboard a British warship several miles at sea set to obtain the release of an American civilian imprisoned by the British and had been detained on the vessel as the bombardment began.

Moved by the sight of the American flag flying over Fort McHenry the morning after the bombardment, he wrote the initial verse of his poem on the back of a letter. It affirmed the Star-Spangled Banner as a symbol of America’s triumph. Although, The Star-Spangled Banner became one of the nation’s most patriotic works, it did not become the national anthem until 1931.

The War of 1812 is a relatively little-known war in American history. Less than 30 years after the American Revolution, America and Britain were at war again. Resentment for Britain’s interference with American international trade, combined with American expansionist visions, led Congress to declare war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812.

A series of defeats left Americans stunned. It was on August 24, 1814 that British troops marched into Washington, D.C. and torched the Capital building and White House.

As flames rose across the capital, the American government’s decision two years earlier to declare war on Britain seemed rash and regrettable. England remained a world power, while the fledgling United States plagued by domestic disagreement and had not yet formed a strong military.

Americans were especially concerned for the nation’s fate when the British set their sights on Baltimore, Maryland, a vital seaport. Warships began firing bombs on Fort McHenry, which protected the harbor. The bombardment continued for more than a day, yet in the end the battle was a triumph for our nation’s military.

The treaty of Ghent, signed on December 24, 1814, ended the war. Despite its complex causes and questionable outcome, this conflict helped establish the standing of our young country among other nations. And it created a strong sense of national pride among Americans.

With peace in America, came decades of stability, economic growth, and a of self-confidence that inspired our nation’s western expansion, and the conflict sparked the birth of a national railroad network that would grow through the 19th century, changing America in the process.

The war also produced many American military heroes. Two of them, Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison, went on to attain the highest office in the land. They both served as president of the United States.

Today, the words of Francis Scott Key continue to reaffirm what America stands for:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.