The best thing the Americans got out of the War of 1812 is their truly great national anthem. Its lyrics were written 200 years ago today.
A young Baltimore lawyer named Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry by a fleet of 19 British warships. The attack started on the evening of September 13, 1814 and continued all night. As dawn broke on September 14, he could see the enormous garrison flag still flying through all the smoke and debris and was inspired to write his famous poem.
This photo of the battle-scarred Fort McHenry flag was taken 50 years later --
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?