Our Flag
H. Doc. 100—247
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During the night of September 13, 1814, the British fleet bombarded Fort McHenry in the harbor at Baltimore, Maryland. Francis Scott Key, a 34-year old lawyer-poet, watched the attack from the deck of a British prisoner-exchange ship. He had gone to seek the release of a friend but they were refused permission to go ashore until after the attack had been made. As the battle ceased on the following morning, Key turned his telescope to the fort and saw that the American flag was still waving. The sight so inspired him that he pulled a letter from his pocket and began to write the poem which eventually was adopted as the national anthem of the United States—"The Star-Spangled Banner." Key was returned to Baltimore and later that day took a room at a Baltimore tavern where he completed the poem.

Years later, Key told a hometown audience in Frederick, Maryland:

"I saw the flag of my country waving over a city—the strength and pride of my native State—a city devoted to plunder and desolation by its assailants. I witnessed the preparation for its assaults. I saw the array of its enemies as they advanced to the attack. I heard the sound of battle; the noise of the conflict fell upon my listening ear, and told me that 'the brave and the free' had met the invaders."

In the spirit of the 175th Anniversary of "The Star-Spangled Banner," the Joint Committee on Printing is pleased to present the latest edition of Our Flag. This Congressional publication briefly describes the history of the flag, and sets forth the practices and observances appropriate to its display. The Committee hopes that this document will be both useful and informative to its audience.


Vice Chairman

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Last Updated: —2009