Student Activities

A Question of Loyalties - Mount Welby during the War of 1812 (Political Systems)

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Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Social Studies


These activities will help students understand that Oxon Cove Park has a rich history that includes the story of the Debutts, a British family that came to America in the late 1700s. The Debutts family finally settled on a hilltop overlooking the Potomac River that today is known as Oxon Cove Park. It is from this hilltop that Mrs. DeButts witnessed the British capture of Alexandria and the Burning of Washington. 

Background Reading

The DeButts of Mount Welby 

War Come to Mount Welby

A Question of Loyalties  

A Day and Night of Horrors

Rockets on the Hill

The Capture of Alexandria

Ships in the River


Activity 1:

Read The Star-Spangled Banner and discuss each line in the first stanza.

Review the song's historical context with the students and point out the following locations on a classroom map: Upper Marlboro, Bladensburg, Baltimore, Fort McHenry, and Mount Welby (present day Oxon Cove Park/Oxon Hill Farm), home of the DeButts family.

  • If you are located in or near Maryland, ask students where your school is located in relationship to these sites.
  • Explain to students why Francis Scott Key was on a British ship during the Battle of Baltimore and bombardment of Fort McHenry.

Activity #2:

Ask students to draw a picture or write a story on how they would have felt, as an American citizen, to find a British congreve rocket on their hill. Remind the students that a congreve rocket is what Francis Scott Key refers to in The Star Spangled Banner when he writes about the " rockets red glare."

Activity #3:

Instruct the students to write a paragraph or draw a picture on why they think The Star-Spangled Banner song was chosen to be our National Anthem. Ask students to find out when the song became our National Anthem.

Activity #4:

  • Instruct students to wirte about two different perspectives of the War of 1812.
    Francis Scott Key
    Mrs. DeButts
  • Do you think Mrs Debutts would have thought The Star-Spangled Banner an appropriate choice for our National Anthem?

Tell students that they must provide examples from both texts to support their product.


Download The Star Spangled Banner text

Download Mrs. DeButts' letter

Last updated: August 21, 2015