200th Anniversary of 'Star-Spangled Banner' Gets Highest Salute at Fort McHenry, Inner Harbor

The fireworks above the stage and Fort McHenry Sept. 13.
Patrick G. Ryan
The fireworks above the stage and Fort McHenry Sept. 13.

Yes, the flag is most definitely still here -- and for 200 years.

The 200th anniversary of the writing of the song by Georgetowner Francis Scott Key that became the nation anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," was given the highest salute Sept. 13 and Sept. 14 at the place where it all came together, Fort McHenry and Baltimore, Md., during the War of 1812.

Penned after the British Navy stopped the bombardment of Fort McHenry, which guarded Baltimore and its harbor, and departed the Chesapeake region, "The Star-Spangled Banner" was an instant hit and aptly described the scene and feelings of onlookers on Sept. 13 and Sept. 14, 1814.

Over the weeklong celebrations, the Star-Spangled Spectacular in Baltimore told the history of Baltimore's role in the war and how the city's defenders stymied the British, as it hosted tall ships and navy vessels from the U.S. and other nations. The Inner Harbor was festooned with banners, full of vendors, events and visitors. Proud Baltimore rolled out the red-white-and-blue carpet for all and looked its very best.

Highlights of the bicentennial parties were the Sept. 13 evening show in front of Fort McHenry with fireworks as the finale and Sunday morning's "By the Dawn's Early Light Flag-Raising Ceremony," performed to the moment when the Star-Spangled Banner was seen 200 years ago to the relief of defenders and Francis Scott Key.

The Sept. 13 events included a stamp release ceremony by the U.S. Postal Service -- a "Forever" stamp which depicts the shelling of Fort McHenry in 1814 -- and an air show by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

The evening's program included a major performance by the U.S. Marine Band, the "President's Own," as well as singing by the Morgan State University Chorus. Local politicians welcomed the crowd, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Gov. Martin O'Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who was hospitalized overnight due to a respiratory infection. "I pushed myself a bit too hard, given all the excitement around Star Spangled Spectacular and the tremendous opportunity the festivities presented to showcase the very best of Baltimore," Rawlings-Blake said.

After spirited and witty remarks by the ambassadors of former enemies, Canada's Gary Doer and Britain's Peter Westmacott, the evening's last speaker was Vice President Joe Biden, who gave a final, rousing address for the flag: "Does the Star-Spangled Banner still wave? Did it wave … at Normandy … at Ground Zero? … It will wave and not just wave … it is in our hearts."

And, then, there were fireworks above the fort, the best ever in Baltimore, which one news photographer proclaimed as "the best I've ever seen."

The next morning, with the Third U.S. Infantry, U.S. Army "Old Guard" howitzers, Fort McHenry Guard Field Music and the U.S. Navy Band on hand with former Secretary of State Colin Powell, also a retired general, a 30-foot-by-42-foot replica of the original Star-Spangled Banner garrison flag, was raised at the exact moment of its hoisting 200 years ago.

Yes, the flag was most definitely still there, thanks to the defenders of Fort McHenry -- and their brave story, remembered to this day, recorded by and thanks to Washingtonian and Georgetowner Francis Scott Key and his "Star-Spangled Banner."

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Fri, 24 Feb 2017 23:47:24 -0500

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