Our Flag Was Still There

1814 Flag

One of my favorite articles was published by the Smithsonian Magazine back in July, 2000.

For those unfamiliar with the inspiration for our fireworks and national anthem, this is a must read. Here is a brief excerpt but I encourage you to read the entire article and make it a part of your annual celebration tradition.

One episode that’s hard to forget, much as we’d like to, is the sack of our national capital in 1814. A British landing force put ashore from the Chesapeake Bay, marched inland in the humid heat of August and headed for “Washington City.” We scraped up all the militia we could, and ventured to meet the invaders at the suburb of Bladensburg. At first glimpse of approaching redcoats with bayonets aglitter, most of us scampered home as fast as our weary legs could take us. The battle became known as the Bladensburg Races.

The British were tired too, but they pressed on to Washington, burned the Capitol and many other buildings, and stormed into the White House. Before setting it ablaze, the officers sat down to a sumptuous dinner laid out for President and Mrs. James Madison, who had hastily departed, Dolly Madison clutching Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington.

Though the war was hardly our finest hour, it did have its moments, and that’s where the flag now at the Smithsonian made its bow. Leaving Washington smoking, the British troops, flushed with success (and wine), marched toward the Bay to rejoin their fleet and attack the vital seaport of Baltimore. We Americans, humbled but angry, finally rose to the occasion. Capable leaders appeared and strengthened Baltimore’s defenses, beefing up Fort McHenry, which guarded the harbor, adding shore batteries. More militia arrived from Pennsylvania and Virginia, and a regiment of regulars showed up…

Read on!

Have a wonderful Independence Day!


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