The four verses of "The Star-Spangled Banner" were augmented with a fifth during the Civil War, the time when this sheet music was printed. "The Star-Spangled Banner" became the official American national anthem in 1931.
Illustration for "The Star-Spangled Banner", transcribed for piano by Ch. Voss, Philadelphia: G. Andre & Co., 1862

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    On September 13, 1814, the young American lawyer Francis Scott Key was inspired by the successful American defense of Fort McHenry, Maryland, during the War of 1812. The poem he wrote about the battle, “Defense of Fort M’Henry,” was put to music and eventually became the national anthem of the United States, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
    Key witnessed the battle while he was briefly detained on British gunboats in Baltimore Harbor, where Fort McHenry is located. Key was negotiating for the release of some American prisoners, and the British temporarily held him after he overheard their plans to attack Baltimore. 
    From the British ships, Key saw the fort’s 5x8 meter (17x25 foot) “storm flag” hit with British rocket fire. Key didn’t know the outcome of the battle until the following morning, when the fort unfurled its massive 9x13 meter (30x42 foot) banner.
    Set to an already popular tune, “Defense of Fort M’Henry” became one of the most popular patriotic songs of the 19th century. It was officially declared the national anthem in 1931.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    anthem Noun

    song of strong belief in faith or patriotism.

    banner Noun


    battle Noun

    violent encounter during a conflict.

    briefly Adverb

    for a short time.

    commanding officer Noun

    authority (officer) in charge of a military unit.

    defense Noun

    protection or resistance to attack.

    detain Verb

    to confine or delay.

    eventually Adverb

    at some point in the future.

    fort Noun

    military outpost, area, or set of buildings.

    gunboat Noun

    small, armed warship.

    harbor Noun

    part of a body of water deep enough for ships to dock.

    Encyclopedic Entry: harbor
    inspire Verb

    to influence to act.

    island Noun

    body of land surrounded by water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: island
    lawyer Noun

    person who studies the law, represents clients, and gives legal advice.

    massive Adjective

    very large or heavy.

    negotiate Verb

    to discuss with others of different viewpoints in order to reach an agreement, contract, or treaty.

    outcome Noun


    patriotic Adjective

    supporting and celebrating a nation and its people.

    poem Noun

    written or spoken composition notable for its beauty or rhythm.

    spangle Verb

    to glitter or sparkle.

    temporarily Adverb

    for a short or limited time.

    troop Noun

    a soldier.

    unfurl Verb

    to uncurl or straighten out.

    War of 1812 Noun

    (1812-1815) conflict between the United States and the British Empire.

    witness Verb

    to see and be aware of by personal, first-hand knowledge.