Francis Scott Key, as I’m sure you well know, penned the words to what is now our national anthem during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. What you may not realize is that it took a man losing his home for these words to be written.
The story begins with an elderly man you probably never heard of named, Dr. William Beanes. Dr. Beanes was a prominent citizen of Upper Marlboro, Maryland during the late 1700′s into the early 1800′s. He built a home on farm land that he owned. While he lived on a working farm and knew his way around a plow, he was also a very well known doctor and respected scientist. Chances are this is the kind of guy you’d want as your neighbor.
During the War of 1812, Dr. Beanes offered his home and land as a place of rest and refuge for British soldiers who were fighting in Chesapeake Bay. Dr. Beanes invited British General Robert Ross to use his home and land as his headquarters for a few days as the British regrouped on upcoming battle plans.
After General Ross had left and the war carried on, soon Dr. Beanes and other residents in the area came across British soldier who had deserted the war and were busy plundering small farms in the area. Dr. Beanes decided to do something about it and with a group of friends captured some of the deserters and brought them to jail. However, one of them escaped, went back to General Ross and claimed Dr. Beanes had mistreated him and his men. That sent General Ross into quite a fit and demanded that this traitorous Dr. Beanes be brought to him and held captive. So British soldier marched into Dr. Beanes home and took him from his land to be place in jail aboard a British ship.
If there was ever a cardinal sin during these times it was a man having his home taken from him for the wrong reasons and Francis Scott Key was not about to let that go and happen to his close friend Dr. Beanes. On a mission approved by President James Madison, Francis Scott Key and other set sail flying a flag of truce towards the British ship HMS Tonnant to hopefully bring their friend home.
They pleaded their case to General Ross and brought firsthand accounts from British troops about Dr. Beanes hospitality. Because the British were planning a secret attack the next day, the General held Francis Scott Key and his companions until the attack had taken place. So it was on that night aboard a British ship that Francis Scott Key penned what we now know to be our national anthem.
Key witnessed first-hand the words that he wrote, and the infamous lines of “the land of the free and the home of the brave” were first penned. And it all started because a man wanted to bring his friend home to where he belonged.
So Dr. Beanes was eventually released and returned home, but had he not lost his home, albeit briefly, who knows if The Star Spangled Banner would have ever been written.
Header image courtesy of Flickr user by Carissa GoodNCrazy