Saturday, August 05, 2006

Fort McHenry or Oh, Say Can You See?

The entrance to the park

Fort McHenry is a notable historic site because during the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key viewed the ginormous flag which still flew over the fort after a night of bombardment by the British with relief and was inspired to compose our national anthem.

The Star-Spangled Banner
Francis Scott Key, 1814

Oh, say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Personally--I was clueless about the verses after the first. I've tried singing them but the tune is so connected with the words in my mind that without music to look at while singing, I found I couldn't sing the other verses accurately.
The flag at the fort is a replica--but it's the same size: gi-normous or in more technical terms--42 feet by 30 feet--waving from the original flagpole.

On summer afternoon's re-enactors demonstrate soldier-y skills, such as marching and loading cannon (pretend) etc. Their heavy uniforms must be murderous to wear in the heat. They are very friendly and happy to pose for photos, however.

My niece Allison, and my twin Judy touring the earthworks. Allison is trying to pull off her Paris Hilton impersonation with her big, white sunglasses. Meanwhile, I told Judy--never carry a pink purse and wear a pink hat with an orangy-red shirt again. Eww. The fort is a star-shape with a pentagon interior. Totally cool looking and the views of the water are spectacular.

Here are Allison, Karen, and Judy in front of the statue erected to honor Major George Armistead the commander of Fort McHenry during the British Bombardment in 1814. He was the uncle of the Armistead who later served on the Union side of the Civil War and was killed at Gettysburg. The second Armistead figures prominently in the movie, Gettysburg.

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