Oh, Fort McHenry

John Sipos, Cassadaga historian, recently spoke at the Jamestown Daughters of American Revolution patriotic luncheon at the DAR house on Prospect Street in the city.

Introduced by Sharon Terwilliger, past regent, Sipos told the history of the event which led to the lawyer Francis Scott Key composing what was a poem of “The Star-Spangled Banner” nearly 200 years ago. The American flag flown over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 was the 15-star, 15-stripe flag which was the official flag from 1794 until 1818. The original flag was 30 feet by 42 feet being sewn by Mary Pickersgill, a Baltimore flag maker.

Fort McHenry was one of the major ports to Baltimore, and the British wanted to capture the fort, after having burning the White House in Washington, the president’s home and other major buildings a month before in August 1814. A battle of 25 hours, in September 1814, took place where the British tried to capture the fort, but were unsuccessful.

Key was on board one of the ships trying to negotiate a release of prisoners, and after the battle the next morning, he looked outside “at the dawn’s early light” to see the American Flag still flying upon the 90-foot flagpole. Some of the original flag was used for souvenirs, and is now 34 feet long, with one star missing, which was buried with an officer. The poem by Key was put to music and sung for the first time in October of 1814. Sipos said that this was the right time to give this patriotic speech for the Star Spangled Banner, now 200 years old in September. The song was made the national anthem by President Hoover in 1931.

The DAR holds a patriotic theme meeting in the summer of each year. A luncheon with a variety of foods was enjoyed at the DAR house. For more information on being a member of the DAR, call 664-4144. Any woman who is over the age of 18, and can prove lineage to a patriot who aided in the American Revolution is eligible for membership. Linda Cass is the chapter regent.