The Star-Spangled Banner



Book: The Star-Spangled Banner

Author: Joseph VanFonda

Publisher: Disabled Veterans National Foundation, 2014


Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Suitable for everyone

Rating: ***** Five stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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VanFonda, Joseph.  The Star-Spangled Banner (published in 2014 by the Disabled Veterans National Foundation, P. O. Box 96648, Washington, DC  20090).  Following the Burning of Washington and the Raid on Alexandria during the War of 1812, a 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet named Francis Scott Key along with John Stuart Skinner set sail on September 3, 1814, from Baltimore aboard the ship HMS Minden, flying a flag of truce on a mission approved by President James Madison to secure an exchange of prisoners, one of whom was Dr. William Beanes. Key and Skinner boarded the British flagship HMS Tonnant on September 7 and spoke with Major General Robert Ross and Vice Admiral Alexander Cochran, who finally agreed to release Beanes, but because the two Americans had heard details of the plans for the attack on Baltimore, they were held captive until after the battle, first aboard HMS Surprise and later back on HMS Minden.

During the rainy night of September 13, Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor during the Battle of Baltimore and observed that the fort’s small “storm flag” continued to fly.  On the morning of September 14, the storm flag had been lowered and a larger flag had been raised.  Inspired by the large American flag, the “Star-Spangled Banner,” flying triumphantly above the fort during the American victory, Key was moved to write a poem entitled “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” on September 14, 1814. This flag, with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, had been made by Mary Young Pickersgill together with other workers in her home on Baltimore’s Pratt Street. Key wrote a poem on the back of a letter he had kept in his pocket. At twilight on September 16, he and Skinner were released in Baltimore. He completed the poem at the Indian Queen Hotel,

The lyrics were intended for the tune of a popular British song written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men’s social club in London entitled “To Anacreon in Heaven” (or “The Anacreontic Song”), already well-known in the United States.  Set to Key’s words and renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner,” it soon became a beloved American patriotic song.  “The Star-Spangled Banner” was made the national anthem by a congressional resolution on March 3, 1931, which was signed by President Herbert Hoover. Although the poem has four stanzas, only the first is commonly sung today.  This Disabled Veterans National Foundation picture book with message from DVNF Chief Executive Officer Joe VanFonda, USMC Sgt. Maj. Ret., contains the text of the first stanza of the National Anthem with gorgeous photographs featuring flag scenes.

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