O say, can you see by the dawn’s early light

O say, can you see by the dawn’s early light. Francis Scott Key* (1779-1843). The story of this hymn, written on 14 September 1812, has often been told. During the war of 1812 against the British, Key was sent from Baltimore to negotiate the release of a prisoner on a British warship. The British, who were planning a bombardment of Fort McHenry, agreed to release the prisoner, but insisted on Key and the prisoner remaining on board overnight so that they would not reveal the imminent attack. The bombardment began on 13 September, and continued through the following night. On the morning of 14 September, however, the American flag was still defiantly flying, and the British withdrew. Key,...

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