200 years ago today, British forces began bombarding Fort McHenry in Baltimore’s harbor. The attack continued throughout the say and night. All the lights were extinguished in Baltimore, so the only light was given off by the exploding shells over Fort McHenry, illuminating the flag that was still flying over the fort.
Witnessing the attack from a British ship was American lawyer Francis Scott Key, who was being held captive. Inspired by the sight, Key wrote a poem called “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” His poem would later be set to music and renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
A letter from Maj. Gen. Samuel Smith to James Monroe about the bombardment of Fort McHenry and a list of those killed and wounded in the battle are currently on display at the National Archives Museum’s “Featured Documents” exhibit.
Image: "An aerial view of historic Fort McHenry guarding the harbor entrance… 08/25/1994"