This is the first known photograph of the American flag taken on June 21, 1873 by George Henry Preble. The flag was flown over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland during an infamous battle between the British and the United States during the War of 1812.
At 6:00 a.m. on September 13, 1814, British warships began to attack Fort McHenry with guns and rockets in an attempt to take over the strategic Baltimore Harbor. For 25 hours American soldiers stood their positions, unable to do much but watch the British shoot at them. Their own cannons did not have the range to touch the British ships. The British, on the other hand, had longer-reaching guns and could hit the fort. However, they were wildly inaccurate. So the British sat in the harbor attempting to damage the fort while the Americans sat in the fort hoping their enemies’ guns would continue to be erratic. The British finally ceased their attack the next morning after using most of their ammunition. When the smoke cleared, only one British soldier was wounded while the Americans lost four and had twenty-four wounded.
The reason the attack on Fort McHenry is forever ingrained in the history books is because of one witness, a Washington lawyer, who wrote a poem about the attack. The poem, originally called “The Defense of Fort McHenry” but was later renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and became the United States’ national anthem. It was penned by Francis Scott Key who came to the fort to negotiate the release of a friend that was taken prisoner by the British. He witnessed the bombardment from a ship about eight miles away. Inspired by the sight of a lone, large American flag still waving strongly at the end of the battle, Key reflected what he saw in the famous poem: “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof though the night that our flag was still there.”
The oversized American flag he saw (shown in the above photo) was sewn by Mary Pickersgill. In anticipation of the British attack, she was given $405.90 to create the 30 by 42 feet flag. Pickersgill, a thirty-seven-year-old widow, had made ships’ colors and signal flags before and often filled orders for military and merchant ships. In making this particular flag, she was assisted by her thirteen-year-old daughter Caroline, her nieces Eliza Young (also thirteen) and Margaret Young (fifteen-years-old) along with Grace Wisher, a thirteen-year-old indentured servant. It took them seven weeks to make this flag along with a smaller flag.
Posted by gerardvanderleun at September 13, 2014 3:08 PM
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved 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!