Subscribe to the Rosenblog!

Friday, September 07, 2012

War of 1812

Amidst the hoopla for the Dickens 200 and the Civil War 150, it is all too easy to overlook another anniversary this year--the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. It's a war that few Americans know much about, myself sadly included--when I tested my knowledge on an online 1812 quiz, I scored only 40% . And that was on the easy quiz! But the Bicentennial offers us a chance to mend our ways. You can check out the official Bicentennial website,the Maryland Bicentennial website, as well as this webpage from CBSPhilly listing local sites related to the war--did you know that Lewes, Delaware was shelled by the British?

One thing that we all do know about the War of 1812 is that it inspired the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner. (Of course, that makes it even stranger that we don't, in general, know much about the war that inspired our national anthem.) The bombardment of Ft. McHenry took took place September 13-14, 1814, and the famous flag was raised on the 14th. Inspired by the battle and the flag, Francis Scott Key wrote his famous poem; it was initially printed as a broadside and then in newspapers, with at least 17 newspapers printing it by mid-October. The song appeared in book form in four 1814 songsters, of which the National Songster is often thought to be the first.

The  full title of the National Songster is great: National Songster, or, A Collection of the Most Admired Patriotic Songs, on the Brilliant Victories, Achieved by the Naval and Military Heroes of the United States of America, over Equal and Superior Forces of the British.  It's a patriotic title in what was in many ways a war abut patriotism--a war fought in part to prove that the United States was not a flash in the pan and that it would defend its national honor against perceived British insults and encroachment.



National songster. Hagers-town, Md.: Printed by John Gruber and Daniel May, 1814. A 814n. Rosenbach Museum & Library

Here are the Star-Spangled Banner pages--note that the song is titled 'The Defence of Fort McHenry" and  attributed to "an American gentleman who was compelled to witness the bombardment of Fort McHenry on board a flag vessel at the mouth of the Patapsco." 


National songster. Hagers-town, Md.: Printed by John Gruber and Daniel May, 1814. A 814n. Rosenbach Museum & Library


National songster. Hagers-town, Md.: Printed by John Gruber and Daniel May, 1814. A 814n. Rosenbach Museum & Library

Although the National Songster is best remembered for the Star-Spangled Banner, it also includes a number of other great songs, including Columbia, The Land of Heroes, The Battle of Baltimore (which is a re-write of Yankee Doodle), and even one entitled "National Song" which ends "Thy footsteps are brighten'd with triumph and fame/High o'er the waste of war/Blazons thy naval car/Ocean is free and its freedom we claim."
 So let us sing or whistle a patriotic tune as we remember to commemorate the War of 1812.





Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog



No comments: